Online resources

During this time, there are many lists being shared that can help you find quality resources to support online learning in your school.  We look for institutions that we know produce reliable and authentic information, and are collating a page of links to resources, guides and useful information HERE for ease of access. We will continue to update this page as we find new resources to share.

 

Deep thinking with Infopics

infopic

Using an image to convey a message can cement a lasting memory.  Combine this image with words and you have the makings of a memorable learning experience.  Tony Vincent of Learning in Hand has shared the idea of creating Infopics, a combination of image and words that combine as a thinking and analysis exercise suitable for both adult and student learning.

In his post Producing Infopics Tony provides a thorough overview of a range of mobile apps (for all systems) and standard PC applications that can be used to produce infopics.  Simpler than an Infographic which generally conveys a message with a combination of statistics, images and general information, an Infopic is one image onto which you add text.

Whilst a relatively simple task, it requires you to think deeply about your image/topic and to come up with appropriate words to match.  It could be a reflective Infopic as I have created in the header image using Phonto on the iPhone or you could ask students to select an image relevant to a book they have read and think of words or phrases in response to the text.

Many students will find this task challenging but with practice it has the potential for numerous applications.  Tools can be as simple as a Powerpoint, Keynote or Google slides, or one of the many apps that Tony describes in inspirational post – Producing Infopics.  Try producing your own, then take it into the classroom.  Thanks Tony.

Labrary – experimental library makerspace

Labrary was a 37 day experiment that trialled the idea of a community makerspace that extended beyond traditional library walls. The project was developed by a team of students and staff from Harvard University’s School of Design in collaboration with the Librarian/Assistant Dean for Information Services, Anne Whiteside.

While based on key principles that underpin any library – ideas, information and culture – Labrary encouraged collaborative activities, experimentation and sharing. Labrary, as the name suggests, was a ‘lab’ and a library at the same time. It was designed to be a place where you could explore, experiment and test ideas and where failure was accepted as part of the creative process. More importantly, it gave people the opportunity to develop new themes, and to share interests – providing meaningful projects for the community. Labrary was also community driven so anyone could  walk in off the street and do whatever they wanted, rather than being something procured by an organisation or institution from the top down.

Some of the activities in Labrary included:

Inflatable reading room – A portable bubble for group discussions or a quiet space to chill out. A space within a space designed to transcend and take you to other worlds.

Time/Slice – A crowd-sourced digital bulletin board that opened the library up to different users, letting them discuss, collaborate, extend their personal research and include others’ resources organically. It’s also a way library sanctioned events could appear on a calendar alongside informal meetups and pop-up events.

There were also a series of discussions labelled Library Futures that explored how libraries could work in the future.

Libraries are well known for their role as transactional entities – people come to libraries to find information, then off they go to make sense of it. Labrary gave people a chance to work together to make information meaningful together. This didn’t eliminate the space for quiet solitary thought, but rather, was an additional resource – rich knowledge curation evolving in real time in a networked community.

In terms of how we work in our own libraries, the idea of having a space for experimentation in a library makes good sense because there’s access to information, and space to put that information to use. Working in groups to problem solve, create, and discuss changes the dynamic of work and progress, creating one that collectively builds on our passionate energy, becoming a reserve for everyone involved.  Experimentation encourages risk in learning, with rewards for new ways of doing things, learning and creating that we couldn’t have imagined before.

For more information about the project, you can read an Library Journal article on the Labrary project here.

PLN Plus reflection – community in the making

In this guest post from Sue Osborne, Head of Library Service, Haileybury College, Brighton, she shares her experience of the recent PLN Plus course.

I was interested to do the PLN+ because I had participated in several PLN courses (two 23 things, PLN research tool kit) and I was interested in taking the things I had learned the next level. I was also interested in the idea of project work and finding other library professionals who were interested in developing similar ideas in their schools.

I found the course to be quite different from my past experience of the PLN. Firstly, it was a shorter course – only four weeks long, but it was filled with new ideas, so in terms of content it still delivered. There was also a less formal approach, with four stages rather than particular products or apps to focus on. It was more about the process of starting and growing networks, rather than specific, measurable outcomes. I found this approach disconcerting at first, but once we all started talking about our areas of interest, I took to it well.

I enjoyed the relaxed approach, self-driven learning, connecting with like-minded colleagues who wanted to be instruments of change within their organisations as well as a huge pool of ideas and tools to think about and try. I will be exploring the tools for at least the next month or so! I’ve listed my three favourite tools below.

1/ Mightybell – the platform the PLN was based in has been fantastic. It is easy to use, looks great and has greatly enhanced the learning and sharing for this course. Far superior to Edmodo, which was used in the last course. I love it. Not sure how I might use it in my work, except perhaps to set up a project group of my own down the track (not on the cards just yet)

2/ Shadow Puppet – this iPad app allowed me to take photographs and then record a narration track over a slide show. I decide when each photo comes up. It is intuitive and dead easy to use (as easy as Animoto, which I use almost constantly at work now). I am planning to use Shadow Puppet with my newly formed Middle School Library Committee. We are going to make short how-to presentations about the library catalogue, searching and so on for classes to view before they come to the Library to do research

3/ Padlet – this product let’s you set up a wall, send the link to people you want to have participate in the project/discussion and you all post ideas (a bit like post-it notes) so you can collaborate and brainstorm together. I am already using this regularly with other staff to talk about planning information literacy sessions and trying to develop a reading culture within the school

I guess the number one thing I am taking from the course is a sense of community – that we are all part of something bigger, something that can help us achieve great (or small) things. The openness of the participants has been fantastic and I think many of us will stay in touch by following each other on Twitter, or continuing to build on our Padlets or other collaborative tools.

I will also take a renewed sense of purpose in what I do, and the knowledge that I have skills and experience that other people appreciate and value, just as I value their experience and skills. The rise in my professional (and as a result, personal) self-esteem was an unexpected bonus.

Finally I plan to implement some programs in my school and document them, with the objective of sharing them via Bright Ideas, or perhaps even FYI, so that others can see what I am doing, and perhaps be inspired to try something different. I have the confidence to push myself forward and try harder, which is probably the most valuable thing of all.

Image credit: Toban Black on flickr

You can follow Sue on Twitter at @LibraryMonitor and her reviewing blog Worth Reading, Worth Sharing.

 

Ebooks at the State Library of Victoria

Libraries in all sectors are working to provide access to ebooks. Vicki Nelson, Redmond Barry Collection Librarian at the State Library of Victoria, describes the process from the perspective of a collecting institution with millions of items. She talks about developing processes around acquiring ebooks on a large scale.

The State Library of Victoria (SLV) has been working hard to increase access to our collections so Victorians can use material from anywhere, not just within the building. This in part comes from the ongoing process of digitisation, as over 600 000 heritage pictures, newspapers, manuscripts and out of copyright Victorian books are now available online. We also provide home access to subscription databases for Victorian registered users and have moved many of our print serials online, so ebooks was a logical next step.

Initially we ran an ebook trial in 2012 where patrons selected books for acquisition. The success of this trial fed into a working group which identified suppliers and streamlined selection, acquisition and cataloguing processes. As a result, SLV made ebooks available for general use in July 2013.

We made the decision to use two suppliers as it gave us the opportunity to choose from a greater range of books.  SLV currently uses EBL and EBSCOHost as our ebook providers.  Both link to our normal overseas book supplier’s selection and acquisition process.  Both are for a single user, although EBL does have the flexibility of multiple users viewing the same book at the same time, but limits the overall number of times a book can be looked at in a year.

SLV has chosen wherever possible to purchase rather than rent ebooks, so they are permanently accessible. Of the titles we select, there are still only about 40% of overseas books available to us as ebooks.  Australian publishing is even less ebook ready – we purchase books as they are published and the ebook version may not be available for months after this date. At this stage we are not ready to move to an Australian ebook selection process, so we will monitor the Australian situation until there is a change.

One of the main reasons we moved to ebooks was so that we could make them available to our Victorian registered users. Ereaders require you to download free software onto the device but once that is done an ebook can be downloaded and used for up to 7 days.  We have created a guide to help new users access ebooks from our collections and there is a link to this on every ebook record in the catalogue.

If you want to find out which ebooks we have available, the quickest way is to search for a topic and add the word ‘ebooks’, eg ‘History ebooks’ and then refine your search using the filters on the left hand side.

history ebook

You can also filter your search by ‘Genre’ and select ‘Electronic resources’.

genre

Like print books, the general model is one person at a time but this varies depending on where we purchased the ebook.  For example, EBL ebooks allow more than one person to access the same item at the same time, but limits the total number of times the ebook can be looked at during the year.

Whatever the number of ebooks in your collection, the process for selecting a provider is the same – trial as many as you can, test the platforms based on your needs and make a checklist of  titles you want and see which companies provide them. If you can, test systems with your users and see how books work on their equipment.

Even though ebooks cost more to provide, there are a number of advantages for patrons. Ebooks can be used immediately by users inside your library and from anywhere they have web access. Ebooks are also ready to use as soon as they are purchased without the need for processing or shelving.

SLV has over a million print books and is continuing to add to this collection. Not all books are available as ebooks or on the platforms that the library is using.  So at this stage, the State Library of Victoria will continue to be a hybrid library of print and electronic resources.

eCOGSS – a collaborative ebook project

Rachel Fidock reports on an innovative ebook service developed by four secondary schools in the Goulburn Valley, Victoria.

Many school libraries across Australia are choosing to create ebook libraries – online libraries where students are able to borrow and read ebooks on their own devices. But how easy is it to create an ebook library, and would our students prefer physical books?

In the Goulburn Valley of Victoria, teacher librarian Helen Taylor, formerly of Shepparton High School, took up the challenge of creating an ebook library with a difference. The result is eCOGSS (eBooks City Of Greater Shepparton Schools) ebook lending facility, an online service that caters to not one, but four secondary schools in the region. Of the six secondary schools approached to be involved, Goulburn Valley Grammar SchoolMooroopna Secondary College, Shepparton High School and Wanganui Park Secondary College chose to take part (one non-government and three government schools).

Accommodating the needs of four schools in one service may seem like a daunting task, but as a consortium, the combined experience and ideas of the group proved to be a great advantage.

In the development stage, according to Helen Taylor, Library Managers from each school took the idea back to their administrators and IT departments as the project’s success depended on these groups. The project group chose Wheelers to provide the ebook lending platform due to their competitive pricing and willingness to accommodate their needs. Meetings on Skype with representatives from Wheelers, Library Managers and school administrators gave everyone the chance to discuss ideas and refine the group’s requirements.

Taylor believes that the model they developed – where each school has their own account, chooses their own books and pays for them – made the process of sharing a common elibrary highly successful. And by sharing resources, the schools were able to create a service where all ebooks are now available to all students, regardless of the school that paid for them – improving access and value for money. In March 2013, the eCOGSS ebook lending facility opened for business, with 8% of enrolled patrons borrowing more then one ebook.

Given the success of the project in terms of the schools involved, what do the students think of eCOGSS?

In early December 2013, Bright Ideas conducted a survey of 24 students ranging from years seven to nine, from Shepparton High and Mooroopna Secondary College, to determine if the students were using eCOGSS, if they preferred ebooks to physical books and what they thought the future of school libraries might be.

The survey results show that 54% of the students borrow from the eCOGSS ebook lending facility, while 13% prefer to get their ebooks elsewhere (Wattpad is a popular choice, especially given the amount of self-publishing which occurs on this platform).

54% of students preferred not to get their books online (17% were undecided). Some of their comments included:

  • I like paper books because you can find more out about them before you borrow.
  • I prefer books to technology.
  • The books in the library I can take home but the books online I can’t access at home.
  •  I find it really annoying having to set up your laptop and etc. just to read a book. I hate reading off a computer. It can’t be good for your eyes. And I like reading a paper book that you can take anywhere and is easy.

For those students who did prefer getting books online in the form of ebooks, some reasons were:

  • There is a wider range of books
  • It’s easier than going to a public library
  • It’s easier then carrying [books] around the school
  • You don’t have to carry them around and there are books here that are not in the library

Students were asked what they thought about the future of libraries and school libraries. Some of their comments are featured below:

  • There will be fancy scrolls that when you open them you can flick through pages like an ipad and everything will be stored on them (every thing!!!). [Student doesn’t use eCOGSS but reads Google Books]
  • I think libraries will be using technology and ebooks more than they do now. [Student doesn’t use eCOGSS but prefers to get books online
  • I think libraries will die out because of the internet and online reading. [Student doesn’t borrow from eCOGSS. Reads ebooks from Wattpad]
  • In all honesty I don’t think that libraries will change that much because there will always be people who like paper books.
  • I think they should stay the same. Maybe you can put in an order on-line to borrow it but then go pick it up and read a book not a text on a screen.
  • They won’t have libraries if people always use online.
  • Please continue helping us, finding books. Thank you. [Student doesn’t borrow ebooks]
  • I think it’s a great opportunities for readers to get a chance to do what they like. [Student doesn’t borrow ebooks]
  • Have a library and ebooks. [Student borrows ebooks from eCOGSS]
  • While it’s a good idea that books are easily obtained and read, nothing really beats a good old book. Though I do enjoy ebooks very much. [Student borrows ebooks from eCOGSS]

While it’s interesting to see the opinions of this group of students, only a small number were surveyed, so it would be interesting to see whether students in the broader community use their school elibraries in the same way. It’s also important to note that students’ like or dislike of elibraries ebooks often depends on their exposure to and abililty to access them. The evidence from this survey suggests that there are students using eCOGSS and some students prefer reading ebooks. However, the results also suggest many students prefer to read physical books.

It’s clear to see that eCOGSS ebook lending facility is a great example of how collaboration and partnership between schools and teacher librarians can lead to better library services across school communities and large geographical areas.

A groundswell of playfulness

Hamish Curry, Education Manager at the State Library of Victoria reflects on gaming and playfulness after recently taking part in conferences in Auckland and Melbourne.

Games and playful thinking have been popping up a lot for me recently, more so than usual.

There seems to be a shift in the discussion from the games people play to how games both reflect and add to the culture of our workplaces and public spaces. School libraries can potentially be a hub for this kind of discussion enabling the exploration of games and apps that contribute to our understanding of digital literacy, deep reading and game elements.

In digging deeper I headed along to the inaugural Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) from July 19-21. Here more than 40,000 gamers descended on the Melbourne Show grounds to indulge in games from all kinds of mediums: card games, board games, video games, and talks about games. The scale was overwhelming. It was a powerful physical reminder of just how ubiquitous and diverse games are, as well as how rich the networks and local game development scene are too. I spoke on a panel about The Playful Library exploring the ways in which library spaces can be designed and co-programmed to support games culture. If libraries are keen to engage with the community, then games become a powerful way to bring playfulness and partnerships into their spaces.

Speaking of spaces, I was New Zealand bound the following day to participate in the Auckland City Council’s Hui ‘New Rules of Engagement: Future Directions for Children’s and Youth Services at Auckland Libraries’. This two-day event explored the ‘serious business of being playful’ and brought about 180 staff together to discuss how library spaces can be revitalised, redesigned and reprogrammed to better support families and youth services. There was a strong sense of community driven perspectives coming through the sessions, which also included a workshop on building bridges with newspaper whilst being shot at with Nerf guns! Clearly the play potential of libraries was a key focus, and the energy of the room suggested that the tenacity and eagerness of staff was certainly there.

The themes of risk, innovation, and opportunity kept surfacing. Something that also surfaced during this Hui was an article I’d written for the Schools Catalogue Information Service on Games and learning. In it I explore the ways in which games complement and contrast with education, and how control is always shifting.

Being playful reminds us all that control is at once a state of mind and an opportunity to do things differently.

Image credit: Steam punk nerf guns at Auckland Libraries Hui – librarians vs children!

Create word clouds and analyse text with Textal

Word clouds are a good way to visually represent the frequency of words in a piece of writing. While there are plenty of apps available that will automatically generate word clouds, a new app for IOS devices aims to make word clouds even more useful. Textal turns a text passage into a word cloud and also includes some interesting tools for analysing word usage.

A Textal cloud can be created using the text from a web page, a Twitter feed or one of the sample books provided. There’s also an option to simply cut some text from another app and paste it into Textal. Like most word cloud apps you can choose different fonts and themes (though there are no fancy shapes like Tagxedo). You can also choose to set the number of words displayed in your cloud. Once you create the cloud you’ll be presented with a pretty standard word cloud, with the most frequent words displayed in the largest text. Check out our sample Textal word cloud of #vicpln tweets here.

Textal lets you choose basic font and theme options, and clouds can be created from text, a web page or Twitter. In this case we’re creating a cloud of VicPLN tweets.

It’s when you tap on a a particular word that Textal begins to get really useful. This will display statistics about the frequency of word usage, the relationship of this word to other words, the overall word count and the number of unique words used in the document. The word cloud is also created online (though statistics aren’t available unless you open the cloud in the Textal app). Each Textal word cloud also has a unique QR code to make sharing easier.

Textal provides a breakdown of the number of unique words used, the popularity of your chosen word and the relationship to other words.

Textal is a relatively new release and is currently only available on Apple devices. At this stage it looks like it also requires access to a Twitter account (though it doesn’t auto post without your permission). This may make it difficult for students to use unless you have a shared class Twitter account.  Despite these possible drawbacks, Textal is definitely a useful tool for helping students analyse word usage in their writing and visualising the frequency of words they have used.

Download Textal from the Itunes store

Clip web pages to Evernote with Dolphin Browser for iPad

We’ve made no secret of our love for Evernote here at Bright Ideas, as it’s one of the best ways to keep notes and bookmarks together. One great feature of Evernote is the Web Clipper which works in most major web browsers and makes it easy to save articles for later reading. But on the iPad it’s a bit of a different story, as the iPad’s built in Safari browser doesn’t integrate very well with the Evernote web clipper.

We’ve written about a rather complicated solution to this problem in the past, but this tends to be a bit unreliable. A much more sturdy solution has now come along in the form of the free Dolphin Browser for iPad. Dolphin integrates with Evernote to make saving web pages to your account easy.

To set up Evernote integration, first install and open the Dolphin Browser for iPad app. When you find a page you’d like to save follow these steps:

  1. Select the sharing button (a small rectangle with an arrow)
  2. Select the Evernote elephant logo.
  3. Choose Login (you should only have to do this once).
Once you’d entered your Evernote login details you will see the Save Article option (circled below). The small drop down menu next to this button lets you choose to save the entire web page instead. You can also add tags, choose the notebook to store the note in and add comments. When you are happy select the Save button. The page or article should now be saved in your Evernote account for posterity.

Dolphin browser also has some interesting features apart from Evernote integration, including the option to draw commands on your screen (for example you could draw a G to take you to Google). It’s well worth a look as a good alternative to Safari.

The one draw back is that unfortunately Apple still don’t let users choose their default web browser (unless you want to jailbreak your device) so you’ll have to remember to open Dolphin for your browsing sessions instead of Safari. Hopefully with the upcoming IOS operating system upgrade this option will finally be available to users of Apple devices. But if you are a regular user of Evernote and you own an iPad then it is definitely worth remembering to use Dolphin browser to make saving those articles easier.

 

 

Supercharging Evernote

Evernote is a useful tool for staying organised and keeping your notes synchronised across all of your devices. After exploring the uses of Evernote in the classroom last week, let’s look at two ways to make Evernote even more useful- note linking and bookmarklets.

Note linking is not a well publicised feature but it has some really useful applications. Using the desktop version of Evernote you can find a direct link to your note and then hyperlink to it. Then when you click on the hyperlink the related note will open up automatically. Students could use these links to build a to-do list for the week, with direct links to a new note for each task they have to complete.

Use note links to build an interactive to-do list

Have a look at our video showing you how to build a to-do list using note linking.

Adding bookmarklets to your iPad (or iPhone) browser is also a great time saving option. One of the problems with the iPad is that it is time consuming jumping between apps. If you are reading a page in Safari and want to save it to your Evernote account you need to install a special shortcut (called a bookmarklet) that will do it for you with a few clicks. Our tutorial video below takes you through the (rather complicated) process of installing an Evernote bookmarklet on the iPad.

You can also install other bookmarklets for useful services such as Pocket, Instapaper, Diigo and more. The process is similar to the one outline in the video, so visit this page or do a search online to find the codes you need to make the bookmarklets work.

Remember to subscribe to the Bright Ideas YouTube channel to stay up to date with all of our video tutorials.