Cloud computing

The Horizon Report recently listed ‘Cloud computing’ as one of the major trends in computer use in 2009. But what does it mean? Simply, the increase in use of sites such as Google Docs, Flickr and so on to store all of our work and personal documents rather than using our computers to store them.

Advantages of cloud computing are:

  • you can access your documents anywhere that has Internet or broadband access
  • you never have to worry about forgetting or losing your USB
  • easy collaboration with others
  • programs and software are often free
  • your documents, photos and so on are safe from things like fire or theft of a laptop
  • users will only need a cheap ‘netbook’ computer with limited hard disc space.

Disadvantages are:

  • there are still some questions about the security of documents
  • broadband cost and speed in Australia is not what it needs to be if we all decide to use ‘the cloud’
  • availability depends on Internet access
  • sometimes developers discontinue their development and/or support of programs.

Netbook computers are ideal to use for ‘cloud computing’, and as they have smaller hard disc drives, they are cheap and cheerful (around A$300.00).

Connect

Kerry Rowett, the Client Liaison Officer for Connect (formerly the Education Channel) has kindly agreed to be interviewed by the School Library Association of Victoria’s  Bright Ideas blog.

  1. Who is behind the fantastic new Connect websites?

The Connect sites are an evolution of the Victorian Education Channel and are funded by DEECD. Different areas of the Department worked together to create the sites with representatives from Communications, Information Technologies Division and Student Learning. A small team of four educators in eLearning are responsible for the QA process, ongoing improvements to the sites, content creation, Cybersafety education and professional learning. Connect is managed by Sandy Phillips. The sites were designed by an external company – Amnesia.

Connect Primary

Connect Primary

    2.  Why were the websites redeveloped – what do you want to achieve with them?

First created in 2001, the sites were long overdue for a ‘makeover’. Our focus during the redevelopment was to better highlight a high quality range of online resources for use in education. The pages have been developed to improve the user experience. Each page has a larger number of direct links to rich, interactive websites. Topic clouds on the teacher, primary and secondary pages each link to six quality sites whilst the topics page includes a wide range of topics now organised by VELS headings. Sites can be featured more readily (in a more visual form) and can be frequently updated with greater ease.

     3.  How do you see the websites being used in schools? – Primary – Secondary?

Schools use Connect in different ways. Anyone anywhere in the world can view and search Connect. However only Victorian Government and Catholic schools can choose to lock students down to sites only available in Connect. There are a number of options:

  • Many schools choose to have Connect Primary or Secondary as their Internet home page. Students can also search for sites not in Connect
  • Some classes search within Connect only and some classes search beyond Connect with general filtered access
  • Students use Connect when they are trying to maintain their download budget. Students may have an Internet ‘account’ but still have access to Connect resources when this reaches ‘0′
  • All students are ‘Connect only’ and search within Connect for safety and /or cost saving reasons.
Connect Secondary

Connect Secondary

     4.  What kind of input did you have from classroom teachers?

When we received the initial designs for the new Connect sites we visited both primary and secondary schools to seek feedback from teachers and students. This feedback was then provided to the designers. Subsequent designs were also shared with teachers for feedback. Our focus throughout was on making it easier for teachers and students to access high quality online resources for teaching and learning.

The Victorian Education Channel and now Connect have always responded to teacher feedback with most sites available in the spaces included due to teacher and student recommendations. Staff members frequently present at conferences and alter the sites in response to feedback regarding suggested websites, topics, useability and design considerations.

     5.  What type of content do you have on the sites?

Connect features a wide range of online content. Users can search the sites for websites, images, audio and videos. Resources are tagged according to audience – so a search in the primary and secondary pages will get different results. There is also a range of ‘how to’ information about new technologies including blogs, wikis, podcasting and social networking. You can link to schools with great online content such as Horsham West (Vic), Copacabana (NSW), Hawkesdale (Vic) and Woodlands (UK). Useful organisations such as VCAA, VIT and Subject Associations are also only a click away.

Connect Teacher

Connect Teacher

 So whether you want to play a Maths game from the BBC , drag and drop words to construct a poem at Pic Lits, create an online mind map at Mindmeister, make a movie with the Zimmer Twins, write a book review at the State Library ‘Inside a Dog‘ site or watch a Science video from the Futures Channel … you can find it in Connect. Websites are added to the sites daily. Click on ‘suggest a website’  to make your own recommendations.

Thanks to Kerry for her detailed and interesting answers. The Connect sites look fantastic and there is certainly something for everyone! Congratulations to everyone involved.

Bushfire update

From the ALIA blog comes the following news:

Australian library industry appoints central Disaster Recovery Support position

At a meeting in Melbourne on Friday 20th February 2009 library professionals and supporters agreed to fund and appoint a disaster recovery support role to coordinate their efforts. The meeting was organised by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and held at the State Library of Victoria. It  focused on immediate actions to assist bushfire-affected communities, as well as in the medium to longer term. 

Representatives were present from public libraries in the bushfire region, the Public Libraries Victoria Network, the State Library of Victoria, school libraries and school library associations, the Victorian Government, and the book industry.

It was agreed to call on all Australian libraries and library organisations to support and contribute to funding the position of ALIA Disaster Recovery Project Manager.  Many people in libraries and the book industry wish to provide relevant support for bushfire victims, and coordination of this swell of support from the national library association was seen as the most effective response we could make.

There was a hope expressed that lessons learned from the new position, which will focus on Victorian bushfire relief, will help libraries manage similar responses in the future and to create a model for future crisis management.

“Library staff are generous, but we are also practical, and want to make sure that donations and support from our industry are coordinated and distributed at the right time and to meet real needs.  We also want to work with the book industry to get a more coordinated effort going.”  – Derek Whitehead, ALIA President.

“The library industry has always been a supportive and collaborative one – especially in times of hardship.   This ALIA position will enable our industry and profession to develop models for future coordinated support when a disaster strikes.  We have already offered support from Public Libraries Victoria Network and many public library services.” – John Murrell, PLVN President.

Jane Grace, currently Outreach Manager for Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service, will take up the acting position of ALIA Disaster Recovery Project Manager immediately to ensure appropriate support is provided to bushfire families and the wider communities.  Ms Grace will also be working with Queensland colleagues on needs and requirements for flood affected areas.

 “I am very pleased to be able to take up this interim position to co-ordinate immediate support and future models and information tools to assist communities get back on track.  People are often well-meaning, but getting the needs and requirements right for the people on the ground is our aim.  Libraries really are providing an amazing service in these difficult times and making a difference in people’s lives.”  – Jane Grace, Acting ALIA Disaster Recovery Project Manager.

Calls for applicants for the ongoing position of ALIA Disaster Recovery Project Manager will be conducted in the coming weeks with more information available at http://www.alia.org.au/employment

We would like to thank everyone in the library community who have been in contact with PLVN, SLV and ALIA and the library and book trade organisations offering support.  Please keep checking the ALIA website for further information in the coming days and weeks.

Libraries are at the very heart of our communities. By working together with local people and organisations, we can make a significant contribution to rebuilding those communities and the lives of those affected.

Australian Library and Information Association:  Derek Whitehead, President, 03 9214 8333 

Public Libraries Victoria Network: John Murrell, President, 03 5622 2849 or 0409 016 701  

Other contacts: Sue Hutley, ALIA Executive Director, 02 6215 8215 or 0412 764 922 

Web 2.0 competition

Connect along with the School Library Association of Victoria are launching a new Web 2.0 competition for Victorian educators. Readers of Bright Ideas have been given a sneak preview as the competition will be officialy launched by Will Richardson on Monday 23rd March at the SLAV conference to be held at the Telstra Dome.

The Connect Web 2.0 competition page states:

  • Will Richardson will present on leveraging the potential of a hyperconnected world at the School Library Association of Victoria(SLAV) Conference on March 23rd. He writes about new internet literacies on this wiki. Will Richardson will also launch the new Connect Web 2.0 Competition.This competition is a collaboration between SLAV and Connect. Teachers and/or Librarians work in a team to develop an online collaborative project incorporating use of a blog and/or wiki and other web 2.0 technologies. Emphasis is on creative, innovative use of the technologies and how they are used to engage students in learning in new ways. Entries will close at the end of Term 3 with presentations made at the annual SLAV International School Libraries Day Awards Dinner in October. This competition supersedes the successful WebQuest competition held in previous years.

Criteria and entry guidelines are available on the Connect Web 2.0 page. There are some fabulous people doing amazing work with Web 2.0 tools, so have a go and good luck!

A Pod of Poets – Podcasting by the ABC

Thanks to Nicola Fern, Marketing Manager of ABC Radio National for the following information.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has partnered with ABC Radio National’s  Poetica program and the Australia Council for the Arts to bring listeners of their regular Poetica program ‘A Pod of Poets’. Eleven programs feature Australian poets speaking about their writing and reading some pieces to the audience.

Each of the forty minute podcasts can be found on the ‘A Pod of Poets’  website. The website also contains transcripts, photographs and biographical information on each poet. ABC Radio National is also broadcasting these programs on air on Saturdays at 3pm (repeats Thursdays 3pm) throughout 2009. The first program airs on Radio National on Saturday 14th February at 3pm. Podcasts are available now.

Poets featured include Robert Adamson, Les Murray, Joanne Burns, John Kinsella, Gen X-Y (Josephine Rowe, Craig Billingham, L.K. Holt and Aidan Coleman), Jayne Fenton Keane, Samuel Wagan Watson and Martin Harrison parts 1 and 2, Kathryn Lomer and Esther Ottaway, John Clarke and Jordie Albiston.   

The ABC intend to keep the ‘A Pod of Poets’ website live for an extended period of time.

This is a fantastic resource for students and teachers interested in and/or studying Australian contemporary poetry.

Victorian bushfires – you can help

Many of our colleagues and school communities have been affected by the disastrous bushfires that have swept large areas of our state of Victoria in the last few days. It has been declared Australia’s worst natural disaster and at least three schools have been burnt down. Many people have lost their lives, some of them children. Our thoughts are with you all.

What can we do to help? Australian and international readers are able to assist by making donations to the Red Cross (secure site).  Australian readers can also consider shopping at Coles supermarkets  this Friday 13th February as all profits from its 750 stores will be donated to the Victorian Government’s Bushfire Appeal in partnership with the Red Cross. Victorians who are willing to help in other ways can read the ‘Offer help’  page from the ABC.

On behalf of the School Library Association of Victoria, a heartfelt thank you to all of the volunteers who have been so brave and worked so hard to fight the fires and to assist the people affected by them; among them are the CFA, SES, Red Cross,Salvation Army and the pilots of the planes and helicopters that have carried out vital water bombing and the people who are assisting those left homeless and bereaved.

The School Library Association of Victoria is a  collegial and sharing network and we hope that this strength of community will enable us to provide support wherever we can.

If you and/or your school do manage to help in some way, please add a comment to let us know. Thank you. 

Happy holidays

Well we’ve all made it through a long term 4! Well done to everyone on another year of hard work and making a positive difference to the lives of our students (and teachers). On behalf of SLAV, wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.

There will be one post a week for the 5 week break for Victorian schools, then back to regular posts once school goes back on 28th January. All the best for a relaxing and restful break.

Stephen Heppell @SLV

For the final post about Professor Stephen Heppell’s inspiring talk at the State Library of Victoria on 10th November, Stephen mentioned some innovative things some schools are doing in the UK.

A primary school in East Kilbride (Glasgow) let their students use the ‘Big Brain Academy’ game on Nintendo DS handheld consoles for twenty minutes each morning. Performance in all areas of schooling has lifted since the introduction of the game. The culture of the school has changed, being ‘brainy’ is now cool.

Numerous secondary schools in the UK are closing their staffrooms and reopening them as cafes shared with students. The basic philosophy is that everyone at school is a learner (including teachers) and should share ideas and spaces.

Leasowes School has trialled a month long timetable of each subject and exam results have improved.

Just a few examples of how Stephen explains that schools need to ‘run, not follow’.

21st Century learning

Continuing on with Professor Stephen Heppell’s talk on 21st Century learning at the State Library of Victoria on Monday 10th November, Stephen outlined the 21st Century as ‘people centric’ where ‘helping people help each other’ is leading to the mass social construction of knowledge. People adding entries and editing Wikipedia, creating content in LibraryThing, YouTube, Flickr and the like (my examples) means that we (and our students) ‘are in a world we haven’t met before’. Stephen says ‘it’s time for schools to run, not follow’.

A recent UK survey by Ipsos asked students how they were currently learning in school. The responses were something like:

  1. Copying from books or the whiteboard (approximately 50% of respondents).
  2. Taking notes from a long teacher talk (approximately 30% of respondents).
  3. Copying from the Internet (approximately 20% of respondents).

When asked how they would like to learn, the responses were:

  1. Learning in groups.
  2. Learn by doing practical things.
  3. Learning with friends.
  4. Learn by using a computer.

When asked what they would like their teachers to be able to do, they responded:

  1. Edit a Wikipedia entry.
  2. Upload a video to YouTube and make a comment.
  3. Subscribe to a podcast.
  4. Manage groups in Flickr (and be able to spell Flickr).
  5. Select a safe online payment site.
  6. Turn mobile phone predictive text on/off.

Certainly food for thought, not only for teachers but also for school administrators. For a recording of Stephen’s session with Victoria’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Knowledge Bank, click here.

To read more about what Stephen has been involved in, his thoughts and projects, please follow these links: