It’s Elementary!

Tamra Lanning has created a very useful blog, specifically for primary (elementary) school teachers. It’s Elementary is developing a nice collection of literacy, numeracy and other tools suitable for primary aged students.

It's Elementary

Although It’s Elementary is a new blog, readers can immediately tell that Tamra is a committed teacher who loves her job. You can find Tamra on Twitter:

Feature blog – Rhondda’s reflections – Wandering around the web

Whitefriars College Head of Library and Information Services (and School Library Association of Victoria President) Rhondda Powling began her extensive blog in June 2008. Rhondda posts several times a week and always includes a list of useful tools.

Rhonddas blog

Rhondda explains about the development of the blog:

As a teacher librarian in a Melbourne boy’s secondary school I have a unique role,  with a cross-curriculum view as well as working with teachers in specific subject areas.   I need to keep abreast of what is happening in the wider world, and I don’t just mean the sometimes narrow, educational world of secondary schools. The Web world allows me to access so much information that can be useful for my own professional development as well as giving me tools and ideas to for student learning and teacher education.

I want our students to leave our school with, if not a love, than a healthy interest in learning.  I would like to have a part in inspiring young people in their learning during their school years and, when they leave our school, they do so as well-rounded learners, confident that they have the tools to cope with, or problem-solve, anything that may come their way.

I try to support the teachers I work with, both in the classroom and as part of the curriculum team by sharing new ideas, tools, educational theories, etc. or creating tools they can use.

This site was set up for me to take the time to reflect on what I have learnt about the web and what I have learnt about what is working with students. I also see the blogging world as one that everyone can share create a collective knowledge far greater than if we were on our own.

Reflecting on teaching and learning is an important aspect of being a teacher. Rhondda’s blog provides not only an outlet for her reflections, but a forum for other people to join in her thoughts and discussions. As an RSS subscriber to Rhondda’s blog, it is always amazing to see her vast lists of useful tools that appear on a weekly basis. A blog definitely worth checking out!

Best educational wikis of 2009

The very kind Helen Boelens pointed Bright Ideas to the Wikispaces blog that lists a number of award winning educational wikis.

best wikis 2009

The winner and the two runners up from the Edublogs Best Educational Wikis of 2009 category are featured:

The Wikispaces blog also has tips and tricks on getting the best out of your Wikispaces wiki.

iLearn Technology

The award winning iLearn Technology blog by Kelly Tenkely is one blog to add to your Google Reader account. This extensive blog exposes many useful tools, but the best part is the explanations of how the tool can be used in the classroom and integrated into existing units of work.

iLearn Technology

Kelly Tenkely explains her background on her about page:

1 year as a 2nd grade classroom teacher, 6 years as a k-5 technology specialist/teacher. Currently I am teaching 3-5 grade technology and acting as technology integration specialist and instructional coach for elementary teachers

Kelly has also developed the fantastic idea of forming a blogging alliance. Here members commit to reading and commenting on a number of each others blogs on a regular basis. The alliance has introduced me to a number of excellent blogs that I may never have found otherwise as well as providing ongoing mentoring for me and the Bright Ideas blog.

You can find Kelly on Twitter at


AudioPal is a free website that enables you to easily add audio to your blog or website.

AudioPal homepage
AudioPal homepage

Users can record and use their own voice on their website, or select from numerous voices available on AudioPal. If you select to use a pre-recorded voice, you simply type in the text of what you want your visitors to hear. If you want to hear you own voice, you can record via microphone or upload an audio file. (US users can dial a US phone number and record audio via the telephone.)

You are then emailed a code to that lets you access a widget that can be embedded into your site. There is an example in the right hand side of this blog. (For edublogs or globalteacher, select “other” and “embed” to get the correct code to embed.) Here is an example:

 AudioPal also has speaking characters, similar to Vokis.

School Libraries 21C

Colleen Foley, the Manager of the School Libraries and Information Literacy unit at the Curriculum K-12 Directorate, NSW Department of Education and Training has sent the following message:

School libraries 21C, a moderated discussion blog hosted by School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit at is now live. Direct link to the discussion blog is

You’ll find the suggested background reading, and a document to assist you in using the blog and holding focus groups for combined responses at both these links.

We look forward to a diverse range of perspectives, and working towards a common vision. Dr Ross Todd and Lyn Hay, Lecturer in Teacher Librarianship at Charles Sturt University, will guide the discussion.

Enjoy the discussion. We welcome submissions from individuals, and groups such as school, team or professional network focus groups posting combined responses to aspects of the discussion. When posting responses, please indicate your sector, type of school, and
nature of the group if a group response (eg Executive, Principals in a Region, teacher librarian network).

For further information and assistance, please contact Colleen Foley

Feature blog – Rosebud Secondary College

Samantha Jeacle, teacher librarian at Rosebud Secondary College has kindly shared information on her excellent Year 8 reading blog, called “That reading blog thing…”

"That reading blog thing..." homepage

That reading blog thing... homepage

We set up our reading blog as part of our Read Every Day program. Students in Year 8 are involved in the program for one of their five English lessons, for one semester per year. The goal in setting up the blog was to allow the students to share information about books they have enjoyed with their peers in a way that is enjoyable and easily accessible. Previous to the blog we were asking the students to deliver a short speech to the class on a book, but this was really tedious and the students hated it. So, after completing the WEB 2.0 online PD, I decided to set up a reading blog. The students are now expected to post a comment to the blog at least once for the semester. One thing we are focusing on in the reading program is genre (the students are expected to read across three different genres) this is why the pages on the blog are arranged as such. Students are expected to identify the genre of their book and pick the right page to post on. Then, while they’re there, they are exposed to other books in the same genre that they might like.

The response to the blog has been really positive. The students were sceptical at first, but once they made their comment and saw their name ‘on the Internet’ they really quite liked it. Some students have even made multiple visits.

History/war page

History/war page

 We would even encourage other teacher librarians to comment on the blog about YA fiction they would recommend for Year 8 readers too.

 Thanks Samantha for taking the time and effort to share your hard work with Bright Ideas. It’s heartening to learn that the students’ responses have been positive. 

The Portal – Blogging at Scotch College Library

One of Scotch College’s Librarians,  Michelle Sweeney, has kindly informed Bright Ideas about their wonderful library blog. Michelle explains, ‘Blogging has become incredibly popular over the last 12 months, and in the Senior Library at Scotch we have embraced the trend! Blogging on The Portal is a safe and fun means for the boys, staff and friends of Scotch to engage in discussion about the books they love (or love to hate), to debate contentious book-related topics and to learn about events in the literary world.’

The Portal homepage

The Portal homepage

Michelle continues, ‘Since Brendan Gullifer launched The Portal at our ‘Library’s Longest Literary Lunch‘ on March 13 2008, we have seen the number of users swell to over 100.  Articulate and passionate boys are airing their opinions on diverse topics including the journalistic merits of the Herald Sun and The Age, the decline of the English language, the poignancy of soldiers’ letters from Iraq, controversy over school texts and the modernisation of Shakespeare’s texts. The boys are also displaying their own creativity (and competitive spirit) by participating in The Portal’s various competitions and writing high quality book reviews.



‘Staff at Scotch have long been writing book reviews about their holiday reading for the library website, and these are now also published on The Portal.

‘Initially The Portal was hosted by Edublogs, in many respects a fantastic site developed especially for blogs in schools. However we did become frustrated with some aspects of Edublogs and decided to shift our blog to our school domain where we could have more control over the appearance and the method of registration. Boys and staff may now register in a few minutes without the need for emails to be exchanged.

‘A blog committee was formed and during six meetings we established the aims and objectives of The Portal, the User Guidelines and discussed ways to maximize the potential of this new library tool.


The Portal provides an online forum for the Scotch Community to engage in discussion about books and reading in order to encourage Scotch boys to develop a lifelong love of reading.

Our objectives for The Portal are:

  • To harness the boys’ interest in technology to engage them in books and reading
  • To enable 24/7 access to stimulating discussion about books and reading
  • To provide a publication platform for aspiring Scotch writers
  • To allow the wider Scotch Community (parents, siblings, teachers, etc.) to contribute to discussions about books and reading in order to provide a range of reading role models for Scotch boys
  • To promote interaction and mentoring between students of different ages (and beyond!)
  • To inform Scotch boys about current literary events and awards
  • To provide an informal/recreational environment for boys to discuss their reading

‘Currently The Portal is promoted through word of mouth, introductory sessions to Literature Circles groups and English classes, fliers in the library and an article in the school magazine. We intend to use it extensively before, during and after our Literature Festival which runs every second year, by inviting guest authors to initiate discussion with our students before meeting them at the festival and encouraging students to comment on the workshops they have attended. Hopefully there may be some ongoing blogging contact with festival presenters once the festival is over.’ 

Scotch Scribes

Scotch Scribes

Michelle concludes, ‘All in all The Portal has been a great success. Year 7s and 8s in particular are excited when they see it and English teachers are keen to use it with their classes. Competitions and controversial posts are definitely winners!’

Congratulations to Michelle and all at Scotch College who have been involved in the introduction and ongoing promotion and develpoment of The Portal.


Snap is a tool that can be used if you have a blog, wiki or other webpage. Snap takes your links and automatically adds visual snap shots of them for your readers.

Snap shots home
Snap shots home

Accounts are free and easy to set up. There are only a couple of steps:

Set up page
Set up page
  • choose the colour for your theme
  • add a logo if you have one
  • select the language you want
  • register
  • copy the code automatically generated to your webpage.

The easiest way to add the Snap code to a WordPress page (including Edublogs and Globalteacher) was to:

  • copy the code given
  • go to widgets
  • add ‘text’
  • save
  • edit ‘text’ and paste the code
  • save.

All of the links, whether they be within posts or not, now appear with a snap shot once a mouse is hovered over it. Snap is a tool that is quick and easy to use and add visual appeal to blogs, wikis and websites. It adds visual information for users as they can see what the website belonging to the link looks like before they decide to visit it.

Snap shots are already used by eBay, Amazon, Google, Flickr, photobucket and Wikipedia. If you decide you don’t want to see Snaps on Bright Ideas, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

Please note that you can also customise the advertising away from what Snap has selected by going to ‘Snap Shares’ within the Snap site and adding your own blog, wiki, etc. URL. And if you have a lot of links on your page, like Bright Ideas, you may find that Snap takes up too much room.

Reading Cafe @ Mill Park Secondary College

Mill Park Secondary College  teacher librarian and ICT Coach Heather Bailie has developed an interesting book blog.

Heather says, ‘The Reading Café  is a site that has been set up directly as a result of the library staff at MPSC completing the SLAV Web 2.0 course. The Reading Cafe is a place for staff to discuss books and reading.  I set this up with a dual purpose:

1.         ‘As a place to consolidate reviews and recommendations for reading by and for staff.  We have many avid readers on staff and we try to cater for their reading, almost as much as the students, particularly through the senior campus fiction collection.  In our busy lives it is not always possible to share our good reading experiences in person- this site aims to provide that experience asynchronously (now there’s a word I’ve only dared use since blogging!)

2.         ‘As a gentle means to encourage other staff to delve into the world of blogs, and, for some, to introduce the concept to them. For many teachers the idea of writing for a blog is totally foreign; they fear the unknown and don’t believe (wrongly) they have the necessary skills.

‘At first there wasn’t a competitive element to this but speaking to an old friend (Melbourne State College 1982!) at a SLAV conference I decided to adopt her idea of a teacher’s reading challenge modelled on the Premier’s Reading Challenge.  I challenged staff to read 6 books by the end of the year, 2 of which must be designated “young adult”.  To record books read they must post a review on the blog or, if that book has been previously reviewed, make a comment on the original post.’

She continues, ‘Initially, to get some content on the site, I encouraged everyone at school who was doing the SLAV Web 2.0 course to post some reviews.  I also selectively invited some other people who I knew would be interested (either from the blogging perspective or as readers) to visit and contribute.  Once we had a body of reviews, about 15, I launched the site at each campus at morning teas hosted by the two campus libraries.  It has certainly generated a lot of interest although perhaps not as much activity as I would like.  I’m starting to hand out some random prizes so there may be more activity soon.  I think that goal 2 has been at least partly achieved – plenty of people look.  I’m very grateful to my wonderful library staff who have enthusiastically posted reviews to the site.  To record people’s progress on the challenge I adopted the SLAV Web 2.0 course idea of using a google spreadsheet  – it is linked from the site.’

Heather says that she will be doing a new year re-launch of the blog shortly. Well done Heather and Mill Park Secondary College staff that have contributed to the blog.