Feature blog – Lowther Hall AGS

Glenys Lowden, Head of the LRC at Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School has agreed to share information about her Book Raps blog.

Book raps homepage
Book raps homepage

This is the blog I set up for Year 7 English.  Each class in Year 7 are spending a term on this Book Raps program.

Originally I set the blog up at another school and then transferred my ideas to Lowther Hall.  The blog was designed to appeal to students as a new way to journal their ideas about their reading.  The aim is for them to communicate with each other on the blog rather than just journaling in their notebook. They are able to share their thoughts and comment on other responses particularly if they have read that book.

one discussion page

One discussion page

This connectedness is one of the key goals behind the program.  Once the program is finished then we will encourage students to evaluate the use of this blog. As I have used all their names in the pages, the top of the home page looks rather messy so I need to work on that element.  I have also used the blog to practise using ‘image generators’.  These were a fantastic tool that I found out about through the Syba Signs course. I also learnt in the course how to add in the live feed.

Congratulations to Glenys on developing a resource that is well used by her students. By reading their comments, it seems that they are engaged both in reading and communicating with each other via the blog. A terrific way to combine both reading and ICT.


Say goodbye to boring old slideshows with Animoto. Animoto takes your images, adds music and turns them all into a slick professional style video.

Animoto home

Animoto home

You can upload images from your computer, or select those already stored on Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, SmugMug and Facebook. You can add text and then you can select music from Animoto’s collection or upload your own from your computer. Images can be reordered at any time and text can be edited. Selected pictures can be ‘spotlighted’. When uploading music from your own source, you are reminded to check that you have the right to do so. If you decide to use a song from Animoto’s collection, the songs are arranged by genres and you can listen to a sample before you decide to select it or not. Before you know it, your images are presented in an engaging way, set to a rocking track.

Educational case studies

Educational case studies

 Animoto has a special ‘Education’ section, where educators can sign up and give students an access code. This enables students to upload videos to Animoto, purely for the class (or whoever is given the code) to see.

As per most Web 2.0 tools, Animoto basic is free, but there are upgrade options for people who want to make longer videos, burn videos to DVD and so on. For most of us, the basic package will suffice as it enables the user to get an embed or copy code for embedding into blogs and wikis or copying to a multitude of sites. The best thing about Animoto is that is is very easy to use. The site is extremely well designed and intuitive, making it a pleasure to use.

Have a look at this video, which was literally produced in ten minutes. Finalised videos can be uploaded to YouTube, as well as embedded in blogs and other websites.


Tania Sheko’s personal learning blog

Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko has been kind enough to share her personal learning blog with the Bright Ideas readers.

Brave new world homepage

Brave new world homepage

Tania explains the evolution of her blog:

After going through the SLAV Web 2.0 course, which used the blog as a platform for recording progress and reflection, I realised how much I enjoyed the writing, and decided to continue. The blog evolved from a step-by-step explanation of new tools trialed, to a place where I had a voice. A blog is a powerful way to deconstruct your own thoughts and ideas, as well as receive feedback from others, or even create a discussion.  Some people push against blogging; they feel it’s self-indulgent or a waste of their precious time. I would say, if you take time to think through things, question, if you get excited or frustrated by something, instead of internalising this, or sharing it with one or two people, write it out. 

My photo blog, 365 photos is a challenge I set myself for this year – to take a photo for each day of the year. At first I thought it was a fairly superficial exercise, but now I can see the value of recording events, using a photo to reflect, explain or as a springboard for creative writing. And, of course, there’s the connection with others who leave comments. I’ve particularly enjoyed feedback from those in the northern hemisphere, eg. People commenting on our sunshine when they’re deep in snow, or our falling leaves when they have just glimpsed  new shoots and the beginning of Spring.   I can see potential in adapting this exercise for the classroom, by allowing choice of image, and using that image as a springboard for writing or reflection. It also provides an opportunity for teaching about the use of flickr, for sharing photos and understanding Creative Commons and fair use of images, for participation in or the creation of groups (see post http://bit.ly/wLqec). 

I think the connections I’ve made with others are the most valuable part of blogging for me. It’s a great way to reduce isolation, and it makes you realise that there are people who share your interests globally; it helps to make the world seem ‘flatter’.  What a wonderful opportunity for students to connect with those from a different hemisphere, from other cultures.  An online discussion around a theme or topic with a class from another country is  engaging, authentic learning.  There are so many good things about writing a blog, that I could go on for some time: increasing self-confidence in expressing ideas, developing fluency in writing, understanding appropriate language and online etiquette, gaining an understanding of other cultures, connecting to students in your own class in a way that doesn’t always happen in class, especially in case of shyness, exercising higher order thinking in commenting, evaluating, and analysing, etc.

As with any knowledge of Web 2.0 technologies, it’s not a matter of understanding them theoretically as an educator, but of playing with them, understanding them from the inside, modeling them for other educators and students. 

The future world of work and life for our students will require an online identity, a digital footprint, an ability to create a network of people to learn from and with. I feel that if I don’t immerse myself in Web 2.0 technologies, not for technology’s sake, but for the sake of broadening my own network – people I learn from and communicate with globally – then I’m doing a disservice to the students I teach and the teachers I support.

365 photos

365 photos

Congratulations to Tania for being such a reflective and lifelong learner. We can all learn from your philosophies and examples. Thanks for sharing your blogs with Bright Ideas!

Pageflakes @ Casey Grammar School – a winning combination!

At the end of 2008, Julie Squires and Mark Phillips from Casey Grammar School were awarded the then Education Channel’s (now Connect) ‘Webquest of the Year Award’ for their Webquest  “Earth 2.0 Headquarters – Is it possible to create a completely sustainable planet?”

is it possible to create a completely sustainable planet?

Earth 2.0: is it possible to create a completely sustainable planet?

Julie, then teacher librarian and Mark, then Head of Humanities decided to collaborate on a project that the year 10s could undertake.  Julie explains, ‘I was really motivated to have a go at entering the then Education Channel/SLAV Webquest of the Year Competition (now Connect/SLAV). Although time was short, we got our page together and had a number of students ‘test drive’ and critique the site.’ The students suggested that Julie and Mark add more games and make it ‘more fun’.’

The Webquest has a lot of links, mostly devised by Julie and Mark. These include a wiki, several vokis, trading cards and a blog.

Earth 2.0 wiki

Earth 2.0 wiki

After taking the students ideas into consideration, Julie and Mark completed the site and entered it into the competition. The rest is history! Julie and Mark created their Webquest using the Pageflakes Web 2.0 resource. Congratulations to Julie and Mark for creating a vibrant and engaging piece of work for their students. Their recognition by winning the 2008 Webquest and Beyond! Competition was richly deserved.


Siosus is a free total online sharing and collaboration workspace.  The free basic package includes unlimited workspaces and unlimited number of members.  

Siosus homepage

Siosus homepage

Tools that are included in the free basic package are useful and extensive:

  • Contacts and group manager
  • Custom workspace
  • Manage your files
  • Calendars and events
  • Blogs
  • Discussions
  • Chat and IM
  • RSS feeds
  • Web database management
  • Project management
  • Task automation
  • Permissioning 
What's included?

What's included

The drawbacks are that there are limits to the free package:

  • Only 25MB free storage
  • Advertising appears on your homepage
  • Only 200 MB monthly transfer
  • 10Mb file size upload limit

 There are three upgrades that increase all of the storage/transfer/upload options and give better support; however they cost from US$15 to US$100 per month.

Upgrade options

Upgrade options

Siosus does appear to be just about the total package when it comes to sharing and collaborating with colleagues who are sitting next to you or on the other side of the world. However, limits will affect the efficacy of the free package. It all depends on how much space you actually need to use.  

Siosus is the platform chosen by James Henri and Sandra Lee to run the Your School Library online conference.

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!

PLP @ Mooroopna Secondary College

Mooroopna Secondary College teacher librarian, Leading Teacher and eLearning Coordinator Leonie Dyason is part of Will Richardson’s PLP project. PLP is Powerful Learning Practice, an international program developed by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach in the US. Mooroopna Secondary College was fortunate to be nominated to  receive sponsorship from the State Library of Victoria and the School Library Association of Victoria (following the Victorian School Libraries Learning with Web 2.0 program) to have a team involved in the PLP program. 

Leonie explains how she organised her team once Mooroopna had been accepted into the project. ‘Our Assistant Principals were both very supportive.  I then selected my team of 5.  I wanted some young teachers with me, some risk takers, and not necessarily all Web 2.0 savvy.’

Leonie says, ‘Our team members consisted of Adrian who is a Physics & Maths Teacher (he did the SLAV Web 2.0 program last year with our library team), Deanne, who is an Indonesian and English Teacher and who is Daily Organiser this year. Kirsten is a Science & Maths Teacher as well as being the Maths/Science Leading Teacher. She is also an INTEL master trainer. Katie is a SOSE & English teacher and me, a teacher librarian.’

Leonie explains, ‘All four regularly attend my eLearning Cafe where I have been teaching Web 2.0 and Internet skills for 3 years now as part of my Leading Teacher role of eLearning Coordinator.  Adrian often presents here too – he started with podcasting.’

Leonie's elearning cafe

Leonie's eLearning Cafe

She continues, ‘We have all achieved different things so far, but mostly it is great teacher training – a good boost knowing you are on the right track, and good to be alerted to new stuff via the PLP before it becomes mainstream.  We have learnt lots of skills, looked at the new digital blooms, better ways to connect students not only to the school, but also to the world. We have learnt lots and lots.  Some of the examples of what we have achieved are:

  • I have set up the PD blog that can be anywhere anytime learning for teachers – to keep them ahead hopefully, but at least abreast of what their students are doing out of school hours.  It will alert them to the eCafe topics, and have other incidental learning on the sidebars.  I have also set up the usual literature blog with the English staff, however I intend to grow that to be reviews on everything – a writing I have done spasmodically or verbally all my career, but now it is there with others adding their reviews and everything tagged for the staff and students to use as sorting for genre, etc.  I have a link on the Library Website on our intranet to both these blogs.
  • Adrian has set up his wiki/NING for the Year 12 Physics students in the state – much more ambitious than me – and has on board textbook writers and professors from all over.
  •  Deanne has set up the skeleton for a cultural assignment in a wiki.  She has set it up to be a collaborative piece.  Her demo to the staff started at least 3 wikis that night.
  •  Katie and Kirsten are still experimenting with what they will use as their platform, however Katie is going to do the VCE novels and have RSS on the site to alert students to, and Kirsten is going to do something with podcasts and biology.’

Physics teacher Adrian Camm explains about his Web 2.0 developments. ‘I have created a virtual learning community (VLC) for Unit 3 & 4 Physics that will link all students across Victoria to experienced educators, members of the Australian Institute of Physics and textbook authors from both Nelson and Heinemann publishers. It will provide students with tremendous learning opportunities anytime, anywhere. Students (and educators if they wish to be a part) will have access to a password-protected learning environment, where they can ask for help with questions, chat about careers in physics and have concepts explained to them in great detail. The best part is it’s free!’

Adrian's Virtual Learning Community

Adrian's Virtual Learning Community

Adrian continues, ‘If you and your students are interested in joining, click this link  and fill out the invitation located on the left-hand side of the page. Follow all of the instructions and within 24 hours, you will have access to the Physics Ning.’

Adrian continues, ‘Why should you and your students be a part of the VLC?

  • By using a 21st century context students will see relevance
  • By removing geographic boundaries. Brings the world into the classroom
  • Takes students out into the world
  • Creates opportunities for students to interact with each other, with teachers and with knowledgeable adults in an authentic learning environment with authentic learning experiences.

Leonie Dyason says, ‘At the start of this school year we had three professional learning days, and our PLP had a 1.5 hour slot to talk about PLP.  Adrian, Deanne and myself presented our projects to the staff as outlined above.  We also presented on a blog of Web 2.0 skills for MSC staff’s professional learning which we will probably all contribute to directly or indirectly.  We launched this to the staff on the second day and asked them to go off and use the blog and go to one of the links there “CogDogRoo” from Alan Levine and learn 2 things.  We have 17 Australian hits so far, so someone besides me is visiting it!’

Congratulations to Leonie, Adrian, Deanne, Katie and Kirsten on an absolutely brilliant job; you are an inspiration! Thanks also for taking the time to share your knowledge.

Netvibes @ Preston Girls’ Secondary College

On discovering Netvibes as a result of a previous Bright Ideas post, Preston Girls’ Secondary College teacher librarians Judith Way and Reina Phung couldn’t wait to use it as a resource for students and staff.

Judith says, ‘We had been looking for a Web 2.0 tool where I could incorporate all of the other things we had developed. We needed a central location for all of our blogs, wikis and our Flickr and Delicious accounts. Although Delicious allows us to link sites and describe them, Netvibes gives us the option to incorporate each blog, wiki and other site into our Netvibes homepage. (We also had a problem with our ISP blocking Delicious. This has been an ongoing problem for some months and our IT technician has been liaising with our ISP, but at this moment, to no avail.)’

She explains, ‘Once the blogs, wikis, etc. have been linked to the Netvibes page, the actual sites appear within the page. You can set the size of each “mini page”. Students and staff can then enter their chosen site directly, without a need to click a link or open a new page.’

Judith continues, ‘Netvibes also enables us to dedicate pages for staff and pages for students. We intend to use the widget function to add a calendar so students can see when the Readers Cup is scheduled, when Book Club is due in and when Book Week occurs. Our Netvibes page is linked from our intranet and we plan to promote it by encouraging students to explore it during library orienation sessions, by making and distributing bookmarks with the URL and by introducing Netvibes at a staff meeting.’

Judith also says she found Netvibes relatively quick and easy to use and has even been complemented by the school’s IT technician on her work!

Netvibes can also be used as an RSS reader, so those people using Bloglines, Google Reader or other RSS services may decide to use Netvibes instead. Your RSS feeds can be set as ‘private’ allowing only you to access them.

We look forward to hearing how the staff and students at Preston Girls’ use the site and their thoughts on it.


Plurk is a tool that enables members to have an online social conversation with multiple friends. You can join conversations by topic, or use the micro blogging tool to send ‘plurks’ which use a maximum of 140 characters (like Twitter). Updates from friends are shown on your page as a timeline in chronological order.



Plurk’s aim is to introduce a balance between blogs and wikis, instant messaging and email. Users of the micro blogging tool use verbs to explain how they are feeling.



There is a great wiki that lists schools and other educational institutions that are using Plurk. The wiki provides links to the projects that the schools are undertaking, and currently there are at least seven Australian schools, with three of those from Victoria. Many of the projects linked to the wiki are outstanding and definitely worth investigating. If you like the sound of Plurk and you’d like to learn more about how it works, click here.