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.

Feature wiki – gaming4learning @ PGSC

Preston Girls’ Secondary College teacher librarian Judith Way was recently one teacher selected by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development‘s KnowledgeBank: Next Generation branch to trial gaming in schools. Judith explains:

In term 2, 2009 (April-June) selected schools in the Australian state of Victoria are trialling videogames as learning tools. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Knowledge Bank: Next Generation team are currently leading action research with selected teachers in Victoria to identify potential technologies that may support learning and teaching. This project is supported by The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, The Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development (Multimedia Victoria) and The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

In term 2, 2009, these technologies include gaming consoles such as Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 are being trialled in approximately twenty schools. Being a DEECD project, there are strict guidelines and record keeping so all research can be validated. This is a major step for the government’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in acknowledging the educational potential of gaming and backing up ideas with action research. The DEECD will be formulating department policy in regards to gaming once the research has been completed. Schools were emailed in March 2009 to indicate their interest in the project and apply to become part of the trial. The DEECD were offering grants of A$4000 per school to cover the costs of replacement teachers, consoles and software.

Fortunately, I was one of the teachers selected to participate in the trial.

Students in the trial are in either year 8 or year 9.

* My gaming research question is:

Is it possible that games such as My Word Coach on Nintendo DS can improve literacy skills?

What is the curriculum focus of your teaching for this action research?

  • (Identify VELS domains and levels or VCE/VCAL/VET subject areas)

• develop an understanding of their strengths and potential
• develop skills of goal setting and time and resource management
• increasingly manage their own learning and growth by monitoring their
learning, and setting and reflecting on their learning goals
• recognise and enact learning principles within and beyond the school
• prepare for lifelong learning.

• understanding that design, creativity and technology leads to innovation

develop new thinking and learning skills that produce creative and
innovative insights
• develop more productive ways of working and solving problems individually
and collaboratively
• express themselves in contemporary and socially relevant ways
• communicate locally and globally to solve problems and to share
• understand the implications of the use of ICT and their social and ethical
responsibilities as users of ICT.

It is also expected that the project will address the National Literacy Standards.

  • Which PoLT principles will you use to support your pedagogical practices? (please list only those relevant to your research question)

1.4 ensures each student experiences success through structured support, the valuing of effort, and recognition of their work.
2.1 encourages and supports students to take responsibility for their learning
2.2 uses strategies that build skills of productive collaboration.
3.1 uses strategies that are flexible and responsive to the values, needs and interests of individual students
3.2 uses a range of strategies that support the different ways of thinking and learning
3.3 builds on students’ prior experiences, knowledge and skills
3.4 capitalises on students’ experience of a technology rich world.
4.1 plans sequences to promote sustained learning that builds over time and emphasises connections between ideas
4.5 uses strategies to develop investigating and problem solving skills
4.6 uses strategies to foster imagination and creativity.
5.1 designs assessment practices that reflect the full range of learning program objectives
5.2 ensures that students receive frequent constructive feedback that supports further learning
5.3 makes assessment criteria explicit
5.4 uses assessment practices that encourage reflection and self assessment
5.5 uses evidence from assessment to inform planning and teaching.
6.1 supports students to engage with contemporary knowledge and practice
6.3 uses technologies in ways that reflect professional and community practices.
5. How will you evaluate and document your action research?

The students selected to participate that are in the Literacy program will be given the TORC test before the program begins. The group will be given the TORC test again at the end of the program to ascertain results.

Students will also be asked about their engagement and attitudes to literacy now that gaming is used as a learning tool.

Documentation could take the form of a report or blog posts. Debriefing sessions could be held in Elluminate. 



A ‘Decoding’ Literacy group was selected to participate in the trial. Out of the five students in the group, four are in year 8, one in year 9. TORC test results at the end of 2008 place these students at either grade 2 or grade 3 level for literacy.

Before the trial began, students were surveyed about their attitude and understanding of gaming.

  1. 60% played video games at home while 40% did not. (The 40% who did not said they didn’t enjoy/not interested in playing video games.)
  2. 80% of students owned a console.
  • 80% of these owned a Nintendo DS
  • 60% owned a Playstation 3
  • 20% owned an XBoX
  1. All students agreed that they did sometimes play video games; 20% played daily, 40% played a few times a week while the remaining 40% played a few times a year.
  2. Students playing video games said they felt:
  • Happy (20%)
  • Full of fun (40%)
  • Challenged (60%)
  • Focused (40%)
  • Relaxed (40%)
  • Learning (20%)

while students said they did not feel ‘stressed’ or ‘unahppy’ while playing video games.

5. Students mostly agreed that they played video games with others.

  • 40% played with siblings
  • 40% played with parents
  • 40% played with friends
  • 20% played online with friends
  • 20% played alone
  • Students said did not play online with stranger

6. All students thought that video games could be used in schools for both learning and fun. However when quizzed on this, students could not think what they could actually learn, apart from how to use the game.

7. 80% of students thought they would like to use video games at school to learn and 20% (1 student) did not.


This trial was extremely worthwhile. Although each and every student did not increase their TORC test result, there were other gains to be had. The students felt that they learned a lot of new words during the term.

Both Anne Clark (teacher aide), the students and I agreed that the students formed quite a powerful bond with each other during the term that hadn’t been there before. This increased their connectedness to school. They said that they felt closer to each other and they believed it was because of the trial. They felt quite special to have been chosen to participate in the trial. I noticed an improvement in their relationship with me as their teacher librarian. Each student was particularly pleasant and polite and would go out of their way to speak to me in the library or in the quadrangle.

Each student mentioned that the trial was fun and that they enjoyed learning in a different way. Attendance and punctuality improved as well.

Anne Clark noted that students were very engaged and proud of their success when their ‘Expression Potential’ went up a range. Students were very happy during the lessons and were sad at the end of the term to know that they would be going back to the ‘regular’ Literacy classes.

One student ran to the class every day, so excited about using the DS as a learning tool!

At the end of the trial, students were surveyed again, this time about what their favourite part of the trial, gaming and how they felt about school.

  1. 80% of students thought their favourite part of the trial was ‘fun’. 80% said ‘exciting’, 40% said ‘different’, 100% thought is was ‘learning in a different way’, 60% ‘felt privileged’ as no other group had use of the DS and 40% said love of video games.
  2. 100% of students said they learned new words, 80% said they learned more words, 60% said they learned how to spell and 60% said they learned interesting words.
  3. All students said they made more of an effort to come to school during the trial.
  4. All students said they made more of an effort to be on time to school/Literacy class during the trial.
  5. 75% of students said they feel more connected to school now.
  6. All students said that they feel more connected to their Literacy group now.

This response from students is very encouraging in relation to their connectedness to school and each other.

I believe that the four things I set out to investigate have been proven to be effective:

  1. Overall students’ Literacy achievement increased.
  2. Students all agreed that they were more engaged in their Literacy tasks during the trial.
  3. Overall students’ attendance was better and students said they made more of an effort to come to school during the trial.
  • Students’ punctuality improved as the term progressed.
  • Results

     You can see on the results page how students improved academic achievement, punctuality and attendance. Students also said that they were much more engaged than in regular Literacy classes.

    This was an interesting project that really engaged the students when learning. 

    VCE faces axe for national education certificate

    An interesting article in today’s Herald Sun:

    Laurie Nowell and Stephen Drill, August 30, 2009 12:00am

     VICTORIA’S VCE is set to be replaced by a national education certificate as schools move to an Australia-wide curriculum for years 11 and 12.

    A paper created by the newly formed Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority and obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun reveals the transition to new national subjects and standards.

    It reveals all state and federal education ministers have now made a commitment to introduce a kindergarten-to-year 12 national curriculum. Until now, a national curriculum has been planned only up to year 10.

    Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike yesterday said: “It’s inevitable that we move towards a national certificate.”

    The plan will be discussed at a meeting of education ministers in Brisbane on September 28.

    The move will spark controversy. Many teachers, educators and business groups support the scheme, saying it will help universities compare like with like.

    But others say the move to what is expected to be called the “Australian Certificate of Education” will create a “homogenised” education system in which Victorian students are no longer taught about events such as John Batman’s settlement of Melbourne.

    And they are outraged that Australian History is to be dumped as a separate subject.

    Another concern is that, during the transition period, students studying state-based year 10 courses will not be prepared for year 11 national curriculum courses.

    ACARA chairman Prof Barry McGaw said details of the year 11 and 12 national curriculum in the four core areas were being drafted and were due to come on stream in 2012.

    He said a fully fledged “Australian School Certificate” could come after that.

    “We have looked at the best curricula around the world. We believe we will be able to deliver a world-class system,” he said.

    ACARA has been created as an education super-body.

    It is a statutory authority of the Federal Parliament with powers to oversee curricula, assessment and the recently announced reporting on schools.

    Under the plan, initially the year 11 and 12 national curriculum will apply to English, Maths, Science and History, but plans are in progress to extend it to other subjects.

    Maths teacher and educational consultant Russell Boyle said the senior national curriculum was “a step in the right direction”.

    “If students all around the country are to compete on an equal basis, then they should not only be doing the same curriculum, but be assessed in the same way,” he said.

    But critics say the national curriculum will “dumb down” some subjects.

    “You will have English students being able to avoid any kind of study of literature at all,” said former English teacher and business education consultant Angus Creasy.

    Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike confirmed the ACARA paper was a first step towards a national certificate. 

    Academic Earth – videos from the world’s top scholars

    Academic Earth provides free videos from some of the world’s top scholars. Universities that provide content are:

    • Berkeley
    • Harvard
    • MIT
    • NIH
    • Princeton
    • Stanford
    • UCLA
    • Yale


    Subjects covered include:

    • Astronomy
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Engineering
    • English
    • Entrepreneurship
    • History
    • Law
    • Mathematics
    • Medicine
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Religion

    This could be a useful site for teachers and advanced/extension students.

    Web 2.0 Guru

    The Web 2.0 Guru wiki is worth a visit. With the top 10 Web 2.0 tools for classes listed as well as all tools broken down into categories, this is a handy site.

    Top 10 Web 2.0 Must Haves for Every 21st Century Classroom

    1. Class Blogs – WordPress or Blogger
    2. Class Wiki or Website – Wikispaces, Wetpaint, Webnode, Wix, Glogster WikiMatrix – compare and contrast
    3. Virtual or a Cloud Office – Docs, Google Docs, Zoho, Thinkfree
    4. Online Classroom Environments/Networks/Forums – Ning, Neetz, Lefora Backchannels – tinychat, backnoise, coveritlive
    5. Audio Channel – Podcasts or recordings – evoca,podbean, gabcast, gcast, odeo
    6. Teacher Tube create a free account for uploading demonstrations
    7. Private Videocast or TV Channel – Ustream Mogulus., Youcastr
    8. Online Assessment tools – Thatquiz. , rubrics – Tech4Learning
    9. Online Grade book –Engrade
    10. Online storage – file storage – Adrive , 4shared, Flickr for pics,

     Web 2.0 categories include:

    • Animation
    • Assessment and Evaluation
    • Blogging
    • Charts and Spreadsheets
    • Collaboration
    • Communication
    • Conversion Tools
    • Celebration of Success – Award and Certificate Makers
    • Desktop Publishing
    • Dictionaries/Glossaries/Data
    • Digital Storytelling
    • Disposable Email Accounts for Site Registration
    •  Ebooks or Audio Books
    • Games for Education
    • Virtual Games in Education
    • Global Connections in the Classroom
    • Keyboarding
    • Mobile Tools
    • Multimedia
    • Networking and Online Communities
    • Note Taking, Concept Mapping and Flow Chart Tools
    • Online Interactive Classroom Environments
    • Personalized Web Browser Pages
    • Podcasting
    • Polls/Surveys
    • Presentations
    • Professional Networks
    • Research
    • RSS Aggregators
    • Search Engines
    • Social Bookmarking
    • Storage – online storage and for files
    • Studying and Help
    • Text <>Speech
    • The “Tubes”
    • Virtual Field Trips
    • Virtual Worlds in Education
    • Vodcasting – Video Broadcasting
    • Web Design
    • Webinars
    • WebQuests
    • Wikis
    • Word Processing

    Each category has many tools listed and a brief spiel about each one’s strengths or differences. A good place to find the right tool for the job!

    SLAV Awards

    Thanks to Mary Manning for this text:

    SLAV News

    Each year, the School Library Association of Victoria celebrates International School Libraries Day by recognising the excellence and innovation of Victorian teacher-librarians, school library teams, research and school leaders.
    Applications for the following awards close on Friday 18 September 2009:

    The John Ward Award – a professional development grant of $2000. The recipient/s must demonstrate an outstanding contribution to learning and teaching at their school and raise the profile of the profession through their role as teacher-librarian. The award is sponsored by the State Library of Victoria.

    The SLAV Research Fellowship – supports research projects that involve school libraries in learning and teaching.
    The fellowship will take the form of a $1000 grant to provide practical support to a teacher-librarian implementing a local research.

    The SLAV Innovator’s Grant – In conjunction with Pledger Consulting, SLAV is particularly pleased to sponsor an award that goes to an innovative library or school team. Teams may self nominate or be nominated by SLAV branches. The grant will consist of a package of SLAV professional development and/or publications to the value of $800 plus $200 worth of Pledger Consulting products.

    The SLAV School Leader Award is made to a school leader who demonstrates outstanding support of the school library and the work of the school library team. Nominated by a SLAV member.

    Go to for further details and application forms.


    Infloox is a website with an interesting idea.

    Introducing infloox™, the website on influential people’s influential books!

    Let’s say you are interested in Agatha Christie! infloox™ allows you to find:

    • her favourite books or authors;
    • the most famous readers of all her books, and why they liked them;
    • whether one of her books served as an inspiration for some other book.

    But that’s not all! You can also search this website, to find the favourite readings of entire countries, regions, job types, cultural movements or groups in general. Do this through our “collective search” feature!

    • Agatha Christie’s favourite books / authors (infloox™)
    • The most famous readers of Agatha Christie’s works (outfloox™)
    Get details on Charles Dickens:
    Get details on Bleak House:

    • Dickens’s sources of inspiration
    • Influence of Bleak House on other books
    • The most famous readers of Bleak House
    How Bleak House influenced Agatha Christie:

    • Sources for the information provided
    • Details concerning this influence
    • Weight of this influence
    • Visual cues for this influence

    This example centered around Agatha Christie and, by extension, around one of her favourite authors: Charles Dickens. Of course, both happen to be writers of books; but this is just one example! You can find similar pages for any other types of famous persons: not only writers, but also politicians, movie actors, scientists, tycoons, jazz musicians, astronauts, impressionist painters, etc. — anyone who enjoyed reading, or who might have been deeply impressed, influenced by one or more books in particular. That makes lots of famous people!


    And if you want to find directly the influence of a book, or of an author, on a famous person, or on another book, simply type both names or titles in the search box, for example: “bill clinton macbeth shakespeare”.

    Want to know more? Here’s additional stuff on how this website works:

    The monkey
    know our vision — and what we want to accomplish!
    A bird’s view
    what were you missing before infloox™ was invented?
    are we really that pedantic? Well, it’s up to you to find out!
    welcome to the world of infloox™! Here are some of the buzzwords we use again and again throughout this website!

    (Do just beware of the advertsing on the site before you use it with students, it was slightly risky the day of my visit. However, this does appear to be fixed now as of 30/8/09 – see comments below.) Thanks to Jean Anning and Joyce Valenza for passing on the details of Infloox.


     ePals promotes itself as ‘the internet’s largest global community of connected classrooms.  It is a free resource that offers collaborative school projects, eMentoring as well as ‘ePals on the web’.


    From the website comes the following information:

    The Social Network for Learning

    ePals is the largest and fastest growing K-12 online community for meaningful learning. More than half a million educators and millions of learners across 200 countries and territories safely connect, collaborate and build community.

    • Schools around the globe use our school-safe email and blog tools.
    • Deep learning is catalyzed through collaborative learning projects and experiences such as In2Books, ePals’ research-based curriculum-aligned eMentoring program.

    Exchanging ideas and questions in a meaningful way with other learners – down the block or around the globe – generates great excitement about learning and builds 21st century digital literacy and learning skills.

    ePals was written about recently in The Journal. The text of the article follows: 

    ePals Boosts Language Translation Capabilities

    By David Nagel


    Education technology provider ePalshas upgraded its ePals Global Community by expanding its instant translation capabilities. The service has now added 26 additional languages and can now translate text in a total of 35 languages.

    Some of the new languages supported by the translator include Arabic, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Hindi, Polish, Russian, Swedish, and Vietnamese

    ePals is a free resource that reaches more than half a million educators and millions of students worldwide, offering collaboration tools, social networking capabilities, and school-oriented features like Classroom Match, SchoolMail, SchoolBlog, and In2Books.

    • Classroom Match is a tool designed to let teachers connect with other classrooms or online projects around the country.
    • SchoolMail is an integrated, teacher-monitored e-mail system that includes 72 language-translation pairs, spell checking, virus and spam filters, and file-sharing capabilities.
    • SchoolBlog is a literacy education tool that offers teacher-supervised message boards that encourage students to express ideas and collaborate with peers and instructors.
    • In2Books is an online literacy curriculum based around a dialog between a student and an adult mentor designed to improve student achievement on standardized tests and increase critical thinking and writing proficiency.

    According to ePals, more than 500,000 teachers and “millions of students” around the world use the online service. Further information can be found here.

    The In2Books section of the site may be of interest to Primary School teachers:

    With In2Books, 3rd – 5th grade students:

    • Are connected with carefully screened adult pen pals
    • Select and read 5 books closely each year
    • Engage with adult pen pals who read the same books
    • Exchange 6 online letters each year with their adult pen pals


    With In2Books, teachers: the learning with in-class discussions about the books and related instruction in genre and literacy skills.

    Reinforce and extend

    Certainly worth perusing.

    ISLM Bookmark Project update

    Rick Mulholland, the International School Library Month Bookmark coordinator, is seeking more participants for the project:

    Once again the ISLM committee is organizing a bookmark exchange project. Currently, we have a shortage of participants from outside of North America.

    The details of this projects is as follows:

    The ISLM Bookmark Project involves matched schools making homemade bookmarks (any style, shape etc. – be creative) that reflects International School Library Month’s theme of:

    School Libraries: The Big Picture

    The bookmarks must be mailed to your matched school in October 2009.

    If you would like to become involved in this project, you will need to send the following information to the bookmark coordinator:

    – your school’s name

    – your school’s location (city , state/province/ country)

    – the grade/age level of the students to be involved

    – number of students involved (this is very important to ensure that you are matched to a school of similar size)

    – the contact information (name and email address – include an alternative one where you can be reached during any school holidays)

    Every few weeks until early September 2009, a new list of schools will be sent to the participating schools to choose a match.

    For more information or to add your name to the list of participating
    schools, contact:

    Rick Mulholland

    Bookmark coordinator

    Rick’s message was kindly forwarded by Helen Boelens, who explains how she is implementing the project:

    I am doing my best to encourage school in Europe to take part.  It is a nice project which gets children to look outside their own national borders. 

    A good, fun project that gives students a broader view of other countries and cultures.