About Kelly Gardiner

I’m a journalist and editor by trade, have worked across many different media and also in community development, and shifted to the web in the olden days (1998) to work for a little start-up called ninemsn.com.au. I’ve been at the State Library of Victoria for five years, first as Web Manager and now as an Online Learning Manager, responsible for online learning tools and courses such as the PLN, Bright Ideas blog and ergo, as well as strategic direction for our other learning-related websites. In my spare time I write books for kids and young adults and chip away at my PhD. I use web tools every day in my work, research, study, writing and… well, my whole life. I use Dropbox and Evernote most days, I blog and am on Twitter and facebook far too often, and have recently become hopelessly devoted to Pinterest.

Learnist: visual literacy in action

You may be familiar with the addictive pinboard site, Pinterest. Now comes Learnist, which takes many visual clues from Pinterest, builds on similar organisational principles, and adds a whole range of functionality.

Image of learnist homepage

Still in beta, Learnist is designed around the idea of collecting resources on topics or themes and presenting them in a visually appealing and social format. Resources such as videos, images and links aren’t just collections in Learnist: they are arranged in step-by-step lessons or processes, so you can work your way through the information or tasks and tick them off as you go. It’s not only for formal education, but has an Education category and we anticipate it’ll be perfect for quick online learning projects, introducing students to new concepts, or for digital storytelling.

You can share resources and collections uploaded by other teachers or librarians, and add your own. (At this early stage, the ability to curate  collections isn’t provided for all users, but it will be.)

Here’s an introduction to Learnist from its creators:

Request an invitation, have a play, and let us know what you think.

On my desktop

In this series of posts, we ask people about the web tools and apps they use most and why. This week: the State Library of Victoria’s Online Learning Manager Kelly Gardiner, who juggles a part-time job including managing the Personal Learning Network course, plus study and writing days.

Which web tools do you use most?

I move between different computers and devices, like many people,  so the tools I use most enable seamless access to my own data and files. They include:

Dropbox – this is now so integrated into my life I don’t even notice it. I store all my active files there and can access them from home or uni, or work on documents on the train.

Evernote – I use it to gather research notes and resources, divided into different notebooks and notebook stacks.  Like Dropbox I have it installed on every device I own.

Chrome –  We take our browsers for granted, but they are useful tools in themselves.  Chrome now synchs bookmarks (so does Firefox) which is a huge breakthrough. I also constantly use the free extensions that enable clipping web articles to Evernote, Bitly for shortening links, Add This for sharing resources to social media, and Nanny for locking myself out of tempting sites like Twitter while I’m trying to write.

Elephant logo for Evernote


What’s your preferred social media network?

Twitter for professional network and a constant stream of resources and information (except during #eurovision). Facebook pages and groups are great for engaging with people, and I use my personal facebook profile for connecting with friends and family. It’s important for me, like educators, to keep a clear distinction between personal and professional profiles and audiences.

I use WordPress for my personal blog and tumblr for shorter-term project-based blogs, partly because it’s so easy to reblog images other people have posted.

And I must admit I adore Pinterest for gathering and sharing resources – it will be very intersting to see how it develops in the coming months.

Hootsuite helps me manage multiple social media profiles across different platforms such as Twitter, facebook, facebook pages. Tweetdeck does the same, but I like how Hootsuite allows me to set up a whole lot of tabs with streams, for the different compartments of my life (eg work, tech updates, conferences, etc). You can save a Twitter list, or a hashtag, or a person’s feed  as a stream. You can also schedule posts and retweets which I try to remember to do before I leave home, so as to not to bombard people with ten at once.

Owl logo for Hootsuite


What do you do when you arrive at work in the morning?

First, a very strong coffee. I look at Yammer, which we use for internal communications, then my email inbox. I set reminders on emails that I need to follow-up, so if there’s anything that needs attention I see to that.

We use Global2 blogs to run the PLN course, along with a facebook group and Twitter for communication. On the admin side, we use Google Reader to monitor the participants’ blog posts, and we store our shared admin tools and spreadsheets in Google Docs – we’re going to look at using other tools like Edmodo more in future. So if it’s my turn on PLN roster, I log into all of those and get cracking.

I tweet on behalf of the Library as @SLVLearn, so I also check the #VicPLN and #edtech streams early and at intervals through the day. For that, I use Tweetdeck.

 Favourite app?

My favourite mobile app is Passwords & PINs because of all these damn web tools and their different log-in requirements.


PLN 2012 Update

The 2012 PLN course is bowling along, with the 150 participants back to work this week after a break in formal coursework over the school holidays.

But in spite of the vacation, many people took the time to catch up or even work ahead, do extra reading and activities, and take part in one or more of our events.

Two catch-up sessions enabled anyone who was in town to drop into the computer lab in the State Library of Victoria to meet the PLN team and fellow participants in person, ask questions, and talk through the first few units of work.

We’ve tried a few different things this year, and amongst them was our first Tweetchat. About 20 participants on either Twitter itself or via Tweetchat, using a special hashtag (#VicPLN2012), asked and answered questions and then just chatted about their PLN experiences and tools they use in their schools.

Tweetchat allows you to participate in an online chat session but strips out all other Twitter chatter so you can concentrate on the one hashtag. It also makes life a little easier by inserting the hashtag into your messages automatically, to help you tweet faster (other services such as Today’s Meet are similar and very handy): some tweetchats move so fast it’s hard to keep up with the one conversation, let alone seeing off-topics tweets as well.

If you use HootSuite, you can save the topic as a stream: we’ve embedded ours in the PLN blog, so you can see what happened and how the chat worked.

We also used Storify to curate a summary:

PLN 2012 Tweetchat on Storify

The next few units in the PLN course include the hot topics of mobile use, digital citizenship and online footprints. We’ll feed the discussion back into Bright Ideas for your input too.


PLN update – week five

As Victorian teachers enjoy a well-earned holiday, many participants in this year’s Personal Learning Network course are instead taking to Twitter, adding widgets to blogs, and pondering issues of digital citizenship.

As many readers of Bright Ideas know only too well, the first few weeks of the PLN course can be bewildering and sometimes a little scary, as people are faced with new terminology, concepts, tools and seemingly endless numbers of new accounts and passwords.

Happily, there’s plenty of support available from the ongoing PLN community, especially on Twitter through the #VicPLN hashtag – if you don’t use it yourself, check  it out. You don’t need to be Victorian to get benefit from the constant stream of resources, links and ideas from teacher librarians and educators at every level.

You’re also welcome to join in the discussion on our facebook group.


PLN update

This year’s Personal Learning Network (PLN) course is underway, and we’ll bring you updates to refresh the memories of alumni and perhaps update your own web toolbox and PLN community.
The 2012 intake began simply, with discussions and reading about the idea of PLNs, creating a Google account and Reader subscriptions, and a couple of tasks to introduce some bright ideas early on.
Participants posted a message on Wallwisher about what they hoped to achieve in the course, and placed themselves on a Google map: both tools that can be used to collaborate with colleagues and in libraries or classrooms. It also gave participants a means of sharing information and reading about other people’s hopes and fears.


Image of Wallwisher wall

The next task was to set up a PLN blog, a huge task for people who’ve never done such a thing before. The blogs are coming in thick and fast, with some great posts and designs already. Take a little look here.
A web conference including a discussion with Miffy Farquharson (Mentone Grammar) and Celia Coffa (St Luke’s, Blackburn) introduced people to the Elluminate/Collaborate software and allowed us to connect and talk.
This week, people are launching themselves into social media, signing up for Twitter, facebook and testing out Skype.
The VicPLN facebook group is part of the course but also an ongoing PLN community to which you are all welcome.


Image of Google map

A number of PLN participants have asked whether there are any classes or schools out there who’d like to connect through Skype or blogs.
Any takers?

Library guides at the State Library

Librarians from the State Library of Victoria have been putting together Library guides on various subject areas to help people with their research tasks.

It’s essentially a cheat sheet that guide you through the research process by wading through the array of resources available to you.

Here’s a sample of what’s been created:
1. Aboriginal people & the law
2. Adoption & forgotten Australians
3. Bushfires
4. Companies in Australia
5. Court cases in Australia
6. Early Australian census records
7. Finding Australian legislation
8. Finding book reviews
9. Finding music scores & popular songs
10. Finding poetry

Image of research guide on census

There are 28 more guides on a range of topics but you can see the entire list here.

It’s commonplace for universities to have library guides, so do check them out for other subject areas, especially for senior students. Or you can create your own easily and quickly, in LibGuides.

Let us know if you’ve already created some LibGuides – we’d love to hear about them.

Pinterest: beyond the buzz

You may have heard of Pinterest, the new social media platform that is taking the web by storm. Pinterest is like a virtual pinboard, where you share images you like either gathered from the web (like a shared bookmark) or uploaded from your own collection. Users can create boards on any theme and these are also tagged in categories, so you can browse through History or Technology, for example, and re-pin other people’s favourites to your own pin boards. You can follow other people’s boards and you can also integrate it with your facebook or Twitter accounts.


Image of Pinterest Education category

A Pin it! bookmarklet to add to your browser makes it easy to grab web content.

The joy of Pinterest is its visual nature – you can’t save text-only content, only material with images attached (even if it’s a web page with lots of text and only one image). That makes it perfect for gathering items together like a scrapbook.

Interestingly, most data so far indicates that the vast majority of its users are women. That’s not surprising, as many of the early users did use it as a scrapbook, so that some of the most glorious image collections are in themes like historical fashion and home decor – including drool-worthy bookshelves and libraries (there are also a lot of recipes).

Image of Pinterest board

But dig a little deeper – if you can – and you’ll soon recognise Pinterest’s value as an image repository, link sharing community, and easy-to-use site for students or classes to quickly assemble project materials on a huge range of topics.

Under the Education category you’ll find teaching materials and classroom activities gathered together by educators all over the world, and in other categories you and your students can find everything from historic photos of Victorian London or World War 1, to images of shoes worn in 1770 or wildlife or botanical drawings.

These “pins” can be shared on social media or embedded in blogs or websites.


Image of Pinterest pin

Pinterest is deceptively simple and dangerously addictive. Beware.

The Victorian PLN is almost here

The next round of the Victorian Personal Learning Network is now less than two weeks away, so get ready for a new influx of blogs to read and educators to meet when the course kicks off on March the 5th.  The course aims to help educators build their own PLN and learn about some of the great tools available on the web.

As with previous years we are sure that the Bright Ideas community will get together to support these new participants. Many of you would have completed the Victorian PLN in the past, so hopefully you’ll be able to help people along as they build their own network. It might even be time for you to brush up on your own skills by doing the course again. You might like to form a PLN group at your school to take the course together.

So why should you or your colleagues do the course? Here’s a participant’s reflection on the 2011 program.

“Doing the PLN was a decision to ensure that I was keeping up with the world. I learnt a lot of new things from doing it, and it gave me opportunities to explore tools that I’d heard about but never really had the interest to pursue any further – like Twitter for example. This forced play, and the space set aside to investigate things was useful for my learning.”


Please encourage your colleagues to take part in this great course. Enquiries can be sent to learning@slv.vic.gov.au and course details are available at the State Library of Victoria website.

Bibliography generators

It’s always great to show students online bibliography generators when they’re starting research projects at the start of the year. They’re a quick, easy way to record resources as you go and encourage good research practice.

Here are a few generators to help students start the new year on the right foot.

Harvard generator

This site is one of the few bibliography generators that gives you the option of Harvard/Author-date formatting, a system commonly used in schools. Tabs across the top of the page let you choose either print or electronic as the source type.

Harvard generator doesn’t however export references or allow you to save your list so you need to fill in the details and then copy and paste the formatted references into another document.


This well known website quickly and easily creates reference lists in MLA, APA, Chicago or Turabian styles. It also lets you search for books and other sources by title, author etc., retrieving catalogue records and using them to auto-generate references for you.

By creating a personal login you can also save your bibliographies online and export them as Rich Text Files (.rtf).


EasyBib allows you to create bibliographies using the MLA system free of charge and like BibMe, uses existing online catalogues to retrieve source information.

You can save your bibliographies by signing up using a Google, Yahoo or even Facebook account and can export your bibliography as a Word document or Google doc.


Zotero isn’t strictly a bibliography generator – it’s a complete online referencing system. It lets you store, catalogue, annotate, file and tag references to name just a few of the things it can do.

References can be drawn from Amazon and library catalogues etc. and you can export bibliographies in a broad range of styles and document types. You do however, have to use Zotero in the web browser, Firefox.

By creating a login, you can access your research at any computer with access to the web. Signing up also lets you connect with a community of people using Zotero and share research.

Zotero is a powerful tool and probably only worth introducing to older students or even having a look at whether it would suit your own research.

Some note taking applications like Evernote are now powerful enough to be used in a similar way to Zotero. It’s worth thinking about how some of  these tools can empower educators and students to become more effective researchers.

Back for 2012

Welcome back to a new year of Bright Ideas. Hopefully you’ve had a relaxing and restorative break and a chance to sort through your email!

At the start of the year when everything is beginning, it’s often worth taking time to be inspired by the great ideas that transform how we work, live and see the world.

RSAnimate is a wonderful source of videos to get you thinking. Some stand out talks include:

The RSA channel on You Tube also includes other RSAnimate videos, talks and presentations.

We look forward to another year of sharing, inspiration and bright ideas.