Talking Difference

Jan Molloy, Programs Co-ordinator, Humanities at the Immigration Museum describes Talking Difference, a new multimedia project from Museum Victoria with content creation opportunities for schools and libraries.

On Thursday May 9,  Museum Victoria launched Talking Difference, a multi-platform online digital media project designed to facilitate dialogue about cultural difference and promote diversity.  The project incorporates touring installations in schools and libraries, personal stories and videos. Talking Difference is funded by the VicHealth ‘Arts about Us’ program which challenges race-based discrimination through the arts.

The Talking Difference Portable Studio is a touring installation and online experience that allows you to watch, create and share multimedia. You can watch or read questions posed by members of the community and see other people’s responses to the questions as well as add comments.

The Studio toured Brimbank Libraries in 2011 creating opportunities for a broad range of people to have their say. In 2012 the Portable Studio toured regional Victoria including Shepparton, Mildura, Horsham, and East Gippsland.

Talking Difference in schools

The Schools program promotes dialogue amongst students about race based discrimination and the impact this may have on both the school and broader community. Students will have the opportunity to understand and reflect on different perspectives of identity and diversity by creating and sharing content using the Portable Studio platform.

The studio will tour schools in Brimbank and Casey in 2013.

First school placement May 2013

Essendon Keilor Secondary College is the first school to participate in the project. Students met with Transmedia academic Emma Beddows and artistic fellow, Christie Widiarto. Students will take part in a number of workshops, producing an installation around the themes of diversity and race based discrimination. The portable studio begins its residency at the school on Monday, 20 May.

Overnewton College, Casey Greammar and Hampton Park Secondary college will all be  participating in the project in 2013.

If your school is located in the city of Hume or Melton and you would be interested in participating in the project in 2014 we are taking expressions of interest at the moment.

Please contact Jan Molloy or Tatiana Mauri .

For further information, photos and videos please go to the Talking Difference website.


Online assemblies using Blackboard Collaborate

Scott Duncan from Cranbourne East Primary School recently spoke at TeachMeet Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria. His school has begun using Blackboard Collaborate to run online assemblies. This post, which originally appeared on his blog, details the process.

Cranbourne East Primary School shares a site and facilities with the local secondary college. Given the size of our school population and available facilities, we found we didn’t have a large enough space to accommodate a whole school assembly. We looked into alternative methods of delivery and began broadcasting assemblies using web conferencing.

We run sessions using Blackboard Collaborate, previously known as Elluminate, and publish them through our school website. Parents and members of the community who subscribe to our school website receive an e-mail notification when the session becomes available.

Every seven days (our school works on a 7 day rotating timetable cycle) I create a session and post the link on the school website. I also develop and upload PowerPoint slides and a recording of the National Anthem.

Our principal and school captains host the assembly and co-moderate the session. We meet about 15 minutes prior to the session and run through the agenda and slides.

Our online assemblies generally include:

  • A technical run through (audio setup, using the mic etc…) and reminders about acceptable use of Blackboard Collaborate for new users and parents at home
  • Welcome to country led by our school captains
  • The National Anthem – words appear on slides and we use the multimedia function to send out the music
  • Sign of the week – AUSLAN is our LOTE and each week our AUSLAN teacher uses the video tool to demonstrate a new sign for the week
  • Principal’s report – we cross to the Principals office where our principal uses slides, video and/or audio tools to present his report
  • Student performances are broadcast using audio and video tools
  • Shining Star Awards – the award co-ordinator creates slides which I include in the overall presentation, school captains read out winners’ names (we only publish first names due to cybersafety and privacy) and students collect their awards from the office at the end of the day
  • Mathletics update – the numeracy co-ordinator uses audio tools to present an update on students’ mathletics achievements
  • House Points – our house captains read out weekly results and scores appear on slides
  • Any other teacher announcements – staff use the ‘raise hand’ tool to indicate they have something to share and use the microphone tool to talk
  • Assembly recordings are published to our school website for those who miss the ‘live’ session.

Since we began using web conferencing, staff are considering ways to they can use the software with students. Parents who can’t come to assemblies can now participate from home, watch recordings and see students’ awards and presentations . The online assembly program has also helped students develop speaking and listening skills.

I hope to expand the program and involve more students, train more teachers as moderators and investigate ways we can involve people from the broader community.

You can see Scott’s presentation at TeachMeet Melbourne here.

Image credit: T.P. Bennett, (1915) Assembly in hall [picture], State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection

New writers in residence on Inside a Dog

Jordi Kerr, Learning Programs Officer at the Centre for Youth Literature talks about upcoming writers in residence on insideadog.

Ever wanted to break into a writer’s mind and find out the true story – how do they do it? What makes them tick? Where did that idea come from? Welcome to insideadog’s Residence blog.

insideadog hosts a different YA writer each month – they hang around the kennel, and write posts that give an insight into their lives and writing process. It’s a unique opportunity for students, regardless of their geographical location, to pick the brains of an author. By commenting on the blog posts, students can interact with professional writers, and have their questions about reading and writing answered.

In March, debut author Myke Bartlett provided candid and humorous explorations of his background and process, as well as exclusive glimpses at some of his unpublished work, and his upcoming sequel to Fire in the Sea.  (You can easily access all of Myke’s posts here.)

Myke has also aptly demonstrated that blog writing is an art form in its own right. In the classroom the Residence blog can be used as a launch pad to discuss and explore how writing for an online audience is different to writing for print. What makes a good blog? How is blog success measured? How can readers be encouraged to become involved?

In April, American graphic novelist (artist and writer) Raina Telgemeier was at the helm. (You may have heard of her multi-award winning book Smile?) If you’ve ever been uncertain about how to introduce graphic novels into your classroom, this is your chance. Raina’s got some great posts from how a graphic novel is born (and raised), advice for budding cartoonists and graphic novel recommendations for young readers. You can access all her posts here.

Insideadog endeavours to publish the names of upcoming resident authors ahead of time, to give teachers the opportunity to prepare and plan. Students can familiarise themselves with the author’s books, and research them online. There is also a blogging worksheet included in the site’s teacher resources, which you can use or adapt to foster discussion.

You may notice that over the next few months the writers hosted on insideadog are also involved in our Reading Matters Student Day program. For those students lucky enough to be attending Reading Matters, the residence blog gives them a chance to get to know the authors beforehand.

History resources from Sovereign Hill

In this guest post Peter Hoban, Education Officer at Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill, introduces the comprehensive range of online resources and events produced by the Sovereign Hill education team.

Sovereign Hill Education is using online tools to make AusVELS history accessible to teachers and students.

Our free webinar series for teaching History will kick off this year with a presentation from the staff of Canadian Lead PS. This innovative school trialled AusVELS History across the whole school in 2012 culminating in a wonderful school community history night called “Back to the Future Fair”. The night featured student work amidst community group presentations and created a real sense of excitement and a real audience for their students. Teachers will discuss their experiences in a one-hour after school webinar on 20th of March.

This program inspired us to develop a teaching kit for Level 5 History. Called The Settlement of Victoria, the kit provides links to online collection items from some of Australia’s most reputable institutions so students can study the fascinating story of the settlement of our state. The kit culminates in students using the skills they have learned to complete a research project about a famous Victorian and a Diigo bookmarking group has been developed to share useful research websites for this project. It is hoped that teachers and students will share good websites they have found to help other students from across Victoria. The free online kit is being supported by web conferences to explore it. The first is on the 14th of  March.

The second webinar features two authors. Peter FitzSimons has recently published “Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution” and has a string of other titles to his credit. Many teachers will also be familiar with Doug Bradby, author of the “Seriously Weird History Series” that kids love. Both will be online to discuss the importance of story-telling in engaging audiences from 4.30pm on 2 May.

Lastly, Sovereign Hill Education has been working with local secondary History teachers to provide good ideas and resources. An AusVELS History Diigo group presents links tagged according to AusVELS but at present has a strong focus on Years 7 and 9. An Edmodo group called History Teachers PLN has also been created so teachers can ask questions of each other and seek advice. All history teachers are invited to sign up to Edmodo and join this group. You can use the group code i4pz2q or join using this link.

To book for any of these sessions or to find out more call (03) 5337 1188.

Thanks to Peter and the rest of the team for putting together such fabulous resources. We look forward to attending the upcoming webinars. 


Lizzie Bennet Diaries: transmedia story telling

In this guest post Centre for Youth Literature Program Coordinator, Adele Walsh talks about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – an amazing example of transmedia story telling.

When you think of Lizzie Bennet, most see a tome of Pride and Prejudice or Jennifer Ehle slowly coaxing a smile out of Colin Firth in the last scene of the BBC adaptation. Since April last year, the two hundred year old character has undergone a radical makeover in the form of a hugely successful web series.

Hank Green, one half of the Nerdfighting duo with brother John Green, and head writer Bernie Su, have created The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a web series that lovingly references the classic text while reflecting life today and social media trends. LBD, as it’s known, has also created a staggeringly engaged online community.

It’s a perfect example of highly successful transmedia at work – a series of web tools that integrates the elements of narrative to create unique content based on existing (and out of copyright) properties.

Remaining loyal to the structure of Jane Austen’s work, Hank and Bernie have followed the same narrative arc, but have adapted characters and motivations so they make sense today and fit the medium. For instance, there are only three Bennet sisters in LBD – Lizzie (our fearless vlogging protagonist), Jane (timid but lovely) and Lydia (irrepressible and endearing). Mary makes an appearance as a cousin with Kitty as the family pet. Every change to the original is done with love and humour, it never mocks its source material.

Marriage proposals are now job offers, estates become large corporations and as for the shocking Wickham/Bennet development….well, our lips are sealed.

Green and Su have also integrated different social media platforms to develop characters and events from outside Lizzie’s perspective. Each character has a Twitter account composed by the series’ writing team where they interact with the public and each other. Jane works in fashion so her outfits and inspiration are posted on her Tumblr and Lookbook accounts.

Jane Bennet on Lookbook

Lydia starts her own web series to have a share of the spotlight but what starts out as an exercise in narcissism becomes something else entirely. Lydia Bennet has never been as beloved as she has in this form of Pride and Prejudice. The appearance of the characters (and cast) at last year’s VidCon brought real and imagined worlds together in a way that tickled the funny bone and imagination of the LBD audience.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries appeals to new and established audiences. Many of the teens and adults who have gravitated to the series have no pre-existing knowledge of the story so every new episode is a revelation. The dialogue, acting and variations in the story give viewers familiar with the novel a new experience which often challenges them to think about characters in a different way.

The series also encourages audience participation. Viewers are actively involved in the characters’ lives – giving Lydia advice (or warnings…) in YouTube comments, chatting with characters on Twitter and pestering creators to hurry up and introduce Darcy!

One of the most interesting spin-offs from LBD is the fan group, The LBD Seahorses. Before Lydia’s fall from grace, fans couldn’t agree which tragedy would ruin her in a contemporary setting. Pregnancy seemed to be the frontrunner. The question was then asked, “What would Darcy even do to help the situation?” To which someone replied, “He’d offer to carry the baby for her.” “Oh, so he’s going to become a seahorse?”

And so the niche group was born.

LBD Seahorses group on Twitter

While it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and not all LBD fans love it, the group is a great example of how web based media evolves. In a recent Lizzie Bennet Q&A session there was even a shout out for this fan group.

The creators couldn’t have anticipated the audience driven art, discussions and interests inspired by the series. The actress who plays Jane often styles her hair using ideas from the World War II era prompting questions about how she does it.  Jane posted on Pinterest and made video tutorials so now fans are wearing elaborate hair styles like Victory rolls and milk maid braids.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries project is slowly coming to an end. This week celebrates the 91st episode and (almost) a year of continuous, free narrative-based content. Who would have imagined that a series of 3-5 minute videos and social media channels based on a classic reimagined text would so firmly capture young people’s attention?

Hank Green and Bernie Su did.

The big question is which classic will they tackle next?


What is a TeachMeet?

Today’s guest post comes from Celia Coffa, one of the organisers of TeachMeet Melbourne. Celia tells us about TeachMeets and the schedule of free events for this year. 

TeachMeets are professional learning opportunities, for teachers, by teachers. Starting in Scotland about 8 years ago, the movement is growing and the structure and style varies from place to place. The Melbourne experience started in September 2011, following the lead of TeachMeet Sydney and has grown steadily since.

TeachMeets attract teachers from all sectors: state, independent and Catholic and from all primary, secondary and tertiary levels, thereby creating a wonderfully eclectic group different to many other Professional learning opportunities we may attend. TeachMeets rely on the willingness of participants to be presenters, usually in two or seven minutes time slots. TeachMeet presentation topics are as varied as those presenting them. Learning theories, teaching strategies, educational projects and cool tech tools are some of the many topics discussed. The presentations are important, but just as important is the opportunity to meet and extend our Professional Learning Networks. Making face to face contact with people who we may already have established relationships with on social media, through Twitter, online courses or blogging. This connecting and networking strengthens and broadens our scope as teachers, widening the opportunities for our own personal development as well as extending the reach for our students.

Melbourne TeachMeets have a friendly atmosphere, and have been hosted in a wide variety of educational settings, including schools, Science and Environmental education centres, Libraries and Museums. No two meets are the same, harnessing the expertise, friendship and ‘feel’ of the group gathered.

The upcoming meet on February 2 will be hosted by ICTEV and will take place in a Pub (where reportedly the first Teachmeet occurred), allowing for the sharing to continue in an even less formal manner in a TeachEat afterwards. Later in the year, meets are scheduled for the State Library of Victoria (May 16), Melbourne Museum, Royal Children’s Hospital and other school based venues.
Wikispaces becomes the hub for planning events after venues are offered. Twitter and word of mouth are the main publicity methods at this stage. A feature of Teachmeets is that they are organic, changing according to the needs, interests and ideas of those who participate. Who knows what they will look like in a year or two?

For more information :
TeachMeet Melbourne
TeachMeet Australia

You can also find out more by following the Twitter hashtags #TMMelb and #Teachmeet

Thanks to Celia for sharing with us about TeachMeet, and also for her work in organising these fabulous events. We’d encourage you to try and make it along to a TeachMeet in your area, or even organise one of your own. They are a great way to share and build your learning network.


Planboard: Time for a different plan

In this post Bev Novak takes a look at Planboard, an online planning tool that hopes to replace the iconic teachers’ chronicle. This post originally appeared on the NovaNews blog.

An email floated into my inbox not so long ago. It was the annual request by our school admin asking me to decide which kind of ‘teachers’ chronicle’ I would like to order for next year.

Ah… I think: Is it already time to start planning for next year?

My heart thumps furiously as I reflect on the many years of writing those course overviews, aims and objectives, semester plans, term blocks and weekly plans; not to mention of course the detailed day-to-day lesson plans. All that paperwork – the ‘essential’ adjunct to a teacher’s role.

But … hang on… it’s the twenty first century! Our world has shifted. Changed. We no longer do pen and paper do we? Nowadays it’s all on computer – no? Our lives are totally online – no? So, isn’t it time we changed the way we go about planning?

These were the thoughts that swirled around my head as I took a look at Planboard. It’s a neat, very easy to use program, allowing you to create your daily lesson plans in much the same way teachers always have. The big difference is that you do it online. Being able to work from anywhere, all that is needed is a computer, an internet connection, and a web browser. The lay out is straight forward and easy to navigate. Text can be formatted and links and videos added. There’s even a cute post-it-note to allow you to jot reminder notes to yourself. The completed plan can then be saved as a pdf and emailed on to anyone else. Nice!

With various options ranging from 100 lesson plans for free to a monthly cost, I can seriously see an online application such as Planboard taking over the traditional market. Check out the video here or have a read of this very comprehensive review.

While I’m sure this not the only ‘online chronicle’ it is certainly a reminder to us all that perhaps it is time for us to re-think the many routines that have for so long been associated with education.

Times have changed. Thinking has changed. We really do need to start doing things differently.

Thanks to Bev for sharing her post about Planboard. You can find Bev on Twitter and read her excellent NovaNews blog for updates on teaching and learning. 

Infinity Ring: Read the books and play the games

Today our guest post comes from Joy Burlak, Education Resource Centre Manager at Sunbury Downs College. Joy explains how the Infinity Ring series of books and games is taking her school library by storm.

A poster came across my desk from Scholastic, promoting ‘Infinity Ring’ “Fix the past. Save the future. Read the book. Follow the guide. Play the game. ” 

Such intrigue! I could not let that go without further investigation. The poster had piqued my interest in the exact way we try to entice students – we want to stimulate their curiosity. I was curious.

I went onto the Scholastic website and read about the ‘New Multi-Platform Time Travel Adventure Series Infinity Ring.’ The concept is simple. There are 7 books in the series. Each book comes with a guide which allows access to a new adventure in the online interactive game ‘Infinity Ring.’ I was hooked. Then I saw the promotional video.

The pace and drama of that video was enough. I showed it to some of my students and they too were hooked.

All I had to do now was organise for the IT department to unblock the game, and then we had to allow permissions for Unity web player to run across the network.

In the meantime students were reading up a storm, making sure they had finished the book before the game became available. The day finally arrived and the first student started playing. Soon enough we had an audience to be proud of. Those who had borrowed the book (I bought 3 copies) ran off to get their copy so they could sit and read and then get onto the game. That first day created 6 reservations for the book.

The first book is called ‘A mutiny in time’ by James Dashner. It introduces our heroes and the premise of the series and then takes the reader on a wild adventure back in time to Christopher Columbus in 1492. The adventure continues with the first game when students are taken back to1792 and the French Revolution. There are 7 books in the series, to be published over the next 18 months. James Dashner wrote the first book and will conclude the series, however the books in between will be written by other authors. This allows for a shorter publishing run and ensures interest remains at fever pitch.

The graphics are amazing and the plot is complex enough to challenge Year 8 students. I would suggest Year 9’s may even learn something. The website comes complete with Teachers’ Notes and free Common Core whiteboard activities. Circulating whilst students play the game provides an excellent opportunity to challenge their curiosity. A comment was made about crossing to the other side of the river, so my natural question was “What is the name of the river that runs through Paris?” The name d’Artagnan came up, so again the questioning continued – is he a fictional character or is there an historic link? The answers had to be provided the following day, before the game could continue.

We have decided to have 1 day each week as ‘Infinity Ring’ day. Students will be either playing the game (after reading the book) or actually reading the book. The best of both worlds!

Thanks to Joy for telling us about the passion of her students for this new series of novels. We’re off to read the first novel and start playing!


Story Scrapbook

Today author Tristan Bancks tells about the development of his new app Story Scrapbook, a tool to assist with the creative writing process.

I write books for children and teens: Mac Slater Coolhunter, Nit Boy, Galactic Adventures and My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up. I use visual, aural, textual, web-based and interactive tools to prompt and inspire my writing process. Story Scrapbook is a new (free!) story brainstorming app based on my cross-media creative process that brings writing alive for children and teens. I developed the app with revolutionary new media developer Ben Train to assist us in co-writing a story.
The app, for Mac and PC, allows users to bring together text, images, video, music, sticky notes and Google Maps on virtual scrapbook pages. A simple idea about a kid with the worst case of nits in world history or a killer magpie or a boy with a dream of going into space becomes ‘real’ when it is brought alive using multimedia tools. There are no more, ‘I don’t know what to write about’ complaints or one-size-fits-all story starters on the whiteboard. Students can explore their own interests and brainstorm their own unique stories using an engaging, contemporary tool that they understand.
As a child, if I read a book or watched a movie I would feel inspired to create my own story for screen or page. Story Scrapbook will, hopefully, inspire other young readers, writers and creators to do the same. And not just those who learn textually or have been born with a creative ‘gift’.
Since the launch of the Beta version in May I have been touring Story Scrapbook to festivals and schools from Sydney to Brisbane and out to Armidale, creating collaborative stories on smartboards and having students trial the app on individual computers in workshops. They have provided feedback on their likes and suggestions and have been instrumental in the ongoing development of the app. Feedback has been resoundingly positive.

Steve Jobs, co-creator of Apple and Pixar, said that the original instructions for the Star Trek video game were:
1. Insert coin.
2. Avoid Klingons
We have tried to do similarly with Story Scrapbook. On the web page there is a Quick-start pdf and an introductory video (see above) but other than that, students are invited to experiment and discover the app for themselves. This has proven a greater challenge for older people and the less computer-savvy but the tool has been created with children and teens in mind.
We are building a community around the app and we are currently developing an HTML5 version, which will allow easy embedding and sharing of the interactive creations. My hope is to build a suite of free or very inexpensive digital creative tools on my website and to continue to inspire and nurture others’ ability and confidence to create.
I would love you to be part of this process by downloading and testing the app, then sharing your discoveries. Find out more and download the app on the Story Scrapbook page.


Congratulations to Tristan for creating such a great tool. He is touring the app to schools in Melbourne from August 6-10. To find out more visit Tristan’s website.

e5 Apps for iPads in a Secondary School

Today’s guest post comes from Catherine Hainstock of Vermont Secondary College.

The e5 Instructional Model was recently introduced in Victoria and Vermont Secondary College has been trialling it for the past 12 months. We are also on the first phase of a 1:1 iPad program beginning with Year 7 in 2013. As one of the Teacher Librarians I am keen to evaluate and recommend resources of any sort to support quality teaching and learning so last year I began reading blogs about apps for education. I listened to individual recommendations then downloaded and trialled apps but only passed on a handful to specific teachers. I started questioning the quality of educational apps available (most were gimmicks, games or had limited use). Were we expecting too much too soon? I decided to take a different approach.
My question became – how could I support teachers to implement the e5 Instructional Model via the iPad Program? Was it possible to find quality apps suitable for each of the facets of e5?
As I re-examined e5 and trialled more apps, I had several objectives in mind:
  • to find apps that could be useful across Learning Areas (not always possible)
  • to choose apps that could support both teachers and students
  • to keep costs minimal
  • to check the terms and conditions (especially with regard to age restrictions and ownership of uploaded work)
Here is what I came up with –


While trialling apps I found that:
  • many suited more than one facet of e5
  • many suitable high quality apps are not listed in the education section of the iTunes Store
  • the apps I found suitable for the Engage facet of e5 tend to be subject specific  so I continue to sample across the learning areas
The e5 app chart is also available as a pdf to download. I’d love to receive comments or constructive feedback and continue the conversation about quality apps for the e5 model.

To find out more about Catherine’s work or give her feedback about the app chart, head over to her fantastic blog TL Under Construction.