With the centenary of the First World War set to begin in July this year, many institutions will be launching new sites, programs and resources for schools. But there’s already a lot out there to explore.
Locally, the Australian War Memorial is a key institution when looking at the Great War and the history of ANZAC. They also have an education blog which includes mystery objects, details of new resources, acquisitions and personal stories from the collection. The ANZAC Centenary website from the Victorian Government and the existing ANZAC website from the Department of Veteran Affairs are also great resources looking at the Australian experience of WWI.
Chances are if you’ve done any professional learning or whole school planning in the past few years, you’ve used post-its for collaborative planning. Many of you would be using similar techniques with your students. Stormboard provides a simple online environment where you can brainstorm or plan with groups, where ever they are. This means students can collaborate on projects from home or on their own devices via the web. It would also be useful if you’re collaborating with other educators or students at different schools.
Stormboard let’s you collaborate on boards and share your work via a link. You can add text, videos, images and links to post-its and also create stacks which link to other boards you’ve made. As an avid Evernote user, I must admit the interface all seemed quite familiar
If you like post-its and use them in class or with colleagues, Stormboard is a great way to record your planning and ideas more effectively than sticky bits of paper on the wall!
The Periodic Table of Storytelling is one of those special treats that comes through your feed and gets your mind buzzing with ideas of how it could be used with students.
As well as being pretty funny, the table covers most of the major story types and character arcs, making it a great tool for engaging students in creative writing.
Each story element has an identifier, name and is grouped under one of the following categories – structure, setting, modifiers, plot devices, heroes, villains, archetypes, character modifiers, meta tropes, production and audience reaction.
Ideas for use with students
Give each student in the class one story element, making sure that all categories are represented. (You could make coloured cards for each element).
Ask them to form small groups (3-4) and collaborate on a story that incorporates all their individual story elements. This could easily be a homework assignment or even a competition with time limits
You could mix up the activity by asking them to write in different genres or mediums – film, play, poem, short story, tv show etc.
To make this an individual task, give each student three cards and ask them to include all three elements
You could also use these story elements to describe the books you’re reading. This would be a great way to build a shared vocabulary for understanding story and transferring knowledge of one story to other narratives
The story elements could be a prompt for a library creative writing challenge – how many story elements can you get in your story? or even a weekly writing challenge with one element as the focus each week
Put story element cards into a box and students choose one (or more) to prompt a free writing task
These kinds of forced association activities are a great way to get kids (and adults!) thinking creatively. If you have any other ideas or find something that works well for your students, let us know.
Hemingway is an easy to use editing site which helps make your writing simpler and more direct. Much like its namesake, author Ernest Hemingway, the site champions simple verbs, short sentences and no adverbs at all.
Cut and paste the text you want to edit into the website home page and hit the edit button to see your work highlighted in different colours. Yellow for hard to read, red for very hard to read, blue for adverbs, pink for complex verbs (with suggested simpler options) and green for passive phrases.
Although it can be frustrating when your best efforts don’t remove the highlighting, the app shows you what to look for when you’re editing. It would be a great tool to use with groups of students to model the editing process and how decisions about language can change the impact of your writing.
At this stage, the app doesn’t let you save and seems designed to gauge interest in a paid desktop app. But in the meantime, Hemingway is an interesting tool for writers at any level.
There are a growing number of online tools to support students in need of literacy support. As part of a new series on web based literacy aids, this post from Catherine Hainstock talks about how text-to-speech programs can support students’ reading online.
Implementation of the Australian Curriculum is in full swing across the nation and as a result schools are committing more resources towards their Literacy programs. The demands and opportunities for TL’s to support this literacy focus may vary, but as information specialists our core business is to ensure our students can effectively find and interact with information.
After giving a brief demonstration on advanced Google searching to our school’s Literacy Support teacher, I wondered about other ways to improve access to online information for students who may be struggling. Many of the mainstream tools students use for accessing information such as Google Search and Wikipedia do not support students with literacy needs as well as they could. There are a number of ways we can help improve this experience. First I turned my attention to browsers; I found they offered very different experiences and levels of assistance. Text-to-Speech support is available on most browsers (you can read about the options here). When I tried them I found:
Bing relies on Microsoft Window’s software being installed on your computer. The system was complicated and required a lot of reading to work out. The version we had installed on our computers used a very robotic voice
Firefox’s add-on Text to Voice app plays MP3’s of selected text so it’s very slow. Any words it doesn’t recognise, it spells out. Again it was a very robotic voice
Google’s Chrome Speak app (available from the Web Store) was easy to install and provided options for varying the rate, pitch and volume but once again the voice sounded very robotic
Once I added Google’s US English Female Text-to-speech voice extension to Chrome (available from the Web Store) and activated it in Chrome Speak’s options (found under Chrome Settings – Extensions – see image below), the voice offered pleasant web reading support.
It’s important to note different schools run different versions of software, different implementation programs and have preferred devices including mobile devices and BYOD programs. In mycase, I used desktop computers in a school library for testing. Every school is unique so it’s important to investigate and experiment with your own equipment.
Many schools in Victoria are also restricted to only one browser, usually Internet Explorer. As information specialists, it is vital that we recommend and push for technical decisions to be based on educational criteria, so explore browser tools and lobby for programs if you think they will benefit staff and students.
In the next instalment I’ll look at improving access via search engine tools and options.
Does your library orientation plan for next year’s students feel a bit stale? Have you been doing the same lesson for the last few years (or more)? Do you feel bored just thinking about what you have planned? If yes, here are some great ideas to help revamp your next school library orientation, from teacher librarians and library technicians across Australia:
Introducing the school library:
Promo video: Have current students create a promo video about what they thought the library was going to be like, what it actually has to offer, and what they think the students will like about their library. Barbara Braxton, retired teacher librarian.
Student presentation: If you have a library committee, get current members to create a presentation (such as a Powerpoint presentation) to tell new students the basics of the library, e.g. opening times, where the OPACs are, and how many items you can borrow. Rueleen Weeks from Dubbo Christian School
Becoming familiar with the library:
Prior knowledge: Ask the students what they already know about school libraries. It will open up discussion. Barbara Braxton, retired teacher librarian
Library relay: Each pair of students takes a question card, searches the library for the answer, then returns with the answer for their next question card. The first team to complete all the cards wins a prize. All the questions are reviewed at the end of the lesson. Sue Crocombe from The Glennie School
QR code QnA: Students move around the library to approximately 25 QR codes and scan them for the questions they need to answer. It gets the students moving and asking questions. Shelagh Walsh from Tennant Creek High School
Research Frenzy: Students are divided into two groups, one using computers, one using books. In teams they draw a question from a central bowl. Once they find the answer (either via computers or books), back goes the slip and another is drawn. The students swap from computers to books (or visa-versa), and discuss what they found at the end of the lesson. Shelagh Walsh from Tennant Creek High School
The Great Race: Have five junior secondary school students run this race. They create cryptic clues to help participants explore the library. In teams, the students receive their clues, and have to be the first to find all the answers to receive a prize. The same group of students running this game hand out ‘treasure bags’ at the end of the lesson, consisting of things like pen, notepad, library brochure, bookmarks, chocolate frogs and jelly snakes.Rueleen Weeks from Dubbo Christian School
Understanding Fiction and Non-Fiction shelving:
The coded letter: An activity to get students used to where things are in the non-fiction section is a letter from someone on holiday with words left out and Dewey numbers in their places. Students go to the Dewey number and work out the subject there and place that in the space until their letter is complete (and makes sense). You can have a simple letter and a more complicated one depending on the class.Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
Class A-Z: Put the class in fiction order by their surname and then get them to take themselves to the shelf where they would live if they were a book. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
Marco Polo: Call out a subject or type of resource and the students have to run to that place. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
Where in the Dewey?: The aim of this game is to get students thinking about the context of what they are searching for, and where it may be located in the Dewey system. In groups the students need to find books that have information about specific topics, such as: wood – how trees grow; a guide to Australian timber for furniture making; how trees are used as habitats, or; the environmental impact of deforestation. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Ask your colleagues for suggestions. Your State Library (such as State Library of Victoria) may offer library orientation tours and that will provide students with knowledge transferable to the school library. Thank you to all those who contributed ideas via OZTL_NET and Twitter.
Story Box Library is melding the mediums of film and storytelling to create authentic online literature experiences. Australian content is delivered from a diverse range of storytellers for primary school aged students. The site also includes teacher resources, Australian curriculum links and a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the stories. Teacher librarian Sharon McGuinness has discovered the extensive toolkit of Story Box Library and shares her use of it with us:
I am the teacher librarian at Thirroul PS which is just north of Wollongong on the NSW south coast. We are a school of approximately 360 students across 15 classes, with the vast majority of students speaking English as their first language.
The new NSW based Australian English curriculum, with its emphasis on literature, presents teacher librarians a golden opportunity. At Thirroul, our Stage 1 staff have been working with students using ‘Language, Learning and Literacy’ or L3,a NSW program which encourages the use and study of literature in the classroom. Working with staff, I have further expanded the suggested literature titles and am completing a similar task with regard to the suggested titles within the new curriculum – particularly those featuring sustainability, Australia’s engagement with Asia and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
My aim is to make it easier for staff to use literature in each classroom and avoid duplicating titles across stages and grades.
Part of this strategy also includes using related online literature resources – whether it be author/illustrator websites, book trailers, interviews or multi modal texts. Story Box Library will bring more of an authentic literature experience into the classroom with its range of online storytelling segments. It also aims to give students the background of how the books are created, and classroom ideas. As a school we have already signed up and teachers are exploring the site, using the online storytelling segments on their interactive whiteboards in the classrooms. Teachers also appreciate the accompanying teaching notes and ideas as this fits in perfectly with our Stage 1 L3 program. I have also added several of the titles on the SL website to our Stage 1 L3 list of suggested texts.
Over the past couple of years, I have noticed the staff’s usage of printed teaching resources greatly decreasing and recognize that staff now rely on resources available online. Story Box Library fills a gap in resourcing online Australian children’s literature.
We are looking forward to the site’s further growth and development as it has the ability to provide us with a ‘one stop shop’ for a range quality Australian children’s literature.
The app explores Ned Kelly’s early life and family, events leading up to his capture at the siege of Glenrowan, his trial and legacy.
Over 220 images from the Library’s collections are included, letting you zoom in on documents, newspaper illustrations, photos and original artworks from the time. There are also a number of videos including one with Peter Carey discussing his work, The True History of the Kelly Gang.
This resource is an invaluable starting point for research into Ned Kelly with detailed information on key events in his life.
Rhondda Powling was part of a group, including staff from the State Library of Victoria, who presented at SLAV ‘s ‘Be in control: participate in the new age of school libraries’ on the value of personal learning networks, workflows and online tools. This guest post reflects on her presentation exploring content curation. You can find Rhondda’s blog here.
I was asked to speak about ‘Content Curation’ at a recent SLAV conference. You could say a lot about curation but I was asked to do two short sessions about ten minutes long. What to include in this brief session and what to leave out was a conundrum. I wanted the topic of curation to make sense. I tried to focus my thoughts on what I believe curation means to me. Why is it important to my learning, how do I use it with colleagues and students and why should I? So this is my experience of curation.
The phrases ‘content curation’ and ‘digital curation’ are buzz words in the online world, especially in my library networks. Although curation tools are many and varied, the approach I take when running sessions for teachers at my school is that when used properly, these tools enhance professional learning.
The AITSL Professional Standards for Teachers includes a section on Professional Engagement. The first paragraph under this is ‘Teachers model effective learning’. They identify their own learning needs and analyse, evaluate and expand their professional learning, both with colleagues and individually. One of the ways to demonstrate this kind of learning is through professional reading. It is easy to keep a record of professional reading and evidence of learning and sharing if you become a good content curator. Content curation also covers the collegial aspect.
Content or digital curation is not simply collecting links. Many teacher librarians, myself included, have been collecting links (for example: school topics, research) for years. So:
it’s not really a creating process as such but rather a process of sorting, arranging and then further publishing about information that already exists in the online or digital world
it is a process of first finding digital content that might be useful then sorting the results into the best and most relevant links, value adding with annotations and then sharing them in meaningful (organized) ways.
Good curators identify and define their topics or subjects at the outset. They then select what to keep whilst providing some context and annotation. Good curators make sure they correctly credit the sources as they offer their networks appropriate and easy access to their curated sources.
How to begin curating
Focused filtering and selection is a very important aspect of effective curation. Try to be as clear as possible about what you want. There are many ways to locate good content especially if you use social media. There are also many tools for curating. See my Google doc for some suggestions These are tools I use or others that I have seen. Some I do not use myself but they are recommended by other colleagues. Another post about curation tools that is worth looking at is 55 Content Curation Tools To Discover & Share Digital Content, which includes an annotated list, from the TeachThought blog.
I have found that the best way to choose a curation tool is to be as clear as possible about what you want then spend some time looking for the tool/s that best suit your needs. That means, as you begin, have a ‘play’ with different tools and evaluate them critically. Some tools offer more advanced filtering search options than others. Some are more visual. Of course, as with everything in the digital world, things may change and what works for a while may alter its perspective and/or no longer continue to meet your needs.
I use around five main tools that allow me to find information and links. I actively search for information on specific topics and follow a number of people and groups using social media who have similar interests to me. These include my Diigo groups, Scoop.it and Paper.li authors via gmail notifications and summaries. I usually get daily, but sometimes weekly, summaries sent to me.
I do not regard Twitter as a curation tool but I find it very useful (via groups and hashtags) to locate possibly useful content. If I don’t have time to read it fully, I use Diigo’s “read later” option to help me filter out what I want to annotate and keep. Twitter is also one of the ways I inform others in my networks about possible sources that may also be of interest to them. Pinterest and Scoop.it are both curation tools that I use often and they make it easy to share to other social media platforms.
When I first began I looked at what others were doing. Here are a selection of people I follow:
I think it is important that the task of curating becomes a regular one, part of the daily routine. Beth’s suggestion about timing is a good one. I try to go through my lists most days. If, after a week I haven’t got to suggested sites, I usually delete the suggested lists, as new ones keep coming in.
My time was up. This was as far I got with my coverage of the topic. There is more I could discuss especially how it might be used to assist student learning.
I left the group with a second graphic that offers a good visual about the process of curating.
And these videos about why it’s important to curate.
On May 24th, SLAV hosted ‘Be in control: participate in the new age of school libraries’, a conference for library teams. In this post Cindy Tschernitz, SLAV Executive Officer, reflects on the day. The Bright Ideas team also interviewed delegates at the conference and you can listen to the recording here.
What a fantastic day for all delegates. We embraced the year’s theme of ‘Participate, engage, shine – you, me, us’ with a great level of engagement, interaction and enthusiasm. Delegates don’t want to be passive receptors of information and we need to engage, challenge and involve which we did at this conference. It was particularly heartening to see and hear from library team members who learnt from each other and spread the word beyond Melbourne Park through Twitter.
Speakers were outstanding. James Laussen Principal of Overnewton Anglican Community College and Joy Whiteside, Head of Library (a very active SLAV member and John Ward Award winner) did an excellent job setting the scene for the day. Jim gave us an overview of where education is going and Joy followed with her well researched paper on where school libraries are going. She told it as it is, no holds barred and really allowed all to reflect on their role in the school library and greater school community. We had a solid basis for the rest of the day.
Michael Jongen discussed the issues around how we can best provide access to all types of digital content. What struck me was the complexity of improving access and the more Michael spoke, the more issues were raised. As many of the delegates were involved in technical aspects of school libraries, like cataloguing, there were many many questions raised. To some degree it appears that the new cataloguing rules, RDA (Resource Description and Access) will need ongoing revision and adaptation to keep pace with digital content.
From the feedback we received, the concurrent sessions were very engaging. Thank you to Joyce, Michael and Renate and the one I attended, Management 101 presented by Janet Blackwell. Janet spoke with experience, wisdom and honesty. Telling it like it is should have been the theme for the day. Janet led us through her toolbox, showed us the tactics that she has used to ensure that the school library she is responsible for gets the credit and dollars that it deserves by making it an indispensable part of the school community. Jane gave us some fantastic quotes which I would encourage all to look at via the days Twitter hashtag #SLAVconf.
The partnership between SLAV and the State Library of Victoria was highlighted by the afternoon’s session led by Kelly Gardiner and Cameron Hocking. The panel discussion of PLN participants and stakeholders gave some insight into the value of the PLN. It was great for those of us who are PLN dropouts to know we’re not alone and even more importantly that there are ways we can improve our time management strategies to help complete the course next time. The hands-on demonstrations exploring search strategies, curation, social media and workflow were also excellent. Next conference we will make sure that we have more time so people can attend more than one practical session.
To finish the day and highlight the importance of SLAV’s partnerships with both ALIA and other state school library associations in the Australian arena, Sue McKerracher spoke about a number of initiatives particularly the The Future of the Profession project and the 13 Project. These projects bring together government, school library associations and other agencies in an initiative that will support the school community but will also provide an important platform for advocacy for school libraries.
If I had only one word to describe the conference it would be ‘invigorating’. I am looking forward to the next one on August 15 Transliteracy: who do you ask and how can you participate? which features Professor Kristin Fontichiaro, University of Michigan, School of Information in her first Australian visit. Hope to see you there.