Feature blog – Whitefriars College – Tania Sheko’s year 7 English blog

Thanks to Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko for sharing another of her virtual creations. This time, Tania has developed a blog to support her year 7 English class. Tania explains:

http://englishwfc.wordpress.com/ is basically something I started to support the year 7 English class I teach collaboratively with an English teacher at my school. I decided to document the progress of our journey through this class because I’d read other teachers’ blogs and found them to be helpful and inspiring. I wanted to include what worked and what didn’t work and why. I think it’s important to be honest so that readers can benefit from your experience. I include resources and links, student work, videos used and created, in the hope that a teacher may find something they could use – an idea, a word of caution, recommendations or advice. I also include a short list of my favourite English teachers’ blogs. These have been a wonderful, rich resource for me.


I also find that making myself record what we do in class is a worthwhile discipline. Nothing is forgotten or wasted, and I can look back to review what we’ve done, as well as clearly see the path we’ve taken and how far the students have come.

 Thanks again Tania for your contribution to the world of Web 2.0 and for sharing your efforts with the readers of Bright Ideas.

Feature blog – Ballarat Grammar School

Marcia Phillips, Head of Library and Learning Resources at Ballarat Grammar School (and former Victorian CBC judge) has developed an interesting book blog for students and staff. Marcia explains the inception of the blog:

As a result of undertaking the SLAV Web 2.0 course and enjoying it enormously as well as learning an incredible amount, I decided to start a blog for the Ballarat Grammar Resource Centre.  I first started blogging using our School’s Management system, Scholaris, but found this too restrictive, so I turned to Edublogs back in November, 2008 and started a new blog.  I find Edublogs relatively easy to use and suitable for our needs.  Not everything has worked and some days I cannot fathom why I can’t embed a video or load an image.  I walk away and come back to it at a later date and often, although not always, experience a better result.  However, due to the time that some postings take, I have found it quicker and easier to work from home on the blog.  The speed of my computer at work compared to my home computer means I can accomplish so much more in a shorter space of time.  I blog about what is happening in the Resource Centre, what is new, or a feature an author and their work.  I try to keep my focus on what the students and staff want to know or read about.  As a result it is not a personal account of what I am doing, with the exception of my reading.  I often report on what I have recently read. 

CodeX - The Ballarat Grammar Resource Centre blog

CodeX - The Ballarat Grammar Resource Centre blog

I have signed up students who can write posts although only a few have been active to this point, but I am hopeful more students will agree to contribute to the blog.  The Year 10 English teachers are enthusiastic about show casing their students’ work via this medium and are working on different forms of reviews at present.

I am excited about CodeX and look forward to many more happy years blogging.

Congratulations to Marcia on a fabulous blog that looks appealing and is evolving quickly.

Feature blog – Eltham College Junior Library

Raeanne McLean, teacher librarian at Eltham College of Education Junior School has shared her experience of developing Web 2.0 resources for her students. She explains: 

I finished my T/L course at CSU at the end of 2007 and then was excited to implement the things I had learnt. The course had given me the confidence and tools to try out new things on the web (but precious little time to do it!).

  In 2008 I saw the promotion for The Victorian School Libraries Learning with Web 2.0 Program through SLAV. I am a hands on person and jumped at the chance and bought 8 other teachers onboard from our school. We set up a time each week in the library to work through each activity. We all found that we ‘played’ with the features during the week. I learnt so much by completing this program as I hit inevitable problems along the way that I had to solve.

The idea of setting up a blog was always on my ‘to do’ list but I didn’t feel confident enough. After the program I had a greater understanding of how to do it and the various applications that could be utilised.  I have set the blog up specifically for years 3 and 4. There is so much out there but it is certainly a start for them and me. The students have really enjoyed it and have visited it from home and made comments. I have a link from our intranet under the library page so they can access it anywhere.



 An unexpected bonus is from the teachers and parents as a few have come and asked me about it. It has given the library yet another profile and avenue to be promoted. As I try different applications my confidence grows. I have dipped my toes into the blogging world and I am enjoying the experience.

It’s great to see that teachers, students and parents are benefitting from Raeanne’s blogging endeavours. Well done.

Feature blog – Emmanuel College

Joyce Sendeckyj from Emmanuel College has kindly sent in the following information about the development of a library blog.

 Just to share the Emmanuel College W.I.R.E.D. Blog that  we are launching for our students to coincide with Book Week and the introduction of our inaugural Book Club.

Blog homepage

Blog homepage

The idea for a Book Club and a blog combined nicely the aims of the promotion and enjoyment of reading and literature, the featuring of  book awards and the integration of web interaction and publishing (ie Web 2.0 tools).

Emmanuel College has two secondary campuses, and our goals also include the communication and connection between students and interested staff of both campuses.

The marketing of Book Club and the blog has included, regular articles in the newsletter, links on the school intranet, flyers, promotion and viewing of the blog on Open Day and reminders at meetings and briefings. Book Club is every Tuesday (our first day was 11th of August) and our next step is to assist the students to ‘register’ to the blog.

I have not  completed the SLAV 2.0 course (which I hear good things about) , however I did major in information technology and web publishing at CSU  as part of my librarianship degree. A great deal of my major included Computer Supported Communication and Collaborative Group studies which incorporated Web interactive technologies. I have come to realise how benficial this study was and am loving the ongoing professional development by SLAV and ‘Bright Ideas’.

Happy Book Week.

Thanks to Joyce and her staff for alerting Bright Ideas to the new blog.

Feature blog – Monivae College

Nicola Crawford and Maree Bell from Monivae College Library & Information Centre have developed a strong Web 2.0 presence in their school. Nicola explains how this came about.

The WILD Library

 Since completing the SLAV Web 2.0 course last year, we became inspired by all the terrific resources out on the World Wide Web. We wanted to share some of these with the rest of our school community, so we created  ‘The WILD Library’   which is the blog of the Monivae College Library and Information Centre. The WILD Library contains lots of Web 2.0 Resources, plus “Good Library Stuff” such as authors, reviews, book requests, competitions and links to other useful information and resources. Students have begun to make contributions to the blog, but as yet it is early days. 

'The Wild Library'

'The Wild Library'

 From little acorns…big trees certainly grow!! From a single Library oriented blog, we now have a nest of blogs to disseminate information to the different areas of the school community.  The WILD Library acts as the primary blog, and from this there are links to all the other Monivae blogs. Some of these are more advanced than others, but all are a work in progress. 

Exciting English

Exciting English

If you have a wander around the various blogs, you will see that the different Domains utilize them in different ways. Some use them as “go to” points when they begin a new topic. For example, “Super SOSE”, “Sensational Science” and “Fortes in Fide” (the Religion @ Monivae Blog) carry web lists for particular projects.  These are used as starting points, or depending upon the scope of the topic can act to limit students to a particular selection of sites. 

Sensational Science

Sensational Science

The “Exciting English” blog has evolved differently. It has pages containing information and resources for teachers. This site is only in its infancy, eventually the aim is to provide resources for all the literature studied at the different year levels in the College. 

Bathurst Island blog

Bathurst Island blog

The Bathurst Island Blog” is run by my colleague Maree Bell. The aim of this blog is to provide information to students and parents about the 2009 Mission Experience to Bathurst Island. During the trip later in the year, it will be used as a travelogue of their adventures. 

Ultimately, our aim is that the Monivae Blogs be the first port of call for staff and students when they are looking for resources or information from the World Wide Web. To date, this is probably quite optimistic, but we continue to encourage people to use and contribute to the blogs.

  When we first dipped our toe into blogging, we never expected that it would blossom into such a wide ranging affair. We now have ten blogs at various stages of development, and we still have plans for others. We have just created an ICT Committee Wiki and our next project is a class blog in collaboration with one of our LOTE teachers.

Ten blogs ranging across a wide range of curriculum areas is certainly a major achievement. Well done to Nicola, Maree and all the staff involved!

Feature blog – Karen Kearney

Whitefriars College teacher librarian Karen Kearney has kindly agreed to share the development of her blog – Childhood Memories. Karen explains:

 The SLAV “23 Things” course during 2008 saw the creation of my Childhood Memories blog.  Our very first “thing” to do was to set up a blog, where reflections on each week’s tasks could be recorded.  



It was very difficult to decide just what the main focus of my blog should be.  There were so many possibilities!  I wanted something that was going to be of continued interest for me to write about, and that was interesting for anyone who wished to drop by and read it.  After chatting away about some favourite childhood books in the first post, I decided to incorporate all of my interests into the blog, and write down some memories of my childhood. 

As I explored each of the subsequent tasks, many times I was able to tie in the task with something from my childhood.  Theatres have always been a large part of my life and the image generation tasks allowed me to explore some of the different ways I could present photos of our Melbourne theatres.  The week we explored YouTube.I looked at different book trailers.  Later I had fun exploring some old doll television commercials and some clips from classic television shows I watched as a child.  These commercials are absolute gems if your classroom is comparing values important for girls growing up, as I did, in the 1960s, with that of today’s young girls.  Exploring podcasts led me to many different podcasts related to both my professional and personal interests, so much so that I am now a devotee of podcasts as a source of information!

 The blog has also been a place for me to record different ideas which have been useful both in classes and the school library, and as a reminder of useful sites and applications.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the black and white videos at Connect Safely  for example, yet would probably have forgotten all about them unless I had recorded the site in a blog post. 

 Book Week ideas also made it into the blog.  Last year our school library created lots of posters, using Glogster to advertise our book week activities.  Some examples of ones I made can be seen on my blog.  We also designed some Book Week activities using Web 2.0 technology, and again, posts were made on my blog to remind me of these ideas. 

Karen's glogs

Karen's glogs

Wordlewas used to create word clouds.  Examples of Wordles have been made, and can be seen on my blog.  Short, written reviews of both Kill the Possum (James Moloney) and Miss McAllisters Ghost (Elizabeth Fensham) were found and then copied and pasted into the Wordle box.  A click of the mouse then randomly arranged the words and created a word cloud, where words appearing more frequently were larger, and less frequent words were smaller.  This was explained to the students and it was their mission to then work out which Wordle went with which book.  Very popular books were chosen and students had to analyse each Wordle carefully and gather clues to help them correctly identify each book.  Blurbs could also be used for this activity, or students could create their own Wordle by writing their own book reviews.  

Miss McAllister's Ghost

Miss McAllister's Ghost

Kill the Possum

Kill the Possum

Mosaic Maker, part of Flickr’s Big Huge Labs was used to create another competition.  Around 10 well-known books were chosen and a mosaic was made for each.  Using scans from the front and back cover, as well as finding other pictures which identified objects found within the book, twelve pictures in all, were used to create each mosaic.  Examples can be seen on the blog.  Students were able to try to guess which book each mosaic represented.  If they found any too hard they were able to collect a sheet which had all of the titles listed, but each title was jumbled.  Titles needed to be unjumbled before the mosaics could be matched to the books.  

Black Dog Gang

Black Dog Gang

Both of these activities were very successful.  They were easy to prepare, and create, and were enjoyed by many of our students.  They could easily be incorporated into Library classes at both primary and secondary levels, as either activities or displays.  Better yet, have students create them.

 I enjoy sharing my thoughts through writing my blog, and reflecting on the different Web 2.0 tools I have explored.  Writing and commenting on blogs are a wonderful way to get to know people from all over the world.  Whilst there may be few people in your circle of friends who share some of your interests, there will be many worldwide who do, and connecting with them is extremely satisfying. 

Well done Karen and thank you for sharing your blogging journey with us.

Feature blog – Girton Grammar School

Girton Grammar School Head of Library (and immediate past Children’s Book Council Victorian Judge) Miffy Farquharson has developed two book blogs for her school. Miffy explains how they came about:

The student blog has been in place for about a term now. It is supposed to be by and for secondary students, but I am having trouble getting students to contribute. I think that this is because the students don’t actually do much blogging themselves. So you will see that most of the entries are by me.

Student book blog

Student book blog

I have set in place some protocols to keep the identity of our students anonymous, which includes only using their initials, and I edit out any mention of their age. I have tried to create enough categories to that when the blog starts getting really long readers will be able to sort through the entries to find age appropriate books easily.

I have also learned how to add tags, and create a cluster map. I have an accompanying Blog roll for my favourite bookish websites, which is slowly being added to. Crash Solo is one of my favourites.

This blog has been a huge learning curve for me, as I had only used a blog to record Hockey news and results in the past, and hadn’t got into any of the fun stuff like feeds and blogrolls in the Hockey blog.

 I have also started a ‘grown-up’ book review blog which was prompted by the submission of a review of Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’ by a colleague. The review was very obviously for an ‘adult’ book, which was not appropriate for the student blog, so a new site was created.

Teacher book blog

Teacher book blog

 Thanks to Miffy for sharing her efforts in getting students and teachers to read and blog. Well done.

ANZ LitLovers: Lisa Hill’s personal book blog

As readers of Bright Ideas, you are probably already familiar with Lisa Hill. Lisa Hill is the Director of Curriculum and teacher librarian at Mossgiel Park Primary School in Endeavour Hills and has been the feature of two previous Bright Ideas posts: the first about her school library blog and the second focussing on her professional learning blog. Lisa is now kindly sharing her personal reading blog.

Having set up my professional LisaHillSchoolStuff blog in March last year, I found it wasn’t long before I wanted the same sort of space to write online about what really matters to me: reading books.  I am a voracious reader, and have been since childhood. My family travelled a lot but wherever we lived in the world, my father’s first task was to join us up at the nearest library so that we could resume our Saturday routine: a weekly walk to the library where we borrowed as many books as we were allowed, followed by loafing on our beds with a book until late in the afternoon when we were shooed out to play by my mother.

 In 1997 I began journaling my thoughts about the books I read, and I wish I’d started long before that.  When you read about a hundred books a year as I do, the details fade as the years go by.  Although it can be a pleasure to re-read a book, it’s chastening to have to do this when you don’t really want to, in order to join in a conversation about it.  My journal entries range from cursory dismissals of books I didn’t like to long reflections on more complex books such as The Masterby Colm Toibin.  Sometimes my response is deeply personal because the book relates to something in my own life; at other times it’s like an impersonal review.  I wrote pages and pages about my journey through Proust and almost as much again about Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memorybecause it helped me to clarify my thoughts about them.  I still do this journaling, often late at night in bed, even though most of what I read now ends up as a blog post on my ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

ANZ LitLovers home

ANZ LitLovers home

Back in 2002 I had set up ANZ LitLovers as an online reading group and developed a website as a resource for members – but it was always a pain to update it.  When I bought a new computer that didn’t have the necessary software, it seemed to me that a LitBlog was a much easier and more flexible alternative, and I would be part of a growing international LitBlog movement, celebrating Australian Literature in my own little niche.

In the beginning I had ambitious ideas about other members of the group joining in and posting, but this hasn’t happened.  My group members write fluently and with great perception in the privacy of our online group, but they don’t seem to want to publish.  The one exception is a journalist, as comfortable with public writing as I am, but after posting her BBRLMs (Best Books Read Last Month) three times, she hasn’t done so since.  So it has become, by default, my personal LitBlog, a place for me to post my book reviews, and ramble on about book-related topics. 

At the time of writing, it has nearly 9000 hits, and is linked to other LitBlogs around Australia, the UK and the US.  ClusterMaps tells me that I have readers all over the world, but I think the ones in Slovenia, Myanmar and the Maldives must have stumbled on the blog by accident LOL.  However, there have been nearly 2000 viewers in Australia and over 1500 from the US – and these would translate into healthy sales if my writing were a book and not a blog! A growing number of people are commenting on my posts – which now number around 145 and that’s an average of thirteen posts each month since July last year.  I think it’s popular because I’m not a professional reviewer and my style sits somewhere between academic and general reader.  I take care to add the titles and authors as tags, and I categorise my posts to make them easy to find.  And I write often – usually every weekend – so there’s always something new to read if they’ve subscribed using RSS.

My all time top post (not counting the page about our reading schedule and our About page) is the one about Google Books, followed by my review of The Slap   which is on the Miles Franklin shortlist and has been featured prominently in the media.  A post about Modernism  got 17 hits in less than 24 hours, which surprised me, but the one I’m about to write about Patrick White’s Voss won’t be nearly so well-received, I bet!  Another very popular page is our ANZLL Books You Must Read list and a Reading Challengespage, but mostly people find my blog when they Google a particular title: although Perry Middlemiss’s Matilda is theAustralian LitBlog, he has more diverse interests than I do, and there’s not a lot of people writing online about Australian literary fiction or classics like me.  (I write about international contemporary fiction and classics, and non-fiction,  too, but that’s not my focus.)

2009 schedule

2009 schedule

Many people blog solely for their own pleasure and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think that the key to having a blog that others want to read is to find a niche, and to develop a personal style.  I’m a serious reader, and my reviews reflect that, but they’re informal rather than pompous (I hope!) and they’re always my honest opinion.  (The only books I’ve received as review copies are the children’s books I review for Allen and Unwin, and even so I was a bit brutal on one occasion where I really didn’t like the book.) But I don’t just review books, I blog about all kinds of book related things…

 I’ve written about philanthropy for booklovers, about meeting my favourite author Kate Grenville, about rearranging the bookshelves in my library ( that’s the one at home) and about reading by candlelight for Earth Hour. I’ve ticked off a columnist in The Age and suggested Christmas gifts for booklovers.  I succumb to Book Memes (twice), post about festivals that I go to, have a go at predicting who the winners of awards might be, and am not afraid to express my opinion about ‘sacred writers’ who in my opinion are victims of their own overblown status. I jazz up the blog with pictures, maps, videos that tie in with books, book-covers and even an Animoto and I hyperlink almost obsessively so that people can click straight through to anything on another site that I refer to.  These strategies all come courtesy of what I’ve learned from Sue Waters at EduBlogs which is an excellent place to start any learning journey about blogging.

Books you must read

Books you must read

However, the most important point about having a personal blog is that it ought to be something you enjoy.  For me, blogging at ANZ LitLovers is an adjunct to what I already do in my reading journals.  I write for pleasure, at home and online!

Lisa has certainly given so much to others through her blogs and by reflecting on what she has been reading and then writing this for an audience is a terrific skill to have and constantly refine. Once again, well done Lisa and thank you for sharing your passion for books and your amazing amount of work with others. As well as reading Lisa’s blog for personal pleasure, students of English Literature could find some useful and interesting information.

Feature blog – Lisa Hill’s professional blog

Lisa Hill is a teacher librarian and Director of Curriculum at Mossgiel Park Primary School in Melbourne’s Endeavour Hills. Lisa has developed a number of professional learning resources and has agreed to share her blogging experience with readers. She explains how her blog came about.

Last year, after attending the SLAV Conference in March, I set up a professional blog at http://lisahillschoolstuff.wordpress.com/ .    It was an experiment that grew as my knowledge of Web 2.0 grew: I made my first post on March 16th, 2008 and have posted 57 times since then, at intervals ranging from one a month to sometimes five or six in a month.  Now, just over 12 months after starting the blog there had been (at the time of writing) 5,995 hits, which means that near enough to 6000 people have visited it.

Lisa's homepage
Lisa’s homepage

 Why do I bother with this, and why do other people bother to read it?

My WordPress stats tell me that topics I’ve written about are common search terms.  People search online for stuff about Aboriginal Perspectives – and I have a whole page showing how we at MossgielPark PS integrate Aboriginal Perspectives into our curriculum for different units of work.  I also uploaded a PowerPoint that I presented at the SLAV conference and people look at that too.  People are interested in anything to do withBoys and Education and I’ve responded to topics in The Age, reviewed a book on the issue, and summarised an article that I read about Boys and Learning.  I got some rather cross comments when I blogged my opinion of ‘dreary and depressing books about tormenting social issues’ in the 2008 CBCA shortlist, but most of the 258 hits on that post kept their own counsel.  This means I don’t know whether they agree withme or with my critics! 

The short answer is that I’ve kept a diary on and off throughout my life, and my professional blog journals the parts of my professional life that I’m willing to share.  I use it to proffer my opinion on various issues in the news, to summarise what I’ve learned at conferences, to share resources that I’ve developed or discovered online, to review children’s books and occasionally to brag about my school.  Blogging means that I am part of the professional conversation that is developing online, and I like that. 

Having said all that, however, I also should ‘fess up that I’m a professional writer as well.  I’ve had a little book published, and been paid for stuff in professional magazines and (once!) in a capital city daily.  I’ve had three resource books for teaching Indonesian in the marketplace and I could have had more if I wanted to.  So I’m comfortable about writing and self-editing, and having been paid to express my opinions before, I’m not afraid to say what I think.  I find writing easy, and satisfying, and sometimes financially rewarding. 

The difference with blogging is that no one pays me to do it, I don’t feel under any pressure to post, and there’s no deadline.  I like being part of the online community and once I’d completed the SLAV Learning Web 2.0 course in the middle of last year, I felt comfortable with the technology. 

But why do others bother to read it?  This is why WordPress is my preferred blog provider.   I know the answer to this question because as part of the WordPress free service they offer an in-built stats analysis.  (You can add this to blogs that are hosted by Blogger.com – but they’re not as a comprehensive and you have to muck about installing them.  GlobalTeacher also has  a stats feature.)

Aboriginal Perspectives page
Aboriginal Perspectives page

My all time top post is about Multiple Intelligences (422 hits) but my most popular contributions to the online world seem to be the Author Study units of work I have uploaded.  Whenever we have student teachers at school I show them the blog and let them know that they (and teacher-librarians anywhere) are welcome to download them to use in any way they wish.  (I hope the students don’t plagiarise them, because I’m sure that by now they would be recognised by their lecturers). 

I have also installed the ClusterMap widget which shows me that people from all over the world have stumbled onto my blog (everywhere from the Sudan to Grenada, and three from Korea!) but that the vast majority are of course, Australian – though there’s also two to three hundred from the US and the UK, but only 22 from New Zealand. 

These features confirm for me that I am not wasting my time with this blog.  Most people who visit don’t comment, much as I wish they would because even a brief remark is very motivating, but they seem to find what I offer interesting and sometimes useful. 

That makes it worthwhile!

Congratulations to Lisa on a wonderful blog that not only shares resources with peers, but expresses opinions on learning and teaching.

Feature blog – Lowther Hall AGS

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

Book raps homepage
Book raps homepage

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

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

one discussion page

One discussion page

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

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