Cloud computing

The Horizon Report recently listed ‘Cloud computing’ as one of the major trends in computer use in 2009. But what does it mean? Simply, the increase in use of sites such as Google Docs, Flickr and so on to store all of our work and personal documents rather than using our computers to store them.

Advantages of cloud computing are:

  • you can access your documents anywhere that has Internet or broadband access
  • you never have to worry about forgetting or losing your USB
  • easy collaboration with others
  • programs and software are often free
  • your documents, photos and so on are safe from things like fire or theft of a laptop
  • users will only need a cheap ‘netbook’ computer with limited hard disc space.

Disadvantages are:

  • there are still some questions about the security of documents
  • broadband cost and speed in Australia is not what it needs to be if we all decide to use ‘the cloud’
  • availability depends on Internet access
  • sometimes developers discontinue their development and/or support of programs.

Netbook computers are ideal to use for ‘cloud computing’, and as they have smaller hard disc drives, they are cheap and cheerful (around A$300.00).


Snap is a tool that can be used if you have a blog, wiki or other webpage. Snap takes your links and automatically adds visual snap shots of them for your readers.

Snap shots home
Snap shots home

Accounts are free and easy to set up. There are only a couple of steps:

Set up page
Set up page
  • choose the colour for your theme
  • add a logo if you have one
  • select the language you want
  • register
  • copy the code automatically generated to your webpage.

The easiest way to add the Snap code to a WordPress page (including Edublogs and Globalteacher) was to:

  • copy the code given
  • go to widgets
  • add ‘text’
  • save
  • edit ‘text’ and paste the code
  • save.

All of the links, whether they be within posts or not, now appear with a snap shot once a mouse is hovered over it. Snap is a tool that is quick and easy to use and add visual appeal to blogs, wikis and websites. It adds visual information for users as they can see what the website belonging to the link looks like before they decide to visit it.

Snap shots are already used by eBay, Amazon, Google, Flickr, photobucket and Wikipedia. If you decide you don’t want to see Snaps on Bright Ideas, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

Please note that you can also customise the advertising away from what Snap has selected by going to ‘Snap Shares’ within the Snap site and adding your own blog, wiki, etc. URL. And if you have a lot of links on your page, like Bright Ideas, you may find that Snap takes up too much room.

Netvibes @ Preston Girls’ Secondary College

On discovering Netvibes as a result of a previous Bright Ideas post, Preston Girls’ Secondary College teacher librarians Judith Way and Reina Phung couldn’t wait to use it as a resource for students and staff.

Judith says, ‘We had been looking for a Web 2.0 tool where I could incorporate all of the other things we had developed. We needed a central location for all of our blogs, wikis and our Flickr and Delicious accounts. Although Delicious allows us to link sites and describe them, Netvibes gives us the option to incorporate each blog, wiki and other site into our Netvibes homepage. (We also had a problem with our ISP blocking Delicious. This has been an ongoing problem for some months and our IT technician has been liaising with our ISP, but at this moment, to no avail.)’

She explains, ‘Once the blogs, wikis, etc. have been linked to the Netvibes page, the actual sites appear within the page. You can set the size of each “mini page”. Students and staff can then enter their chosen site directly, without a need to click a link or open a new page.’

Judith continues, ‘Netvibes also enables us to dedicate pages for staff and pages for students. We intend to use the widget function to add a calendar so students can see when the Readers Cup is scheduled, when Book Club is due in and when Book Week occurs. Our Netvibes page is linked from our intranet and we plan to promote it by encouraging students to explore it during library orienation sessions, by making and distributing bookmarks with the URL and by introducing Netvibes at a staff meeting.’

Judith also says she found Netvibes relatively quick and easy to use and has even been complemented by the school’s IT technician on her work!

Netvibes can also be used as an RSS reader, so those people using Bloglines, Google Reader or other RSS services may decide to use Netvibes instead. Your RSS feeds can be set as ‘private’ allowing only you to access them.

We look forward to hearing how the staff and students at Preston Girls’ use the site and their thoughts on it.


Originally this post was going to be about Pageflakes, the Web 2.0 tool that enables users to create their own homepage without the need for HTML or any other specialist knowledge. But some time ago, this post by Michael Stephens came to my attention. It is certainly worth a read and warns what could become of all of the work we invest in particular Web 2.0 tools; we need some kind of backup. So on the back of what Dublin City Public Libraries have developed via the main alternative, Netvibes, here is some more information.

Netvibes is a tool that allows you create your own library (or other) homepage to bring all of your web resources to one place. So if as a school library you have a blog, some wikis, delicious, flickr  and so on, you are able to have them all sited on your Netvibes page.

Your own Netvibes page is as easy to set up as a blog or wiki. Netvibes have a setup wizard that asks what type of theme you’d like to use, your location, your (or your school’s) interests, the widgets you want and you have your page! Here is what the Dublin City Public Libraries’ page looks like:

If you don’t like the choices that Netvibes has made for you, you can easily delete them and add others. If you have setup your own blog or wiki, then you can make your own Netvibes page in a matter of minutes. Don’t forget to ask your IT staff to link your Netvibes page to the Intranet, do some publicity and away you go. Good luck! If you do decide to create a Netvibes or Pageflakes page for your library or you already have one, please consider submitting it to Bright Ideas so that we can feature it.

Flickr Commons

Flickr Commons has been set up so that the general public located anywhere in the world can view and access photographic archives from public places such as the Australian War Memorial, Library of Congress, the State Library of New South Wales and the Smithsonian to name a few.

As well as wanting to share access to these collections with the general public, Flickr Commons is asking people to add tags and comments so that information and knowledge is shared as well.

Nice idea Flickr and great to see several Australian institutions on board already. What a great way to start a unit on War in Australian history by using the photographs from the collection of the Australian War Memorial. Nothing better than having a visualisation of the conditions and locations where wars were fought.


Of all the professional photobook printing services accessible via the Internet, Mixbook seems to be the complete package.

Mixbook allows you to import photos from your computer, Flickr, Picassa, Facebook, Yahoo! Search, PhotoBucket and SmugMug. You can also collaborate online with a friend to decide on picture selection and layout. As per many other Web 2.0 technologies, you can decide whether your book is open to everyone, just to friends or only you. Have a look at one public example below (it can be a little slow to load):

An example of an open (or shared or public) Mixbook photobook

An example of an open (or shared or public) Mixbook photobook

Although shipping (from the U.S) is not cheap, if you want to produce a professional looking bound book of your holiday memories, Mixbook is well worth investigating. However, you do not have to have your book printed. Mixbook hosts online photobooks for free. Again, the book can be open to everyone, friends, or just you.

There could be many and varied educational applications for a Mixbook photobook and students would really love to see their work published in a bound book. The coming break could be an ideal time to put together your own personal photobook. If you do get time to complete a photobook, we would love a comments on your thoughts.

Jing Project

Jing Project is a screencasting tool. What does that mean? Jing Project allows users to record output from their computer screen. So whether it’s a static screenshot or a video recording demonstrating how to use a program, Jing allows users to record, save and then share images. Captures can be annotated with arrows, text and highlighting before saving. Images and recordings can then be saved to computer, Flickr or embedded into URLs.


When you sign up to Jing, the screencasting icons are loaded onto your computer and users are able to see and access them at all times for ease of use. The icons are placed at the top of the screen and are fairly unobtrusive.

Jing’s blog gives more information about capabilities and how to use the tool. Here is a video that shows how Jing can be used.

Another look at Flickr

Most of you have probably checked out Flickr, the photo sharing website that has thousands of photo uploads per minute.

Flickr home

Flickr home

Some school libraries, like Sacred Heart College, Geelong have Flickr accounts (as featured in our photo gallery).

Having a school Flickr account to document and publicise events, displays, speakers and renovations is a great idea. Not only can you show propespective parents what a wonderful library and library staff you have, but you can share images with library staff around the world. Sharing ideas, concepts and ways of doing things has always been the strength of libraries and Flickr gives us a chance to extend that.

Have a look at some Australian school libraries featured on Flickr. A search for ‘school library’ returns almost 30,000 photos. As long as school administration is agreeable to a Flickr account and that students’ faces are not featured, a library Flickr account is a great way to share your library with the world.

21st Century learning

Continuing on with Professor Stephen Heppell’s talk on 21st Century learning at the State Library of Victoria on Monday 10th November, Stephen outlined the 21st Century as ‘people centric’ where ‘helping people help each other’ is leading to the mass social construction of knowledge. People adding entries and editing Wikipedia, creating content in LibraryThing, YouTube, Flickr and the like (my examples) means that we (and our students) ‘are in a world we haven’t met before’. Stephen says ‘it’s time for schools to run, not follow’.

A recent UK survey by Ipsos asked students how they were currently learning in school. The responses were something like:

  1. Copying from books or the whiteboard (approximately 50% of respondents).
  2. Taking notes from a long teacher talk (approximately 30% of respondents).
  3. Copying from the Internet (approximately 20% of respondents).

When asked how they would like to learn, the responses were:

  1. Learning in groups.
  2. Learn by doing practical things.
  3. Learning with friends.
  4. Learn by using a computer.

When asked what they would like their teachers to be able to do, they responded:

  1. Edit a Wikipedia entry.
  2. Upload a video to YouTube and make a comment.
  3. Subscribe to a podcast.
  4. Manage groups in Flickr (and be able to spell Flickr).
  5. Select a safe online payment site.
  6. Turn mobile phone predictive text on/off.

Certainly food for thought, not only for teachers but also for school administrators. For a recording of Stephen’s session with Victoria’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Knowledge Bank, click here.

To read more about what Stephen has been involved in, his thoughts and projects, please follow these links: