The Portal – Blogging at Scotch College Library

One of Scotch College’s Librarians,  Michelle Sweeney, has kindly informed Bright Ideas about their wonderful library blog. Michelle explains, ‘Blogging has become incredibly popular over the last 12 months, and in the Senior Library at Scotch we have embraced the trend! Blogging on The Portal is a safe and fun means for the boys, staff and friends of Scotch to engage in discussion about the books they love (or love to hate), to debate contentious book-related topics and to learn about events in the literary world.’

The Portal homepage

The Portal homepage

Michelle continues, ‘Since Brendan Gullifer launched The Portal at our ‘Library’s Longest Literary Lunch‘ on March 13 2008, we have seen the number of users swell to over 100.  Articulate and passionate boys are airing their opinions on diverse topics including the journalistic merits of the Herald Sun and The Age, the decline of the English language, the poignancy of soldiers’ letters from Iraq, controversy over school texts and the modernisation of Shakespeare’s texts. The boys are also displaying their own creativity (and competitive spirit) by participating in The Portal’s various competitions and writing high quality book reviews.



‘Staff at Scotch have long been writing book reviews about their holiday reading for the library website, and these are now also published on The Portal.

‘Initially The Portal was hosted by Edublogs, in many respects a fantastic site developed especially for blogs in schools. However we did become frustrated with some aspects of Edublogs and decided to shift our blog to our school domain where we could have more control over the appearance and the method of registration. Boys and staff may now register in a few minutes without the need for emails to be exchanged.

‘A blog committee was formed and during six meetings we established the aims and objectives of The Portal, the User Guidelines and discussed ways to maximize the potential of this new library tool.


The Portal provides an online forum for the Scotch Community to engage in discussion about books and reading in order to encourage Scotch boys to develop a lifelong love of reading.

Our objectives for The Portal are:

  • To harness the boys’ interest in technology to engage them in books and reading
  • To enable 24/7 access to stimulating discussion about books and reading
  • To provide a publication platform for aspiring Scotch writers
  • To allow the wider Scotch Community (parents, siblings, teachers, etc.) to contribute to discussions about books and reading in order to provide a range of reading role models for Scotch boys
  • To promote interaction and mentoring between students of different ages (and beyond!)
  • To inform Scotch boys about current literary events and awards
  • To provide an informal/recreational environment for boys to discuss their reading

‘Currently The Portal is promoted through word of mouth, introductory sessions to Literature Circles groups and English classes, fliers in the library and an article in the school magazine. We intend to use it extensively before, during and after our Literature Festival which runs every second year, by inviting guest authors to initiate discussion with our students before meeting them at the festival and encouraging students to comment on the workshops they have attended. Hopefully there may be some ongoing blogging contact with festival presenters once the festival is over.’ 

Scotch Scribes

Scotch Scribes

Michelle concludes, ‘All in all The Portal has been a great success. Year 7s and 8s in particular are excited when they see it and English teachers are keen to use it with their classes. Competitions and controversial posts are definitely winners!’

Congratulations to Michelle and all at Scotch College who have been involved in the introduction and ongoing promotion and develpoment of The Portal.

Feature blog – – Sacred Heart College Geelong

Maree Macdonald and Heather Carlin of Sacred Heart College in Geelong have created a wonderful blog called home home

Maree says, ‘We have always recorded every book read by every staff member (believe  it or not!) giving an abstract, reading level, score out of 10 and a  critical comment.  So, when it came to setting up a blog for book reviews, the process was relatively easy – we only used those books that scored 8.5 or above.  We launched the Blog during Book Week this year, promising prizes to any students who left a comment or recommended a book for review – not a great response, but the next target will be teachers.’

She continues, ‘Humanities is, at the moment, studying Medieval History, and one of their activities is to read a book about the period and review it.  Perfect!  So, at the moment we’re putting a good selection on the blog and we’ll email the site to the Humanities teachers.  We also plan to put our High Interest/Low Ability books on, with a tag to Learning Enhancement so the books are easy to find.  Our Literature Circle books are also going on, so the students involved will be able to comment on their books online.’

Maree and Heather have set up links to reviews by genre, with clever titles such as: 3 hanky reads, Action aplenty, Girl meets vampire, Good sports, Horror!, Love and other adventures, Medieval mayhem, Mysterious ways, Nail Biters, Out of the past, Out of this world, Private lives and Side-splitters

The page below can be found under the Girl meets vampire genre link.

Girl meets vampire page

Girl meets vampire page

Maree and Heather also put together a brilliantly designed Book Week page, which outlined activities and competitions for the week, enthusing students to join and celebrate Book Week. Maree says, ‘We used the site for Book Week as well, creating a page outlining all the activities running throughout the week.
Book Week

Book Week

‘We also plan to make up some posters and bookmarks (maybe using the image generators we learned about in the Web 2.0 program!) promoting the site to students and staff alike and, of course introduce it to staff at the first available staff meeting.  We have decided to  purchase glow in the dark wristbands promoting the site and will be distributing them to Literature Circles students and students who review books on the blog.’

‘We see lots of potential for the blog.  The great thing about these web 2.0 tools is that they can be unpredictable and lead you in directions that you never envisaged.  I would love to see students reviewing their books via podcasts on the blog, or maybe writing a collaborative novel!  Who knows?’

As Maree says, ‘Libraries and Web 2.0 are a marriage made in Heaven!’

Please see photos of Sacred Heart College’s fantastic Beijing Olympics display in our Picture Gallery page as well as photos of the terrific library layout and design. Congratulations to Maree, Heather and all of the library staff at Sacred Heart College Geelong!