Make the web work for you – new VicPLN course


Many of you are part of the community that has grown out of the VicPLN series of online courses. With your feedback in mind, we’ve created a new course for 2015 which integrates the best of two previous courses into one:  Make the web work for you.

Make the web work for you introduces key concepts and skills in digital and information literacy, and models the use of simple and free web tools, enables people to join or create personal learning networks, and encourages everyone to play and explore online. But it’s also designed to give participants the chance to apply their learning to an authentic research task in a guided online learning experience.

The course is designed for people hoping to get more out of the web and build their confidence using technology in the workplace.

This six-unit, self-paced program covers:

  • advanced searching and information evaluation skills
  • social media for professional learning
  • web tools to help find, manage, store and share information
  • digital publishing including ebooks
  • online collaboration and networking.

We hope to keep challenging ourselves and our community to think differently about our work, how we learn and share ideas. As part of the work of a new team at the State Library Victoria focusing on learning design, we’ll be beginning to talk more about our professional learning model, Connected Inquiry.

Our new course Make the web work for you is based on the principles of Connected Inquiry, a great deal of thinking, evaluation and research. We’ve tried a few new things, we’ve done in-depth research in partnership with AITSL, and we’ve gathered really helpful feedback from course participants.

So what is Connected Inquiry about?  It’s in part a series of principles to help shape professional learning experiences that mirror the best of what we do as educators. Can an after school PD, online course or conference be built on the same principles we would an inquiry project for students – real life applications, personal relevance and curiosity? We think yes and we look forward to sharing our learning with you.

So if you’re interested in the course which begins April 20 or have any questions, you can contact us at

Make the Web Work for You: an introduction to digital learning for school library teams and educators, 6 units over 8 weeks starting 20 April 2015.

And we’ll continue to be part of your personal learning networks: online, at SLAV conferences, and as part of the professional development program here at the State Library Victoria.

 Image credit – State Library Victoria

The Emerging List of Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010

For the fourth consecutive year, Jane Hart is compiling a list of the top 100 tools for learning. Anyone can add their voice by listing their top 10 tools. The voting will conclude on 17 October and the final listing will be released.

This list is always worth viewing and the sites that are new are worth exploring. Sites are listed according to rank and information includes:

  • previous years’ rank
  • name with linked URL
  • explanation of what the tool does
  • platform (desktop, server, online, mobile)
  • cost, if any
  • number of votes

This is a great way to explore the top online learning tools as voted by educators worldwide and to have your own say.

Bringing experts into your classroom

It can often be problematic for students to gain access to authors and other experts in their field due to location, cost, time, travel and other issues. Technologies such as Skype can help. The ability to make free calls computer to computer with the added bonus of video conferencing if users have webcams has been a boon for schools.

But Skype is not the only method available. Richard Byrne’s (@rmbyrne) wonderful Free Technology for Teachers blog outlines three other free methods for Bringing Experts into Your Classroom:

Go to the Free Technology for Teachers post Bringing Experts into Your Classroom for some fabulous free tools to explore, thanks to Richard Byrne.

Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning

The United States of America’s Department of Education has just released a report on the “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning“.  The 93 page document sets out the answers to the following questions:

1. How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to-face instruction?

 2. Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning?

 3. What practices are associated with more effective online learning?

 4. What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?

 With our current educational system, the majority of us will be interested in questions 2, 3 and 4 as we implement online learning alongside face-to-face teaching instead of replacing it. (The range of ‘learning outcomes’ that were measured varied depending on the subject taught.) The report goes on to state: 

The corpus of 51 effect sizes extracted from 46 studies meeting these criteria was sufficient to demonstrate that in recent applications, online learning has been modestly more effective, on average, than the traditional face-to-face instruction with which it has been compared.

 And on average, online learning produced better student learning outcomes than face-to-face instruction in those studies with random-assignment experimental designs (p < .001) and in those studies with the largest sample sizes (p < .001).

 Studies comparing variations of online learning provides some additional insights with respect to designing effective online learning experiences. The practice with the strongest evidence of effectiveness is inclusion of mechanisms to prompt students to reflect on their level of understanding as they are learning online. In a related vein, there is some evidence that online learning environments with the capacity to individualize instruction to a learner’s specific needs improves effectiveness.

In brief, students who have been exposed to both online and face-to-face teaching and learning have fared better than those who have experienced only face-to-face learning or only online learning. As most of us interested in embedding new technologies into teaching and learning use this method, this is an exciting (but a hopefully expected) finding.

The report concludes with this statement:

Educators making decisions about online learning need rigorous research examining the effectiveness of online learning for different types of students and subject matter as well as studies of the relative effectiveness of different online learning practices.

It seems that there have been few other studies into the comparison of face-to-face teaching and the quantifiable efficacy of online learning and although this study admits the results are encouraging, it is being left up to individual teachers and schools to determine for themselves if combining online and face-to-face teaching and learning suits their students and subjects.

Nevertheless, this report is encouraging for any teacher who needs to demonstrate to others the worth of using Web 2.0 tools in teaching and learning. 


In a previous post about Pascoe Vale Primary School students creating e-books, teacher Margo Edgar mentioned getting students to create their e-books using PhotoStory or VoiceThread.

Group conversations around images, documents and videos
Group conversations around images, documents and videos

VoiceThread is an excellent Web 2.0 resource that enables users to create text, add videos and images and then record an audio overlay. Microphones and phones can be used to record audio. Users can comment on other people’s VoiceThread uploads, so there can be collaboration with other students and teachers if you wish.

VoiceThread is such an amazing and powerful tool, it is probably better to experience it for yourself, so have a look at this screencast that shows exactly how VoiceThread works: VoiceThread screencast.

There is also an excellent wiki that shows examples of VoiceThread projects in classrooms and school libraries.  So creating digital storytelling and e-books is now much easier, both for students and teachers. Students should find e-books lots of fun to produce and share using VoiceThread!

VoiceThread could also be used for online professional development or online learning. Staff meetings or staff PD could be presented using VoiceThread and then saved for later access for people who were absent, or who want to revisit the presentation.

Some lessons could be uploaded to VoiceThread for students who are ill or absent and for sharing with other classes or schools. Distance education could take advantage of VoiceThread’s free accounts as well. Thanks to Margo Edgar at Pascoe Vale Primary School for the introduction to VoiceThread.