Who is Smik?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Let go of the paradigms of the past

In her talk for TED this year Diana Laufenberg says we must let our students learn from their mistakes: to actually fail sometimes and learn from failure.
Her talk is about the importance of experiential learning, empowering student voice and embracing failure. Teachers need to recognise that students aren't actually coming to school to get the knowledge, that is the paradigm of the past. They are coming to communicate and collaborate and put ideas into practice.
It's a great video: just 10 minutes of your time.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

24 Tips for e-Learning

24 Tips for eLearning Professionals, is an advent calendar of elearning brought to you by the eLearning Network.
14 great posts so far
  • How to design thought-provoking interactions
  • 5 tips for running your own Alternate Reality Game
  • Screencasting
  • We’re Yamming…
  • The ten commandments of learning design
  • Ask a question before you tell a fact
  • Avoiding Crapathy in Your eLearning
  • Using tab interactions for knowledge check questions
  • Lend me your ears! Tips for effective use of audio in eLearning
  • Do the impossible – design compliance e-learning that engages users and changes behaviours
  • Thou shalt not convey meaning by colour alone…
  • Tips for successful online discussions
  • 10 ideas to use social media for professional development
  • How to write a voiceover script
Throughout the run-up to Christmas, go back each day for practical, helpful or just plain fun tips from people across the industry.

Friday, 10 December 2010

As the year rolls over..

For many teachers and students in Australia today is the last day of the school year. Senior students sitting for public exams vanished long ago, final assemblies and prizegivings have been held, and if people are at school today, it is likely to be a short day with students on their way at lunch time, and teachers breathing a sigh of relief.

But, befitting a country that had problems even getting its railway tracks the same distance apart, the school year dates are not the same Australia wide, nor even from deployment to deployment. Just recently Tasmanian teachers seemed to win the battle to be the only state sticking with a 3 term school year that gives them longer summer holidays. There's always been a disparity between the school term dates for government and independent schools. Some systems have their teachers come back a week earlier than students and use the time to get ready for the coming year. Invariably government systems give teachers one or two days chock full of meetings prior to the coming of students.

Of course the beginning of a school year is complicated by the observance of Australia Day on January 26, with government systems known in the past to insist that teachers return just before Australia Day, to do their preparation days, so schools can be open for students immediately after.

I didn't really mean to witter on about the beginning of the year, but rather to think about what has happened in 2010.

For me it has been a fairly significant, can I even say traumatic, year with a company merger between Education.au and the Curriculum Corporation into one ministerial company Education Services Australia. For me the euphoria of a merger quickly vanished with the departure of my immediate boss, former CEO of Education.au Greg Black, in March. As a result my job changed significantly.

For me, this has been the year of the e-book and e-reader. I've given 4 presentations and participated in 2 online forums on using digital texts, and I have 3 more lined up in March next year. These are interesting times we are living in.

On Wednesday the Ministers of Education, meeting at MCEECDYA, endorsed in principle, the implementation of the Australia curriculum, but it is clear that the process is going to be a slow one, with each of the states adding different content.  Full implementation won't occur until at least 2013. As I said, interesting times

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Are e-books the biggest paradigm shift since the printing press?

This blog post in some measure owes it's existence to some thoughts developed after reading online text forwarded to me by a friend. The original came from Mark Treadwell but I have been unable to locate it. The quoted material is from something he has written titled Foreword: "Whatever! Were we Thinking?

What the world is experiencing towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century is the first ever global macro-paradigm shift. This event is unique and without precedent. The last time we came close to an event like this was on a regional scale, resulting in the Renaissance period 500 years ago.

The invention of the printing press, in particular the Gutenberg press with it's system of moveable type, in 1450, had a huge impact.

The printing press was the technology that would drive the first paradigm shift in learning. The printing press did this via its dramatic capacity to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of learning by making knowledge dramatically more portable and reducing the cost of access to knowledge.

What the printing press essentially allowed to happen was the sharing, and building on, of ideas. It also stressed the importance of reading and writing. It's social impact was enormous.

e-readers and e-books have the potential to take this sharing of ideas to a new level.

  • e-book technology brings the book to the reader. One of the attractive features is the ability to purchase an e-book online and have it delivered wirelessly almost instantly to your e-reader. No putting it on a list to check when next in your favourite book shop, or even placing an order for it. If it is available as an e-book then you purchase it then.
  • in addition, most e-readers have a tool which allows the reader to annotate and bookmark while reading. If you are connected wirelessly then you can view "popular" highlights, even share your own comments and those of others. Currently many users don't take advantage of this capability because of the effect on the battery life of the device.
  • a third feature that will revolutionise how books are used is that comments and highlights in an e-book are stored on the device and can be transferred to a document on an attached computer and thus become the basis for creative thinking and writing. This places on the user the need to understand the boundaries of plagiarism and copyright.

Most of my presentations on e-books just recently have ended up with a plea/challenge to teachers and teacher-librarians to bite the bullet and buy an e-reader and find out what this technology has to offer. It needs to be more than a passing acquaintance too. They need to understand and be able to use the tools that come with the devices.

Sure, made-from-paper books are not going to disappear but digital technologies used in this way offer a new depth to the sharing of ideas and the creation of new understandings.
(And I'll scream if one more person says I'm happy to be Luddite! not the least because Luddites actually stood in the way of progress not by passively ignoring it, but through active protest which involved more often than not the destruction of the new mechanised looms.)

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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

e-books: will Google ebooks make a difference to me?

Watchers are tipping that the recent plunge by Google into e-books is going to change the way the e-book market works.

Well, for those of us In Australia, not much is changed as yet.
Here is the first thing I saw as I explored the Google eBookstore.

The latest Google eBooks are not available for sale in your location, yet...

Google is working with publishers around the world to let you buy the latest ebooks from top authors. In the meantime, you can still browse millions of free and public domain Google eBooks and read them effortlessly across your devices.Learn more

It looks like you're located outside of the United States. Although you're welcome to read about Google eBooks, please note that Google eBooks are only available for sale to customers in the U.S. at this time.

So my question on availability was answered.
My other question was - what format are the books in?

Google eBooks can be read with any dedicated eBook reader that supports the Adobe eBook platform, including the Barnes & Noble Nook™ and Readers™ from Sony. More than 85 devices support the Adobe eBook platform today including Reader™ from Sony devices (PRS-300 - PRS-700), Aluratek Libre, Astak EZ Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook™ and Nook Color™, BeBook, Bookeen, COOL-ER, Elonex eBook, HanLin eBook, IREX Digital Reader, Neolux Nuut, and more.

Currently, Google eBooks are not compatible with Amazon Kindle devices, though we are open to supporting them in the future.

So the format is not really epub - it is Adobe Digital Editions.

So in answer to the question I posed at the beginning in my subject line: no, Google ebooks will not make a difference to me at this stage.

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Monday, 6 December 2010

A collection of e-book links

The e-book e-reader cyberworld is really a fast changing one and I thought I'd pass on some information and tips that have come my way recently.

First of all from Nick:
A new online reader – the FlexBooks System promised to minimise the issues with ebook readers and copyright issues. Read more about this in my short blog here or on blogger.

There are number of Webinars happening soon, so visit the CK12 website for the schedule starting from Nov. 23 to Dec. 16th.

FlexBooks seems mainly to be about free Science and Maths text books available as e-books. There is an introductory video you can watch.

Another interesting one is COPIA. This one has the byline "If a book is worth reading, it's worth discussing", and is a site that enables social interaction through reading. This seems similar to the comment system that Amazon has been developing on the Kindle, which works if you are connected via the wireless.

One of the interesting things with this sort of development is that in most of the discussions that people are having about e-books and e-readers at the moment, particularly in an educational context, such as the one I have been participating in on Your School Library for the past few days, they are focussing on whether you can lend e-books, and whether there can be such a thing as a lendable e-textbook. Many miss the concept that the e-reader is a personal device, and they are not aware of the social networking aspects at all.

It seems to me that much of the development is around the epub format, with the idea of inclusion of the e-book onto the iPad through an App. As the Kindle is really the only viable e-reader that uses the Amazon format, and if Amazon's real interest is in selling books, e-books among them, then I think this is going to push Amazon into retailing e-books in epub format as well as .azw. The day is not long off when Amazon asks the buyer what format they want the ebook delivered in.

For those who want their e-reader to handle colour then the NookColor looks like a winner, with a ready market here in Australia if Barnes & Noble ever decide to release it for international users. You might be interested in this review.
The writer gives the NookColor the following ratings, with an overall B

Hardware/screen/physicality: A
Battery: B+
General interface/navigation: B
Book reading: A-
Newspaper reading: B
Magazine reading: C+
Kids’ books: A
Shopping/periodical selection: C
Search, highlighting, dictionary, lookup: A
Note-taking/account syncing: F
Music and video playback: B
Library books: B+
Web: B+
Social/LendMe: A-

and a prediction that major problems with be fixed with a software upgrade in January/February along with the launch of a NookColor App store.

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Friday, 26 November 2010

With my other hat on: careers

One of the jobs that I do at Education Services Australia is to seed twitter and facebook with posts about the myfuture careers services.

I thought readers of my blog my be interested in some of the links I've posted in the last few weeks.

I've done a series called OCCUPATION OF THE DAY:

  • Audiologist: Are you confident, sympathetic, tactful? Good analytical skills? You might make a good audiologist. Audiologist  http://bit.ly/audiologist
  • AutoElectrician: Do you love cars, electrical wiring, playing with computers? What about auto-electrician? http://bit.ly/auto_electric
  • Auctioneer: Love the idea of selling things? The excitement of an auction? Check out auctioneer http://bit.ly/sell-at-auctions
  • Bus Driver: Love driving, being out & about, meeting people. What about becoming a bus driver? http://bit.ly/bus-driver

Leading up to the Melbourne Cup in November, I ran a series of very popular posts

And then there have been the career information related ones

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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

2010 Horizon report: Australia New Zealand edition: e-books

This volume examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative enquiry within higher education in Australia and New Zealand over a five-year time period. The report identifies electronic books and mobile devices as the near term horizon technologies with the likelihood of entry into the mainstream for institutions within the next 12 months.


Some of its points

  • reading electronic books will be more than simply viewing a digital version of a printed volume - there will be interactive content and dynamic media
  • e-books and e-readers will be offered on mobile devices
  • students will be able to buy or rent whole books or just chapters
  • the e-content will update often
  • students will be able to share their annotations and commentary
  • institutions must commit to supporting tools
  • pedagogical practice must change to take the new tools into account

Technologies to Watch

  • On the near term horizon - within the next 12 months: e-books and mobiles
  • second adoption horizon - 2 to 3 years out - augmented reality and open content
  • far term horizon - 4 to 5 years - gesture-based computing and visual data analysis.

As the technology underlying electronic readers has improved and more titles have become available, electronic books are quickly reaching the point where their advantages over the printed book are compelling to almost any observer. Already firmly established in the public sector, electronic books are gaining a foothold on campuses as well, where they serve as a cost-effective and portable alternative to heavy textbooks and supplemental reading selections. The availability of an increasing range of portable electronic reading devices, as well as the many book-reader applications designed for mobiles, has made it easy to carry a wide selection of wirelessly updated reading material. New, highly interactive publications demonstrate that quite apart from their convenience, electronic books have the potential to transform the way we interact with reading material of all kinds, from popular titles to scholarly works

 The Overview is worth reading for expansion of the following:

  • e-books have now reached the point of mainstream adoption in the consumer sector
  • to what extent can content be separated from the device?
  • what makes e-books potentially a transformative technology is the new kind of reading experiences they make possible - audio visual and social elements
  • standards for e-publications are still in the development phase: there is huge change happening in the publishing industry
  • tertiary education campuses have been slow to adopt, but many of the earlier constraints are fast vanishing, although availability of e-books in Australia & NZ is still an issue

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

e-readers boost enthusiasm for reading

A newspaper article today claims a school district library project to interest students in reading books by providing them with Kindles has been very successful. The librarians say that the devices have been directly responsible for increasing the number of minutes students have spent reading and also the number of books that have been read. The library has bought 30 Kindles and are using them with students in Kindle Clubs. Students estimate that they have read 30% more books over the last year.

Participants in the official Kindle forum (adult readers) have been making similar claims.

For example

Here are some of the things that people at the official kindle forum are mentioning -

  1. They are reading more books than they used to.
  2. They’re also reading books that earlier they wouldn’t.
  3. A tendency to buy too many books.
  4. A tendency to hoard books.
  5. Downloading and reading a free book and then reading the other books from that author.

There seem to have been three main changes in reading patterns -

  1. The number of books read in main genres of interest seems to have gone up.
  2. Reading has made its way back to being a top 2 leisure activity for a significant number of kindle owners. For a lot of the others it was always #1 or #2.
  3. People are beginning to explore other genres and are reading lots of books that they wouldn’t have without the Kindle Store.

Earlier this year a report revealed that the availability of free e-books was having an unexpected impact on the sales of print books. A growing number of authors and publishers freely distribute their books electronically to increase the visibility of their work. These books, for both academic and general audiences, cover a wide variety of genres, including technology, law, fantasy, and science fiction. Some authors claim that free digital distribution has increased the impact of their work and their reputations as authors.

A pilot study, admittedly with a very small cohort, recently aimed to consider the e-book reading experiences of young children and their families, with currently available portable e-reader devices: Amazon Kindle, Nintendo DS-lite and Apple iPod Touch. Among other factors, there were indications that the one reluctant young reader (a boy aged eight years) was inspired to read by the Kindle.

Yet another article claims :"Ebooks have already proved particularly successful with low-ability and reluctant readers. Not only do they reflect the young learner’s world more appropriately than paper books but children still find technology ‘cool’. Therefore, reading on personal EDAs or laptops individually or together on a whiteboard makes those who are reluctant more interested, particularly when they can click through to relevant websites listed in bibliographies and discover more about a topic for themselves."

Lotta Larson, a Kansas-State assistant professor of elementary education, is finding that electronic readers allow children to interact with texts in ways they don't interact with the printed word. In particular she cites the role of features that enable the reader to make the text audible, increase or decrease font size and let readers make notes about the book.

You'll have noticed that many of these articles are about the Kindle but I don't think that matters. That is simply because the Kindle has been around longer, long enough for teachers and parents to make observations. The evidence linked to e-readers in general will come.

Someone at the conference I was speaking at last week asked about whether the e-book would inhibit those in her class who were already avid readers (I think she was really asking why the evidence appears to have such a focus on the reluctant or slow reader). I responded with the anecdotal evidence  I've seen about avid readers consuming more books, bumping the print text size up a little to facilitate faster reading, and using tools like the note taking tool and the dictionary/thesaurus.

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

World Toilet Day is 19 November

Did you know that nearly half of the world's population don't have access to toilets or proper sanitation?

November 19th is World Toilet Day. It is a day to celebrate the importance of sanitation and raise awareness of this problem. Here in Australia we laugh about the "outback dunny" with its "long drop" but we also recognise how essential they are. Check them out on Wikipedia.

We even have them listed on a National Toilet Map.

More information about World Toilet Day is available from http://www.worldtoilet.org/wtd/

The Sanitation and Disease project at http://www.ozprojects.edu.au/course/view.php?id=19 has activities to help teachers and students understand the connection between clean water, sanitation and disease.

You can watch the Adventures of Super Toilet on the Water Aid Splash Out website and then draw one of the characters using Kerpoof Studio.

There is also an online crossword and discussion forums in which students can share their knowledge about sanitation and discuss the world water crisis.

For more information or assistance to get started in this project please email ozprojects@edna.edu.au

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Class sizes and teacher quality

Why does the glee with which the media grabs onto reports that say class sizes don't matter make me grind my teeth?

In my teaching life, which began over 4 decades ago, I began with huge classes, the like of which we don't see these days. Teaching 44 exceptionally bright 14 year olds for English, History and Maths in my first year on the job, in a large metropolitan high school, was fortunately not something I had to repeat much in ensuing years. But as time went on, the classes became smaller. Just as well, or I certainly would have been the victim of early burnout.

I certainly believe that, although there is a critical mass of brains to rub together that you need in a class, the smaller the class, the better outcomes the teacher can deliver. Somewhere between 20 and 25 students is what I prefer. It makes preparation and marking manageable, as well as getting to know your students in detail.

Today's media posts are both related to the publication of the Gratton report.

The Australian says GOVERNMENTS waste millions of dollars in education on expensive and ineffectual programs to reduce class sizes. While the Adelaide Advertiser headlines SMALLER classes are a waste of money and do not improve students' results as much as having higher-skilled and innovative teachers, an education policy expert says.

Worth discussing though are the listing by the Grattan Institute's director of school education, Ben Jensen, of five main mechanisms to improve teaching standards:

  • improving the quality of applicants to become teachers;
  • improving the quality of their initial education and training;
  • evaluating and providing feedback to teachers once they're in classrooms;
  • recognising and rewarding effective teachers;
  • and moving on ineffective teachers who are unable to improve.

I don't think there would be one teacher who wouldn't like to see the last 3 happen.

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Student commemorative project launching on Remembrance Day

Funded by the Victorian Government's Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 1000 Poppies.org is an initiative of the History Teachers' Association of Victoria and the Shrine of Remembrance.

This project aims to create a space where students from around the world can share stories and experiences, linking the local and the global in an on-line environment and create their own response to honouring the service and sacrifice of veterans and those affected by war to express their hopes for lasting peace.

On this site you will be able to plant a poppy (one symbol of remembrance) in a field to commemorate those who have been affected by war.

The site launches on Remembrance Day, 11 November 2010

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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Resources for Remembrance Day

The original for the image above is the header for the resources for Remembrance Day located at the Australian War Memorial.

The AWM site reminds us that "Remembrance Day (11 November) marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War (1914–18). Each year Australians observe one minute silence at 11 am on 11 November, in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts."

You might be interested in particular in the information under the heading Tradition which tells how the ceremony was established. On that page also there is a list of the common features of the ceremony including this recitation.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

There is a video on YouTube that you may also like to use.

For further resources check out this edna search

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Monday, 8 November 2010

Why you should grow some digital wings

This week I'm talking about e-books twice: on Wednesday to a local teacher librarians hub group, and then on Friday at the SLAV (School Librarians Association of Victoria) conference.

Here is the prezi that will be the basis of my talk on both occasions - I'm hoping they have losts of questions to ask. My starting focus is what I get out of having a Kindle.


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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Can you start school too early?

It is amazing how we interpret figures differently according to our viewpoint isn't it?

In an article in the Victorian Herald Sun today we are given the following information about students who have had to repeat a year in Victorian state schools:

Almost 5300 students were repeating last year,....... Last year, more than 1200 kids repeated prep, followed by 824 year 11 students, 689 in year 12, 479 in grade 1 and 323 in year 10.

OK - let me put a possible interpretation on the figures:

  • the prep cohort, that is, the school starters, mostly probably 5 year olds, 1200 of them (22.5% of the stats), are likely to be children who started school too early, who had inadequate preparation for a full school day, possibly limited experience of kindergarten, who were socially immature, or had other settling in problems.
    They will include children who have almost no command of English, and are trying to learn the language at the same time as learning to read and write.

    There has been considerable debate over the years about the correct starting age for school. The Australian states have generally settled on a child being enrolled in school at some time during the year in which they turn 5. In some states they can only start at the beginning of a year immediately after their 5th birthday, in others they can start in the next term after their 5th birthday.

    In Victoria a child starting prep must turn 5 by 30th April in the year of enrolment.

  • if you add to that figure the 479 having to repeat grade 1, I think you are seeing the same reasons. That brings the total of "early repeaters" to 1679, nearly one third of the total. Early childhood teachers will tell you that there are a variety of reasons why these children benefit from repeating the year. Sometimes it is as simple as the fact that they have been in reception for less than 6 months when the school year ends and school/departmental policy determines that they must put in the extra time.

There are many reasons why students take longer than 2 years over years 11 and 12, but perhaps we could say "thank goodness they do", because they and their parents have recognised the benefits of completing their education. The repeaters in the sample total 1513, again nearly 30%, but these figures need further clarification about what repeating actually is.

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Monday, 1 November 2010

e-books: What your school needs you to do (if you are a teacher or a TL)

The e-book/e-reader scenario is the perfect illustration of the hype cycle. We are not so far up from the "technology trigger". The Gartner Hype Cycle July 2009 put e-book readers into the 2-5 years to mainstream adoption and we are quite a long way from that.

The emergence of the latest cab off the rank, the Nook Color e-reader, which is a touch screen device, will throw an interesting cat among the pigeons. I'm sure it will hasten the development of other small colour devices perhaps even a colour Kindle. Many are predicting there will be even more device releases in time for your Christmas spending.

What teachers and teacher librarians should be doing is developing some experience in what an e-reader can do. Please don't sit around waiting for the right one to come along.

I am sure we are just at the beginning of the e-book scenario, and that cheaper colour touch screens etc will become available in the next few months, and that makes sensible arguments for holding off.
On the other hand we desperately need teachers and TLs who have joined the "advance guard" and are developing some expertise in what an e-reader can do, what they might offer to a school library.

I'm sure the issues with how to lend books, and possibilities for e-textbooks will be worried at for at least the next 12 months.

The deal with Amazon and Borders is that multiple copies of a purchased e-book can be downloaded to devices registered to your account. With Amazon it is 6 devices and I thought that was the case with Borders too.
This includes being able to read the e-book on a laptop or PC.

My appeal to TLs is to at least download Kindle for PC or the Borders software to a laptop or desktop PC, and get some experience in how of what e-reading is like.
It is not quite the same as a dedicated e-reader but the functionality is similar.

Just as we have Apple enthusiasts in our ranks, and PC enthusiasts, those who rally behind the e-book / e-reader banner will probably always speak highly of the device they have spent time with (unless they totally hate it). In my own case it is the Kindle2 which I have been using for 15 months now and have read 35 books on.
But my experiences have given me a view of what we need to look for in an e-reader or e-reading software. I am unlikely to buy a new device anytime soon, although I do have Kindle for PC on my computer, as well as the Borders software. My husband has the Kindle for PC App on his iPad.

If you are thinking about your next step, then the criteria that I listed in my blog post at http://blogs.educationau.edu.au/ksmith/2010/09/08/e-books-and-e-readers-criteria-for-choosing-your-e-reader/ might be a good starting point.

As with most technology decisions, it really comes down to what you want the device to do and how much you are prepared to pay for it.

I have explored the topic in these blog posts
Teaching with an e-book: http://blogs.educationau.edu.au/ksmith/2010/09/14/teaching-with-an-e-book-part-1/
And this one about how we are unlikely to see wholesale adoption of e-texts in schools in 2010: http://blogs.educationau.edu.au/ksmith/2010/10/26/so-youre-thinking-about-e-text-books-2011-may-be-too-soon-in-australia-anyway/
If you explore my blog you'll see that e-books is a focus topic for me.

If you are attending the SLAV conference on November 12, I will presenting a session on why I love my Kindle, and e-books in general.

If you are in Tasmania Jill Hutchins is organising a conference for 11-12 indep schools, catholic colleges and Academies/Polytechnics, where e-books is one of the topics:  Jill's email address is Jill.Abell@hutchins.tas.edu.au I'll be there too.

You could think about tuning into the YSL round table on e-books in early December:  check it out at http://yourschoollibrary.org/

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Friday, 29 October 2010

iNet online conference on digital literacy

The iNet (International Networking for Educational Transformation) online conference for education professionals in all countries will commence next Monday 1 November at 12.01am (* UK time). The topic for this eight-day conference is ‘digital literacy’.

This interactive conference will feature, in addition to a range of excellent papers and multimedia presentations from around the world, online discussion boards that will be open 24/7. There are also two ‘question and answer’ ‘hotseats’ - the first hosted by Professor Yong Zhao and the second by Mr John Davitt. 

To participate in this internet e-vent, which is provided by iNet at no cost, please register online at: http://www.cybertext.net.au/inet2010educator.php

*The conference website address will be emailed to all registrants a few hours before the conference commences on Monday. No passwords or user names will be required.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Debra Brydon if you have any queries about this conference or suggestions for future online conferences. * Late contributions may be considered for possible publication if they arrive via email by Sunday 31 October.

Best wishes,
Debra Brydon
iNet online conference manager
Email: brydon@cybertext.net.au
Skype: brydon.d
Mobile: Int. + 61 413 009988
Hotseat ‘question and answer’ sessions
Professor Yong Zhao 9.00–10.00am (GMT) Wednesday 3 November 2010
Read Prof. Zhao's think piece — Technology and the virtual world are the new reality
View Prof. Zhao's presentation — Schools as Global Enterprises: Cultivating Global Competence
John Davitt 2.00–4.00pm (GMT) Thursday 4 November 2010
Read John Davitt's think piece — Playing 'Difference Bingo'


1.    Literacy for all
Byron M. Lawson Jr. St Mark's School of Texas, Dallas, Texas, USA

2.    Computers meet classroom, classroom wins
Jim Fanning, Tideway School., East Sussex, England, United Kingdom

3.    Playing 'Difference Bingo'
John Davitt, United Kingdom

4.    Digital literacy and 21st century learning
Gail Bousaleh, Global English Teaching Pty Ltd & Hunter Community College, New South Wales, Australia

5.    You can teach a dog new tricks (they just don't have to be too tricky!)
Gina Blackberry and Debbie Koh, Griffith University & St Aidan's Girls School, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

6.    Digital literacy: what skills do teachers and students require?
Riaz Ahmed, Aga Khan School, Garden, Karachi, Pakistan

7.    'We are of the internet'
Anne Mirtschin, Hawkesdale P-12 College, Hawkesdale, Victoria, Australia

8.    Using new technology to transform learning
Sadia Khan, Aga Khan School, Garden , Karachi, Pakistan

9.    Assessing 21st century skills with digital portfolios
Ralph Jasparro & Joseph Maruszczak, Rhode Island, USA

10.    Becoming digitally literate
Jillian Dellit, J & J Dellit and Associates, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

11.    Digital literacy: key questions
Jill E. Margerison, Queensland, Australia

12.    Intelligent and safe use of new learning technologies
Kiran Fareed, Aga Khan School, Garden, Karachi, Pakistan

13.    Digital literacy: a reality at our doorstep
Nivedita Shori, Corliss Public School, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

14.    Digital literacy and 21st century learning
Gail Dyer, Belmore South Public School, New South Wales, Australia

15.    Encouraging the intelligent and safe use of new technologies
Akhter un Nisa, Aga Khan School, Garden, Karachi, Pakistan

16.    Technologically supported learning: what some children think
Henry Gray, Leanyer School, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

17.    Developing the use of new technology to transform learning
Mirza Hadi Ali Baig, Aga Khan School, Garden, Karachi, Pakistan

18.    New technology: bridging the rural-urban educational divide
Sembuya Serunjogi Hakim, Baitiredi, Northern Cape Province, South Africa

Videos and stimulus resources
1.    Digital literacy: some provocation questions
Anna Craft, University of Exeter, Exeter, England, United Kingdom

2.    Digital literacy and trust: a provocative think piece
Margo Greenwood and Claire Craft, University of Exeter, Exeter, England, United Kingdom

3.    Digital literacy: what's real? A provocative question
Margo Greenwood and Claire Craft, University of Exeter, Exeter, England, United Kingdom

4.    Empowering learners and learning through ICT
Students, Aga Khan School, Garden, Karachi, Pakistan

Slide presentations

1.    Digital literacy — How to build it in teachers through professional development
Jason Cooper

2.    Technology and transformative learning in the 21st century
Daithí Ó Murchú, Scoil An Cheathrair Álainn – Ladyswell National School, Dublin, Ireland

Poster display
1.    Evidence-based physical guidelines for wise use of computers by children
Leon Straker, Pete Johnson, Jack Dennerlein & Robin Burgess-Limerick, Australia and USA

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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Using the Melbourne Cup to talk careers

Events like the Melbourne Cup provide a great opportunity to launch discussions in Australian classrooms.

One focus you could take is careers. Here are some suggestions for classroom resources already available at Australia's best career information service for school students: myfuture.edu.au

What does it take to be a jockey?
There’s a great short  video made as part of the myfuture video comp last year:

How do you get to be a jockey?

Love to work with horses? Why not become a stablehand?

Where would the Melbourne Cup be without an event manager?

Where would the Melbourne Cup be without trend-setting fashion? Be a fashion designer.

Where would sporting events be without gardeners?


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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

So you're thinking about e-text books? 2011 may be too soon... in Australia anyway

Many teachers and librarians have told me their principal has asked them to investigate the possibility of using e-text books in 2011.

Now, we've been trying to get our heads around at least a couple of stumbling blocks and now at least one more has cropped up.

The 2 issues we've been trying to get our heads (previous posts) around have been

  • which device to buy?
  • what format for the e-books? (very much determined by the device)

and the 3rd one: how do we lend e-books either as library books or text books?

Currently many libraries are resorting to lending the device, in the absence of affordable schemes  that facilitate the lending of the e-books themselves. It seems there are schemes (like Overdrive) available if you are willing to put all your eggs in one basket, and cut your cloth to what they can provide. - mixed metaphors I know, but the end result is that you are severely limited in your purchase to what they can provide, not what you want to buy.

Now a 4th obstacle has come up:
geographic restrictions on sale of e-books by publishers. It is yet another illustration that publishers do not "get" the requirements of the e-book market.
An Australian friend has until yesterday been able to buy e-books for her Sony reader through Waterstones UK. Yesterday she was notified by them that they are no longer allowed to sell e-books outside the UK and Ireland.

I have been used to encountering this problem with buying books through Amazon, but had not realised the extent of it until now.

In the course of my investigations this morning I have come across a useful site. Three posts have caught my eye:

The upshot of it all, is that, considering where we are in the school/academic year in Australia, if you were thinking of bringing e-text books in at the beginning of 2011, there are probably just too many imponderables, too many unresolved issues.

If you've made a decision on the device, then that probably determines the format of the e-books you will purchase, then you are only part way through finding a solution.
The main question then becomes one of whether you can get the text books you want as e-books. If you are talking English novels and your students read a number of the "classics", including Shakespearian plays, then you can probably get some of them free through the Gutenberg Project Magic Catalog, but that is not going to help in major areas.

I'm sorry to sound like a Jonah, and I'd love to be proved wrong, but I think 2011 is just too early.

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Friday, 22 October 2010

Really ubiquitous technology

As I travelled in to work yesterday on the bus, smugly reading on my Kindle, I was struck by how many of my fellow passengers were displaying tell tale signs of iPod connectivity - thin white cables leading from a pocket to earbuds. A couple had their volume turned up quite loud so the rest of us on the bus could hear the crackle without being able to actually hear them. Others were texting on iPhones.

As I came home in the afternoon, again on the bus, again reading on my Kindle, I noticed that the girl standing in the aisle immediately in front of my seat had her Kindle3 in hand.I was tempted to start up a conversation about the differences between Kindle 2, which is what I have, and Kindle3. But then she was shuffled further into the bus as more passengers got on.

Then the woman sitting next to me got a call on her iPhone, and then a video call. She began talking loudly, complaining she couldn't hear what the person at the other end was saying (she didn't have earbuds in) because of the noise of the bus. She began waving madly at the small screen and making kitchy noises to a child on the screen who seemed to be making similar noises back to her.

The man standing immediately to my left got 3 phone calls during our 15 minute bus ride. He carried his mobile in a pouch on his belt, so we all got the benefit of the alarm-clock like sound of his phone ringing, as he took a moment or two to get it to his ear. He then talked extremely loudly to get his voice above the cacophony of the bus passengers. Meanwhile the lady on my right continued to give advice to the person on the other end of her phone about childcare and responsibility.

The joys of bus travel where we have no inhibitions about sharing our world with our fellow passengers. I didn't get a lot of reading done.

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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

2010 Top Tools - which are blocked on your site?

Yesterday I posted about Jane Hart's Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010 list.

I've seen several comments elsewhere on other blogs, including one by someone who said that he has realised he needs to re-think his opinions of Twitter, given that it has survived the usual web 2.0 "discard" so well.

Another comment that I saw was one that said that it was one thing to list the tools, quite another thing to access them from his school.

So which of the top 12 can't you get to? I know for example that many education deployments in Australia block access to Google Docs, YouTube, and Facebook.

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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Top tools - nothing much has changed!

Jane Hart has compiled her Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010 list.

With Twitter coming out on top for the second year in a row, the list (well the top 10 or so) looks as if nothing much has changed. Some new tools have emerged, but they are all relatively low on the list so far. There's been a bit of a shuffle in the top 10 and Facebook, Prezi, and Drop Box have made quite big gains.

Jane has some good sub-lists such as the 2010 Best in Breed List which categorises tools according to what they actually do, so if you are looking for something for a particular task, then this will be useful.

You might also like to look at the 2011 list which has quite a few new additions. One of the useful features of this list is that each is linked to an explanatory page on the site. Yoy can contribute to the compilation of the 2011 list.

Try the slide share on the site: this describes each of the top 100.

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Friday, 15 October 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water

One of the foci for today's Blog Action Day is Water over-consumption in industrialised countries.

That means us here in Australia!
Being an island we tend to assume we are isolated form some of the world's problems, but our water management has an important effect on the rest of the world's ecology, whether it is just the way we use/waste our money in creating solutions to water shortages, or whether it is because we buy products that require heavy water usage for their production.

Here are some of the pointers that the organisers of BAD2010 have sent me.

Water over-consumption in industrialized countries:
While the developing world faces a water crisis, those in industrialized countries consume far more than their fair share.

• Food Footprint:
It takes 24 litres of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion litres of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe. 
• Technology Footprint:
The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a litre of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that's 40 million litres to charge those alone.
• Fashion Footprint:
That cotton t-shirt you're wearing right now took 1,514 litres of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 litres.
• Bottled Water Footprint:
The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. 

 Water and the environment:
The disregard for water resources in industrialized countries impacts more than humans – it causes environmental devastation.

• Waste Overflow:
Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities.
• Polluted Oceans:
Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. 
• Uninhabitable Rivers:
Today, 40% of America's rivers and 46% of America's lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life. 

 Water solutions:

The good news is that there are great organizations working on solutions and new tools that empower people to do their part to address the water crisis.

• Building Wells:
Organizations like Water.org and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world.
• Technology for Good:
Do you want to measure how much water it took to make your favorite foods? There's an app for that.
• Conservation Starts at Home:
The average person uses 465 litres of water per day. Find out how much you use.
• Keeping Rivers Clean:
We can all take small steps to help keep pollution out of our rivers and streams, like correctly disposing of household wastes. 
• Drop the Bottle:
Communities around the world are taking steps to reduce water bottle waste by eliminating bottled water.

Australian Classroom Resources

  • Mission H2O game: there are 8 online games here at SaveWater. The focus is to discover water saving tips for every room in the house. You can submit your highest score for prizes.
  • Yarra Valley Water has a range of online educational materials
  • 17-23 October is National Water Week in Australia. Visit the site for resources, water conservation tips, educational activities, and conservation tips.
  • Yarra Valley Water has been conducting a short film competition leading up to national Water Week. The 2010 winners will be announced on 18 October and you can see the 2009 winners here.

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

Be Aware - Blog Action Day is tomorrow

The focus for BAD 2010, tomorrow 15 October, is water.

Here in the driest state in the driest continent, we are very conscious of water restrictions and the fear of not having enough, but there is probably still quite a lot we could still be doing.

Water and sanitation are fundamental human rights. Everyone should have sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, safe and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses.

Water-borne diseases are responsible for 80 per cent of illnesses and deaths in the developing world, killing a child every eight seconds.

The human body is about 70 per cent water. Water lost through bodily functions needs to be replaced within a couple of days. Diarrhoeal diseases increase the rate of water loss causing the deaths of many babies. A simple mixture of sugar and salts, Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT), reduces infant deaths

If you are looking for resources why not try edna's Global Education website? There are a large number of teaching activities available on the site.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Get into the action on 15 October

15th October is Blog Action Day worldwide and this year we are thinking about water.

Here are some messages to think about:

  • Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that bouquet of bacteria, it's no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.
  • More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.
  • Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.
  • It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that's just one meal! It would take over 184 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.

Water riches, water poverty

The top five biggest average daily users of water are the U.S., Australia, Italy, Japan, and Mexico - all five of these use well over 300 litres daily. The countries where water poverty is the worst and water usage is the lowest are Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia, and Uganda - these five use 15 litres or less daily. While some parts of our water footprint, including how much corporations and agriculture use or waste water, are not under our control, we can find simple ways to cut our daily water use, and even save money.

Average national water footprint per capita (m3/cap/yr). Green means that the nations's water footprint is equal to or smaller than the global average. Countries with red have a water footprint beyond the global average. Period: 1997-2001.

Check some more resources here.

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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Free iPad App from ESA

Pirate treasure hunt: eight challenges

Join forces with Pirate Jack. He needs your help to solve eight problems and find the hidden treasure. Use the map to work your way through the obstacles one by one and in the right order. Apply your maths and literacy skills to make sure you collect the correct item before tackling the next obstacle. For example, you’ll need to order a set of words from coldest to hottest to find a lantern before you can explore a dark cave. Use different strategies to solve the clues, and you’ll find the booty. This learning object is one in a series of three objects.

Key learning objectives:

- Students analyse problems by using a range of strategies, including interpreting clues, intuition, and trial and error.
- Students solve problems by using literacy and numeracy skills.

Educational value:

- Provides opportunities for students to solve problems using their literacy and numeracy skills within the context of a pirate treasure map.
- Encourages the use of trial and error to discover the correct sequence of problem solving.
- Includes a variety of problem types which focus on, for example, spelling, shapes, visual cues, word knowledge, addition of numbers and time.

More information and link

Developed from a Learning Object developed for The Learning Federation


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Friday, 1 October 2010

New OzProject- Delhi 2010

The Commonwealth Games have been held every 4 years since 1930 except during World War 2.  They have changed a lot over the years. Only single competition games were featured until team sports were introduced in 1998.
There are currently 53 members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and 71 teams participate in the Games.

A new project has been created by the OzProjects team to celebrate the 2010 Commonwealth Games which will be held in Delhi, India from October 3-14.

This project for middle primary to lower secondary students provides a range of activities and resources centred around the Games.

Activities include links to information about the host city (Delhi) and country (India) and participating countries and the sports which will be played.  There are several online puzzles and quizzes suitable for use on an interactive whiteboard.

Students can learn about the mascot for the 2010 games and create a talking mascot for the 2014 games which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Delhi 2010 project is available at http://www.ozprojects.edu.au/course/view.php?id=161 .

The OzProjects team can provide teachers and students with assistance to get started.  Please email ozprojects@edna.edu.au

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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Blog Action Day 2010

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action.

This year's topic is Water.

Right now, almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s one in eight of us who are subject to preventable disease and even death because of something that many of us take for granted.

Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.

After all, clean water is essential for our survival, but dangerously scarce. Nearly one billion people in the world today don't have access to clean water and 42,000 people die each week from water-borne diseases. And the issue doesn't stop there — water availability impacts a wide variety of issues from the environment to women's rights and from technology to fashion. If you're unsure what to write about on October 15th, there are some great suggestions on the Blog Action Day site.

Registrations for Blog Action Day have now opened.
Why not make blogging about water a class project for October 15?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Steps towards e-text books

Japan will soon start trialling electronic textbooks in primary schools, enhancing the role of IT in the classroom for a generation of "digital natives" born in the wired age.


Free high schools text books for Maths and Science - available from Amazon, or as pdf - could be loaded onto the iPad


CK-12 Trigonometry
CK-12 People's Physics Book Version 2
CK-12 Life Science
CK-12 Geometry
CK-12 Engineering: An Introduction for High School
CK-12 Earth Science
CK-12 Chemistry
CK-12 Calculus
CK-12 Biology I - Honors
CK-12 Algebra I
CK-12 Advanced Probability and Statistics
CK-12 21st Century Physics: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies

Comment from a teacher on a list I belong to:

I have had a look at the Chemistry ebook. It is a good reference for senior students (and their teachers) seeking extension and deep understanding.  The illustrations are informative and attractive.  It pre-supposes a thorogh year 10 knowledge, and does not build concepts from
the ground up as is necessary for the NSW Syllabus.  It includes terms that NSW students do not encounter until the HSC course in Year 12.  The book also provides students with extra calculations, extra readings on the web and sources of videos. If my students could answer the questions in this text I would be ecstatic (and redundant)

Create your own textbooks?

Have you seen e-readups?
It basically allows the user to select resources from wikipedia (more available if you ask for an account) and then generates an e-book in .mobi and epub formats. The resultant e-book has a hyperlinked table of contents. I could imagine it could be very usful on almost any topic, so long as you trusted the content.

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Friday, 24 September 2010

Creative Minds of 21st Century Librarians: an e-Book Project

Today I am just passing on something I've come across
Author: Marilyn P. Arnone

book cover

From the Creative Minds of 21st Century Librarians is CDL’s first e-book project made possible in part through an IMLS grant awarded to CDL in 2008 to update the AASL standards in the S.O.S. for Information Literacy database. This 275-page free downloadable resource contains dozens of lesson plans that implement AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in the context of the curriculum. Contributing authors include more than 30 teacher-librarians. The book, edited by Marilyn P. Arnone, Ruth V. Small, and Barbara K. Stripling, was more than a year in the making and features a foreword by Barbara Stripling and graphic design by Marguerite Chadwick-Juner. If you are looking for creative ideas that target the standards to implement in your school library, this book will help you jumpstart the process. Download the publication and please pass on this link to your colleagues in the school library field.

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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Presentations that may interest

The first two are presentations that I gave yesterday.

They are both produced in Prezi, a tool that if you haven't yet tried, you should.

e-books: the state of play, barriers & challenges

Virtual Worlds: why we need to allow SL access in our libraries

A Scholar Gets a Kindle and Starts to Read
James J. O’Donnell, Provost as well as Professor of Classics during Georgetown University, talks about a intensity of e-books as well as e-readers.

An interesting talk where he talks about his needs as a scholar, and how e-readers, the Kindle in particular (because that's what he's been using), are like a paprus roll, giving linear access to text. He says all the current e-readers have selected a  form of reading that is old-fashioned, and not what the modern scholar needs. They are better for "ludic reading" - reading for pleasure - rather than academic.

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Reading more with e-readers?

It is probably a little early to consider the impact of e-readers on reading habits but already US sources are claiming a surge in reading with the new devices.

A recent survey from Marketing and Research Resources found that 40 percent of those questioned now read more on their Kindles and iPads than they did with print books, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A study of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources Inc. found that 40% said they now read more than they did with print books. Of those surveyed, 58% said they read about the same as before while 2% said they read less than before. And 55% of the respondents in the May study, paid for by e-reader maker Sony Corp., thought they'd use the device to read even more books in the future. The study looked at owners of three devices: Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle, Apple Inc.'s iPad and the Sony Reader.

The Wall Street Journal article continues... because e-book gadgets are portable, people report they're reading more and at times when a book isn't normally an option: on a smartphone in the doctor's waiting room; through a Ziploc-bag-clad Kindle in a hot tub, or on a treadmill with a Sony Reader's fonts set to jumbo. Among commuters, e-readers are starting to catch up with BlackBerrys as the preferred companions on trains and buses.

Committed readers are also saying that their e-reader won't totally replace paper books in their hands but the following characteristics of e-readers are without doubt contributing to their growth in popularity:

  • the portability of the devices. Earlier attempts at e-readers were not successful because they were basically software on a computer. Until recently computers were not very portable and so the user was tethered to the desk, using a back-lit screen.
    • for me this is where those who claim that netbooks or laptops with e-reader software are a satisfactory substitute are still missing the point.  The clue lies in the instant availability, lightness, portability, and dedicated nature of the device.
  • the ability to acquire a new book in a moment, on a whim - Amazon for example are saying that sales of e-books has spiralled upwards - "its customers buy 3.3 times as many books after buying a Kindle" - but is that just because they are now able to track the book purchases more readily?
    Certainly if my own behaviour is anything to go by, I see a book advertised and think I wonder if Amazon has it for Kindle
  • the ability to scale a font larger or smaller to suit your eyesight. I hadn't realised how important that was becoming to me until I struck a paper book where the font is just a little small for me. A friend recently revealed that she can't read a 550 page book in bed, not because it is heavy, but because the print is too small.
    There's another point to the font issue: there is some evidence that now suggests that a child with reading difficulties may find the lines of larger font easier to follow, and even be completing books, a new experience for them. See more
  • There's a suggestion that the voice synthesisers available on e-readers and iPad apps may help the reader bridge the text/meaning gap by appealing to visual and auditory sense simultaneously. A case in point might be an iPad app that allows child to touch a story and have it read to them, similar to the "bouncing ball" technique we used to use in computer prohgrams to teach reading.
  • if you are travelling, or studying, then an e-reader can replace the several books you would carry about with you.
  • Many of us were surprised when the recent Jacob Nielsen survey claimed that we read more slowly with e-readers. Anecdotal evidence was suggesting to me that we are actually reading faster with an e-reader. When I checked on what text Nielsen used in the survey, I wasn't actually surprised. I still think an e-reader encourages you to read faster.
  • And here's an article that suggests that e-readers allow us to read in non-linear ways that actually enhance the reading experience
  • availability of free books - again from the Wall Street Journal - E-reader users also say that 52% of their e-books were ones they purchased, while 48% of their e-books were free because they were sample giveaways or out-of-copyright.

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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Teaching with an e-book - part 1

As in schools the e-book and e-reader debate continues, and hovers on the "which device?" and "which format?" sticking points, it also strikes me that we need to think about what we will do in teaching and learning if e-books become a reality.

I saw something recently where a teacher was talking about the difficulties of using e-texts in a classroom where you have some students using a traditional paper book, and some using a text book via the e-reader.

I am hoping that this post will attract some comments from teachers who have actually "done it" - some classroom teaching where some students are using an e-reader of some sort.

In case you are not experienced and don't understand what difficulties we could be seeing, here are just a few.

  • A "paper" book has page numbers, and it is a relatively simple exercise to tell everyone what page to go to.
  • The Kindle format uses location numbers (but not page numbers). The number of locations a book has remains constant regardless of font size. So if the whole class is using the same size Kindles then being at the same location is also relatively simple.
    • However I have discovered that Kindle for PC does not use the same location format (as a Kindle device)  for the same book. So then to be at the same location, you will need to use the Table of Contents (if there is one). Currently Kindle for PC does not have a "search" facilitiy, although it does Have "Go To"
    • Today I have compared e-copies of A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. Until that practical experiment I had assumed that the Kindle formats would be the same.
  • I've also experimented with another title THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES  by Conan Doyle on both the Kindle for PC and the Borders e-reader (on my computer).
    • The Borders application uses epub, so although the source of both copies is probably the Gutenberg Project, Borders numbers its pages according to how many there are in the chapter, and, just to complicate things, if you change the size of the font on the screen, the number of pages changes.
    • On Kindle for PC, the number of locations remains constant even when you change the font size.
    • Neither the Borders e-reader on the computer, nor the Kindle for PC have a search tool. Borders has a "table of contents" for this novel, as does Kindle for PC.
    • But how would you get on I wonder if the "table of contents" was not recognised?  Sometimes, I have noticed that the Kindle version of a book has not been formatted to show a table of contents. This is the case in the Kindle version of THE MEMOIRS.
  • If we add a fourth e-reading device to the mix, namely the iPad, and you have running on that one of the above Apps or iBook, then life just gets a even more complicated.

But - it can be done!  I guess what it boils down to is that the e-reader is just the vehicle for the text. What happens in that context, with a variety of e-readers is up to the teacher's management strategies. It would certainly help if the teacher was aware of the limitations of each device.

But we really can't assume that a particular text will be delivered the same way on a variety of devices.

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Friday, 10 September 2010

10 second grabs and 140 characters

There's an interesting re-surfacing of the debate about whether going digital is making us dumber, or at the very least reducing our concentration span, making us cyber butterflies.

On one of my blogs I monitor what visitors do when they arrive. Many alight on a post from a Google search, and then, less than a minute later, they have departed on a link they have found on my blog. I've never thought of that in the light of reduced attention span. I've always thought it was a sign that they had found what they were looking for. Google Analytics tells me that even on this blog, the average visitor spend only 1:03 minutes before they bounce off somewhere else. Can they, I ask, get the meaning of my post in that time?

Critics of Twitter, who are invariably not persisent users, deride the fact that tweets have a 140 character limit. After all, what of import can you say in such a short space? They obviously don't understand the lengths you have to go to in reducing your message to the 140 character limit and yet still get your meaning across. Most of us can read 140 characters in 10 seconds or less.

In a recent article in The Age, How the internet makes us stupid, Nicholas Carr writes "A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the net, with its constant distractions and interruptions, is turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers."  He's writing a new book The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember, and he says he was stimulated to write the book after realising his own capacity to focus and concentrate was changing. He attributes it to some sort of internet addiction. [Factors like advancing age, eyesight, and pressures of work crop up in my mind.]

Of course there are those who object strongly to this point of view. Computer World echoes "Digital Doesn't mean Dumb. It’s a myth that we have all become Twitter-brained visual grazers with no appetite for prose."
PC Advisor makes a similar point, claiming that  It’s a myth that we have all become Twitter-brained visual grazers with no appetite for prose. I’m with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who said: “There is no such thing as an attention span. People have infinite attention if you are entertaining them.”  The article goes on to claim that good digital design helps us locate what we want to know more quickly.

It all reminds me a bit of the debate between the skim-readers and the rest. Those of us who can't skim-read a book for any length of time claim that those who do must miss a lot of meaning and nuance.

I'm more inclined to think that the pressures we are under to cope with information overload, and at the same time appear to be on top of it all, means that we have to be able to flit like cyber butterflies. The important this is to be able to recognise the good oil when we've found it, and to be able to think deeply about the issues.

That's why information literacy is so critical in education, more than ever before. Our students have to be taught to skim, to recognise, to select, and then dwell when needed.

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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

e-books and e-readers: criteria for choosing your e-reader

There are some common questions that educators and librarians ask about choosing an e-reader.

  • Which comes first the e-reader or the variety of e-books that I have access to?
  • What was the process that you used to select an e-reader?
  • What criteria would you suggest in choosing an e-reader a) for ourselves and b) for our primary students?

Current evidence seems to suggest that many are waiting for answers to these questions before deciding to see which way to jump. I actually think teachers/librarians need to be a bit more pro-active than that and try to get some experience in using e-readers and in reading e-books.

For myself, I bought a Kindle because they were virtually all that were on the market here in Australia a year ago. Purchase was easy, delivery was quick, and I've added about 100 fiction books both manually and through purchase from Amazon.

Mine is the Kindle 6” which is fine for reading fiction, and I would say, suits both adult and secondary school readers, and perhaps even middle school.
There has been some research done with middle school students in the US particularly in relation to the effect on reading of being able to vary the size of text.
The research seems to say that for children/older readers with reading difficulties, being able to increase the size of text is beneficial, because they then have a better ability to “hold the line” with their eyes.
I’ve blogged about this at http://blogs.educationau.edu.au/ksmith/2010/05/12/e-book-readers-and-reading-competence/

In my opinion though, the 6” Kindle (or any other small e-reader for that matter) is for reading fiction, not text books where you would expect graphics and charts.
That is where the larger device, say the Kindle DX or the iPad or the Dream Books (http://www.pioneercomputers.com.au/products/info.asp?c1=183&c2=184&id=3172) probably comes into its own, and then you have to think about whether you want colour.
The bigger size (10 or 11 inches) and colour both add to the cost (although the Kindle DX still uses “black” e-ink)
And it becomes a question of whether you want the device to do other things as well as contain an e-reader.

In a poll that I ran recently here is what people chose from the criteria I listed
Colour  - 1 (6%)
adjusting text size - 7 (41%)
note making – 4 (24%)
dictionary – 3 (18%)
images - 2  (12%)
bookmarking (keeping your place) – 7 (41%)
audio -2 (12%)
not applicable - no experience – 9 (53%)
Other - 0

Now, I left cost off the criteria there, although I expect that for schools anyway that will be an important factor.
Whether you can justify buying an iPad for more than $600.

There is another factor to consider here at least in secondary schools: many students now have a laptop or a netbook.
What about if they had Kindle for PC software or some other e-reading device such as Calibre on their lap top – can you justify buying e-readers at all?

So I’d suggest you try drawing up a matrix with the important criteria on it (similar to the one below), and then rating them to see if that helps you make a decision.

Criteria for selecting an e-reading device


Most -5




Least -1







Text size adjustment






Note making
























Keeps your place


















Read fiction






Text books






Do we already have laptops?






Availability of particular books






Size and weight of device






However on top of these criteria you need to look at ease of use (and that's where the teacher/librarian's personal experience comes in, and the ease of adding new books, or isolating access to the account from students.

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