Who is Smik?

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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