Who is Smik?

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

e-book essentials for educators

A recent online forum that I led for over a week has brought me to the conclusion that the most essential thing for educators and educational librarians is to get some experience in using e-book readers and reading e-books. The cause needs some champions in their ranks, otherwise it will drown in the "which device?" debate.

The following shows the result of a mini-survey that some of the discussion participants responded to.

To be quite honest I had anticipated a much greater level of experience, and it certainly seems to me that educators are lagging behind the readers in the real world.

I know, reading a book takes time, and that is a pretty valuable commodity in the educator's world.
But without experience there will be no vision, and there will be no experimentation with pedagogy. Changes in education, particularly the adoption of new devices and new practices, is a horrendously slow process.
But if anything, 2010 will be the year that the e-book in education became a possibility, whichever device you settle on. We desperately need people in our schools, TAFEs and universities who know what they are talking about when it comes to e-books. It is only from there that other issues can be identified and solutions found for their use in education.

This discussion is one that is going on around the world, so it presents an opportunity for Australian educators to be at the cutting edge about the use of one technology in their pedagogical practice, and to show leadership in their own local situation.

And at the very least it will help us with this problem:

As always, your comments will be very welcome.

Monday, 30 August 2010

The School Uniform debate

Every now and again the issue of school uniforms crops up.
This morning the Sydney Morning Herald claims that Australian students are "growing up in a society where the dominant and long-held view is that school uniforms instil discipline, a sense of self-worth and equality." It says that strict uniform codes have been cited as a contributing factor for a growing shift to private schools in recent years. It also implies Australia might be out of step with the rest of the world. (Although perhaps the journalist has not observed students overseas, particularly those on school excursions.)
Certainly in my experience many Australian parents support the wearing of uniforms, and neat and tidy ones at that, until it comes down to a confrontation with their own rebellious offspring. Then it becomes the school's problem.
Back in the dark ages when I was in secondary school we had a basic uniform, and, in my memory at least, most wore it with good grace. Then when I left my rural high school to go to a city one for my final year, I was horrified to find that the basic uniform had been augmented with hat, gloves, and stockings. (Year 12s at XXXX don't wear socks!)  And all I could think of was that those accoutrements effectively stopped me from playing tennis at lunchtime.
Within my city school the uniform was definitely seen as a status symbol and I was constantly in trouble for forgotten gloves and hat, conveniently languishing overnight in my locker. I was paraded before Year 8s as a recalcitrant who didn't have the good name of the school at heart, and tackled by former teachers in the street about where my hat was and what a disgrace to the school I looked!
Me, who was definitely amongst the most conservative of students!
Later, as a teacher, I was expected to enforce the wearing of the school uniform too, and monitor the length of hair, and the type of shoes (no sneakers permitted), and earrings - the list went on. Whether or not I could get my class to comply was seen as a reflection on my abilities to inspire.
So, a bit of a personal rant today - but this is what the SMH article brought to the surface.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. It is the global voice of the library and information profession.

The World Report series is a biennial report series that reports on the state of the world in terms of freedom of access to information, freedom of expresion and related issues. The reports are available online at http://www.ifla.org/en/publications/iflafaife-world-report-series and can be downloaded free of charge. The 2010 Report has been designed as a customizable interactive electronic publication and can be accessed in different formats through maps.

a country-oriented map interface allows users to produce a full or partial country report or comparative country reports, depending on choices.

A question-oriented interface allows users to get information on a single question for all countries that have participated in the 2010 Report.

There is a single report for Australia with selected facts supplied by ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association)

Population: 21,262,641 (July 2009 est.)
Internet users: 17033826
Internet penetration: 80.10% 
Estimated number of public libraries in the country: 1515
University research libraries: 39
Estimated School libraries: 9000
Government funded research libraries: 200+
Check the report itself for further information

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Monday, 23 August 2010

Book Week Australia celebrates 65 years

Book Week is the longest running children's festival in Australia, celebrating its 65th birthday in 2010.

The date for Book Week 2010 this year is August 21st - 27th.
Each year, many schools and public libraries from all over Australia spend a week celebrating books and Australian authors and illustrators. Classroom teachers, teacher librarians and public librarians develop activities, offer competitions and tell stories relating to a theme to highlight the importance of reading.

2010 CBCA Awards

Winners of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards have been announced today in Brisbane. Congratulations to all winners, honour book authors and illustrators as well as those who were shortlisted.

2010 CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers:

  • Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen

Honour Books

  • The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke
  • A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard

2010 CBCA Picture Book of the Year

  • The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers

Honour Books

  • Isabella’s Garden by Glenda Millard illustrated by Rebecca Cool
  • Fox and Fine Feathers by Narelle Oliver

2010 CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers

  • Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool by Odo Hirsch

Honour Books

  • Running with the Horses by Alison Lester
  • Pearl verses the World by Sally Murphy

2010 CBCA Book of the Year, Early Childhood

Bear & Chook by the Sea by Lisa Shanahan illustrated by Emma Quay

Honour Books

  • Kip by Christina Booth
  • Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House by Libby Gleeson illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

  • Australian Backyard Explorer by Peter Macinnis

Honour Books

  • Polar Eyes: a Journey to Antarctica by Tanya Patrick illustrated by Nicholas Hutcheson
  • Maralinga: The Anangu Story by Yalata and Oak Communities with Christobel Mattingley

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

19 August, World Humanitarian Day

Humanitarian Principles represent the foundation of humanitarian action. Key humanitarian principles include:
Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found. The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings.
Neutrality: Humanitarian actors must not take sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
Impartiality: Humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religious belief, class or political opinion.
Operational Independence: Humanitarian action must be autonomous from the political, economic, military or other objectives that any actor may hold with regard to areas where humanitarian action is being implemented".
UN site.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The device is less important than the principle

In my news items today - reports of a North American university giving iPads away to its students, and another giving students a choose between a free iPhone or iPod Touch.

Recently Reuters commented "It's the old razors and blades thing. You give away the razor and sell the blades in perpetuity", commenting that the price war in e-book readers stil l has a way to go. Amazon is hoping the e-books sales will be the revenue driver, rather than the devices themselves.

Just recently Amazon announced that their e-book sales were booming, and the sceptics commented that it was probably not just the availability of Kindles, but of the Kindle App on the iPad, plus the Kindle for PC software for laptops and computers that have driven the sales.

 I see the which device?  discussion as a bit of a barrier at the moment.  The problem is that no-one really seems to have come up with a cheap enough device that will handle all e-book formats at the moment. The iPad comes close, but involves downloading a number of apps, and several different methods of acquiring books, none of which involves borrowing. Laptops and netbooks and tablets come close too, particularly if you don't want to have number of electronic devices to cart around.

We really need two things:

  1. a device that will read all formats
  2. a vendor that will sell all formats

And after that we need to solve problems of lending e-books, copyright restrictions, geographic restrictions.

But above all we need to agree that e-books are a good way to go in education, and we need to recognise that we can be not just consumers, but creators of e-books.

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Friday, 13 August 2010

Australia's biggest generation heads for retirement

The Baby Boomers are categorised as those born between 1946  and 1964 - that means the first of them basically turn 65 next year. Many of them, like me, are on the cusp of retirement. Currently they constitute 36% of the workforce, and, from my own experience, may actually constitute a bigger percentage of the teaching workforce.

We have already noted the impact on schools, where some baby boomers who have been in the school for a decade or even more, have retired and left a giant hole.

An article headed Retiring baby boomers spur rapid change in workforce points out that Gen Y, the next generation, has very different expectations of their working life. It has often taken Gen Y longer to get qualifications and begin paid work, and they are often beginning their adult life already in debt.

86% of Gen Y expect a promotion within 2 years - as Baby Boomer teachers will know, promotion avenues have been absent for much of their working life, and it has often been a case of early promotion, and then nowhere higher to climb.

With the torch set to pass to Gen Y, employers are being encouraged to revise their workplace culture and initiatives in order to attract and retain the new work force powerhouse.

According to McCrindle research the top 5 attraction and retention factors for Gen Y are: 

  • Work-life balance
  • Workplace community
  • Management style
  • Broad job description
  • Training & development       my source

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Thursday, 12 August 2010

I love my Twitter Daily

If you take a look at my personalised twitter Daily what you are looking at is an aggregation of twitter and RSS feeds from people I follow.

The Daily is divided up into "interest" categories and each displays a number of posts. In the top right corner of the categories a number tells me how many more items I can find there.

I do have Tweet Deck running on my computer, in the background, throughout the day but, like most of the people who read this blog, there is no way that I can justify doing more than glance occasionally at it, and sometimes contributing.

What Twitter Daily does is

  1. aggregate in newspaper form items from a number of the people whom I follow on Twitter. You can see who they are under the snippet.
  2. Every morning I get an email alert from Small Rivers to tell me my new "daily" is available.

So I probably do miss stuff, but the Daily at least provides the tweets in an interesting format and I can pick items that interest me at a glance.

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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Why do educators feel time-poor?

If you talk to teachers, most will tell you they never have enough time to do all that they would like to do. I was reminded of this when I saw the title of a webinar: Tips, Tricks, and Time -Saving.

You may have your own theories about what causes this situation and I invite you to comment.

Here are some of my thoughts

  • in some ways it is a state of mind - teachers/educators are so busy, particularly when they have a large number of contact hours, that they literally feel run off their feet.
  • Some of the activities required of them in the course of their pedagogy are very time consuming (marking, researching, preparation) and almost impossible to complete in the course of a working day.
  • In schools at least most teachers have a number of administrative chores that they carry out on a daily or weekly basis, that often take significant time, and which haven't been simplified by technology.
    Add to that many "legacy" tasks which are leftovers from pre-technology, and then "duty of care" tasks (such as yard duty which in both the USA and the UK have been given to assistants rather than teachers)
  • pressures of professional learning and professional development mean that teaching is not a job that stays behind when you walk out of the gate. Professional learning these days often has to take place "after hours", and then is likely to generate pressures when you try to fit in doing "something new".
  • pressures generated by the need to develop ongoing relationships with students (some secondary teachers have upwards of 150 students to develop these with), parents, and colleagues, makes teaching very different to most other occupations. My doctor probably has a similar number of patients (probably even more), but he doesn't see all of them every week, nor, in most cases, is he engaged in teaching them something new.

So there's a start to the list. Why do you feel time-poor? Or don't you? Any solutions?

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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

National Science Week in Australia 14-22 August 2010

August 14-22 will be National Science Week.
Each year a National Science Week theme for schools is chosen to assist teachers focus and plan ways to engage students in National Science Week celebrations.

The schools’ theme for 2010 is Australian Biodiversity.

The Australian Science Teachers Association has produced a teacher resource book which is available for download.

The online OzProject Be Aware of Biodiversity  aims to engage students in a celebration of biodiversity and increase their understanding of this global issue in 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. It includes activities and resources for students from lower primary to lower secondary.

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Friday, 6 August 2010

Survey about e-books

Hiroshima Day, 6 August

This day commemorates the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
The message of Hiroshima, as reflected in the lives of the survivors, is ‘Never Again!’

The promise on the Memorial Cenotaph at Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park reads: ‘Let All Souls Here Rest in Peace, For We Shall Not Repeat the Evil.’ 

See the Hiroshima Peace Memorial site: http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/top_e.html and also the Peace Building section of edna's Global Education website: http://www.globaleducation.edna.edu.au/globaled/go/pid/554

The wrecked framework of the Museum of Science and Industry as it appeared shortly after the the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945.  City officials decided to preserve this building as a memorial though they had at first planned to rebuild it.  The dome has come to serve as a symbol of the destruction of Hiroshima.

Credit: Donated by Corbis-Bettmann
Source http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/content.cfm/hiroshima_peace_dome

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

myfuture Video Competition

myfuture is Australia's career information & exploration service, supported by funding from the Australian Government, and is a joint initiative of Australian, state and territory governmnets.

The myfuture Video Competition - Best School Entry category opened on 30 July and will closes on 29 October 2010. Individual students and groups are encouraged to enter.

The aim of the competition is to assist young people (aged 12-25) to explore career ideas
by producing a 2-3 minute video on an occupation that interests them.
To assist educators and students with creating videos, the competition is supported by a wide range of complimentary educational resources. These valuable resources are relevant to career education and video production.
This is a motivating and exciting opportunity for students Australia wide to explore their future in a creative and innovative way.

New categories for the 2010 competition include the myfuture Youth Video Award (non secondary school) that offers a cash prize of $7500.
This category commences on 1 August and closes on Friday 28 February 2011.

All entrants will also have the chance to win an additional $5000 with the myfuture Viewers’ Choice Video Award.
Voted by myfuture visitors, videos entered into the Youth and School categories will be automatically submitted into the Viewers’ Choice category.

Visit the myfuture website (http://www.myfuture.edu.au) for further information
and to sign up to receive regular competition updates that will provide helpful tips for producing a video entry.

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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Students need education in media literacy

This is probably not news to educators, but a new study of American college students has found that students will often choose a website simply because it tops a Google search result. In addition they seem to lack the ability to determine the credibility or the authoritativeness of what they've found.

Having been born into a world where personal computers were not a revolution, but merely existed alongside air conditioning, microwaves and other appliances, there has been (a perhaps misguided) perception that the young are more digitally in-tune with the ways of the Web than others. source

The Partnership for Twenty-First Century Skills has identifed the following as one of the important elements intwenty-first century student outcomes.

Information, Media and Technology Skills

    * Information Literacy
    * Media Literacy
    * ICT Literacy

Critical Thinking is listed under Learning and Innovation Skills.

Critical Literacy is defined in a Wikipedia article as

an instructional approach that advocates the adoption of critical perspectives toward text. Critical literacy encourages readers to actively analyze texts and it offers strategies for uncovering underlying messages. There are several different theoretical perspectives on critical literacy that have produced different pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning. All of these approaches share the basic premise that literacy requires the literate consumers of text to adopt a critical and questioning approach.

The new Australian curriculum gives explicit attention to ten general capabilities (literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology (ICT), thinking skills, creativity, self-management, teamwork, intercultural understanding, ethical behaviour and social competence), and the development of critical literacy is recognised in more than one syllabus.

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