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Monday, 28 February 2011

Days/events to celebrate, particuarly in Australian schools

Many thanks to edna's Global Education newsletter for the following information.

Visit http://www.globaleducation.edna.edu.au/news to subscribe to the newsletter or to read the latest issue online.
Global Education News is published by the Global Education website, funded by AusAID to support its Global Education Program and compiled by education.au limited.

Schools Clean Up Australia Day, 4 March

Join the thousands of school students across Australia on the Friday before the National Clean Up Day. Registration provides you with an education kit. http://www.cleanup.com.au
Read the Case study, The power of many, Waste management in Wewak, Papua New Guinea to find out about students in PNG cleaning up their environment and writing about it.

National Seaweek, 6-12 March

Seaweek is the Marine Education Society of Australasia’s (MESA) major national public awareness campaign. In 2011, the theme is ‘Spotlight on Marine Science’. Through a spotlight on the work of scientists we can learn more our marine environment to understand its complex ecosystems and become better equipped to preserve it. Information and teaching resources are available at

Try the global education website’s Global Learning Quest, Prawns the global delicacy.

International Women's Day, 8 March

On International Women’s Day, we can review the progress made towards equal rights, and equality of political and economic participation, for women. The UN CyberSchoolBus has accessible information on equality, discrimination, and access to education for women, and contains some useful links for the celebration of International Women’s Day.
Choose activities from the global education website to help students explore the consequences of discrimination on the basis of gender and understand how the empowerment of women and girls leads to improved living conditions for all.

Commonwealth Day, 9 March

The aim of commemorating Commonwealth Day is to promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the work of the Commonwealth to improve the lives of its 2 billion citizens. The theme for 2011 is Women as Agents of Change'

Harmony Day, 21 March

‘Living in Harmony’ is an Australian Government initiative designed to promote community harmony, build relationships between people and address racism where it occurs in Australia. It coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and promotes the values of harmony, community, diversity, commitment, goodwill, and understanding. The theme for 2011 is ‘Everyone Belongs’. The website provides useful links to resources, classroom activities and lessons plans as well as free posters, button badges, Harmony Day temporary tattoos, stickers and balloons.

World Forestry Day, 21 March

World Forestry Day, helps us focus on the International Year of Forests. It helps us consider the benefits of forests - such as catchment protection, providing habitat for plants, areas for recreation, education and scientific study, and as a source of many products including timber and honey. World Forestry Day also aims to provide opportunities for people to learn how forests can be managed and used sustainably for these many purposes.

World Water Day 2011, 22 March

The theme for 2011, Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge, aims to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.

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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Is IWD 2011 on your calendar?

Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Some years have seen global IWD themes honoured around the world, while in other years groups have preferred to 'localise' their own themes to make them more specific and relevant.

This year's United Nations theme is Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women

In Australia

- Australia, UNIFEM: Unite to End Violence Against Women
- Australia, Queensland Government Office for Women: Our Women, Our State
- Australia, WA Department for Communities: Sharing the Caring for the Future

Sites to check / teaching activities


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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

e-book management strategies for schools

One of the problems in managing e-book use in schools is that we are dealing with a number of scenarios as the top of this diagram indicates, and the solutions required, or possible, will vary.

The other is that the e-reading devices are not always owned by the school. The school may be providing devices for experiential reasons, or social/economic equity, but often you'll need to manage download to not only a variety of devices, involving 3 main formats (see yesterday's post), but also allow access to school resources to privately owned devices.

What I've tried to show in the bottom diagram Repositories are the solutions being attempted in Australian schools. It is a sort of tiered approach, although the elements run in parellel to each other,  and it is possible that not all 4 elements will be present. The Third Party Solutions for example may well be financially beyond the school as setting them up and then paying an annual licence fee are expensive. The Third Party Solutions won't replace the hard copy holdings of the school library, and if the school ends up with nothing to show for their spending on e-books, then higher authorities may not regard it as money well spent. The other thing with a Third Party Solution is that implementation in a school has to be accompanied by quite a high level of usage to present an economically valid argument. Anecdotal reports I have heard about implementation in public libraries for example have talked about an initial flurry of borrowing, then a slackening off, and the need to build up a clientele through pro-active measures.

Is your school doing something that doesn't fit this diagram? Or does it cover everything you are doing? I'd love to know. Leave a comment please.

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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A classroom with e-books

There are logistical problems (page numbering, battery life, power, using text to voice) but they are not insurmountable.

Bigger problems are going to come from getting copies downloaded onto the various devices, but even those are solvable.

Some of my thinking is that the teacher will need to think the pedagogy through carefully. Each of these devices has its own set of distractions and disruptions.

My main question is, if the hard copy option exists, whether the students will learn to, or be encouraged to,  use the productivity tools that e-books and e-readers afford the user.

My fear is that one of the hard copies will be the teacher.

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Monday, 21 February 2011

Rate of change in the e-reading world

I'm building up to some e-book presentations in the next few weeks and beginning to assemble my thoughts.

I wrote an article on e-readers for teacher librarians and cataloguers which was published at the end of the year.

I began

2010 will be seen as the year of the advent of the e-book and the e-book reader. Toward the end of the year teachers and libraries worldwide, and in Australia, had begun pooling their experiences with the new devices, trying to wrap their heads around how e-books could be used in schools, and libraries in particular. The opportunities are enormous, but so are the challenges.

E-books and e-readers have become a topic of special interest to me, and it became obvious from responses to articles that I wrote, presentations that I delivered, and webinars and forums that I participated in, that it is of great interest to others as well.

I suspect that by the end of 2011 we may well have solved some of the challenges, and e-book use will be well-entrenched in our schools and our libraries. We may have to resign ourselves to the insolubility of the other challenges at least for the moment.

So now I'm trying to analyse what progress we've made since I wrote the article. One of the things I'm conscious of is that in a sense nothing has changed, and yet at the same time the rate of change has been huge.
I think by "nothing has changed" I mean that the overall issues are still there, particularly if you are talking about libraries lending e-books and schools issuing e-text books. The barriers still exist as do the management problems. If you have money, then there are solutions within reach, but they may not take you down the path you wanted to travel on.

On the other hand if you are talking about e-readers themselves then the rate of change is enormous. I have a Kindle2 and already Kindle3 has had an upgrade and my Kindle2 is obsolete, if you are talking in terms of the "improvements".
Mind you, a number of the improvements, as far as I can judge, have been cosmetic, and my Kindle2 still does what it always did, provides the service it always has. It seems a pity that Amazon has no intention now of upgrading the functionality of my Kindle2.

I'll witter on a bit more tomorrow...

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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Horizon Report 2012

Each year, the Horizon Report describes six areas of emerging technology that will have significant impact on higher education and creative expression over the next one to five years.

The areas of emerging technology cited for 2011 are:
Time to adoption: One Year or Less > Electronic Books & Mobiles
Time to adoption: Two to Three Years > Augmented Reality & Game-based Learning
Time to adoption: Four to Five Years > Gesture-based Computing & Learning Analytics


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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Australia's National Year of Reading 2012 - NYOR

Australian libraries and library associations are behind a campaign to turn 2012 into the National Year of Reading, NYOR,  linking together all the great things that are already happening around books, reading and literacy, and giving them an extra boost, with fun programs and activities taking place across the country.

Upcoming events listed on the website Love2Read include World Book Day on 3 March, and World Read Aloud Day on 9 March.

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Monday, 14 February 2011

Library Lovers Day, 14 Feb

Show your library and librarians a little love today!

Here are some ideas and resources

From WASLA - a quiz and other ideas

Great ideas from Library Lovers at ALIA



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Friday, 11 February 2011

Australian National Professional Standards for Teachers

Australian Education Ministers announced the release of the National Professional Standards for Teachers on 9 February 2011.  The Standards were endorsed by Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) in late December 2010.

The development of the Standards are seen as a crucial milestone in the national education reforms of Australia.

The Standards aim to promote excellence in teaching and provide a nationally consistent basis for recognising quality teaching. They make explicit what teachers should know, be able to do and what is expected of effective teachers across their career.

Find the standards here:

Frequently Asked Questions

Media Releases

Tony Mackay, chairman of AITSL, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, writing in The Australian: Teachers Make a Difference

Justine Ferrari of The Australian: What happens next is critical

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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Virtual worlds in the classroom: taking the tyranny out of distance

Australian's are generally familiar with the term "tyranny of distance" but many won't realise it was used as the title of a book about Australian history by Geoffrey Blainey

The Tyranny of Distance' is the classic account of how Australia's geographical remoteness has been central to shaping our history and identity--and how it will continue to form our future.

As well as being hailed as a work of enduring scholarship, 'The tyranny of Distance' brings our history to life. Geoffrey Blainey recounts the fascinating story of Australia's development, from Captain Cook's bold voyages and the hardships of the early settlers, through to the challenges we face in the world today.

'This revised and updated edition examines how distance and isolation, while tamed, have always been and will remain vital to Australia's development, even in the twenty-first century 'global village'.

Next week I will be attending the DEHub summit in Sydney.
The focus is Education 2011 to 2021- Global challenges and perspectives of blended and distance learning.
The Symposium panel that I am part of on Wed 16 Feb at 3.25 pm is posing the question: Can virtual worlds take the distance out of education?

My contribution relates to what Education Services Australia has been doing in the Distance Education arena:

ImmersED in Reaction Grid 2009

* Provided an environment for educators to explore virtual worlds.

Two completed activities were 3D Safari (explore educational sims) and Job Interview Roleplay – where teachers and students could take the role of interviewer or job applicant to experience the use of virtual worlds as a role play tool.

* Supported by an edna Group http://www.groups.edna.edu.au/course/view.php?id=2420

* Video created: Immersive Learning: It’s Game On! Available via the edna Group

MyFuture Australia on Second Life 2011
* Supports delivery of career education materials by myfuture.edu.au

* Aimed at career education practitioners and Australian SL visitors

* http://bit.ly/myfutureSLhelp

Today I have been given an interesting ACER publication: Virtual Worlds. Learning in a changing world by Judy O'Connell and Dean Groom.

It begins: Virtual worlds - shared graphical spaces on the Internet - are an exciting new medium for the 21st century. They are the natural evolution of the digital technologies that are defining the 21st century, just as telephone, radio, film and TV helped to define life in the 20th century.

From the final pages: Virtual worlds challenge educators to re-evaluate teaching methods, curriculum, pedagogy, resources, beliefs, attitudes, environmnets, assessment methods and policies that have been the foundations of learning and teaching environments.

The book (51pp) will be valuable to educators for the descriptions of what virtual worlds can offer and for the selected lists, particularly of virtual world environments, where they can learn more and add online communities to their own personal learning networks. There are compelling arguments for why educators should be dipping their toes in virtual waters.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

What is an e-book?

Searching out e-text book initiatives in Australian educational institutions, particularly schools, has led me to the conclusion that in some cases we are not using the same terminology and that there is a wide spectrum of what people mean by the term e-book, depending on where they are coming from.

I like this definition from Wikipedia:
An electronic book (also e-book, ebook, digital book) is a text and image-based publication in digital form produced on, published by, and readable on computers or other digital devices. Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the e-book as "an electronic version of a printed book," but e-books can and do exist without any printed equivalent. E-books are usually read on dedicated hardware devices known as e-Readers or e-book devices. Personal computers and some cell phones can also be used to read e-books.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-book (check the link for further information)

What I like about that definition in particular is that it points out that an e-book is usually read on a dedicated device, and I would add to that, that the e-book can be read off-line.
In Australia where good bandwidth is still a pipe dream in some areas, this feature is really important. Anything else assumes that the device will have 3G connectivity rather than wireless.

It appears that some publishers are supplying what they call "e-book versions" of existing text-books on CD for installation onto netbooks or laptops. The cost is basically the same as a print version of the text, and in fact, in some cases they say they are throwing the CD in for "free", as a justification for charging the same.

Another the scenario is the one where the publisher is supplying a pdf of the text to the school at "half-price". They are supplying the school with a limited download (number of copies) of the pdf, and the school has agreed that the pdf will expire at the end of the academic year, and in the following year they will need to pay the same licence fee. Once again it does not seem to me that this is really an e-book. The responsibility for downloading the pdf to the student laptop/netbooks has been thrown on to the school and the netbooks require Adobe software for the e-books to be read.
Another version of this is the publisher supplying the school with a list of codes which enable the download of a pdf to an individual computer.
Where the publisher is supplying the pdfs at "half-price", they will recoup the profit margin on supplying the books over 2 years, and then continue to reap profit in ensuing years.  I can't see any ongoing costs for the publisher unless they are promising to update the e-book on an annual basis.

Here are my calculations:

Scenario 1: continue to buy paper books
The school buys 200 copies of a paper text book at $60 per book - the cost is $12,000
Under normal circumstances these text books will last 4-5 years.
If 4 years, the cost is $3,000
Scenario 2: embark on the e-book scheme
Year 1: Buy 200 "digital versions" @ $30 = $6,000
Year 2: Buy 200 "digital versions" @ $30 = $6,000
At the end of this period the school has nothing to show for $12,000, no books to hand on, no stocks on the shelves.
They will continue to pay $6000 a year for the scheme.
At the end of 4 years the cost has been $24,000

The other e-book scenario that is beginning to emerge is the "cloud computing" one where the e-book is supplied online and is never downloaded to the device.
The recipient's "library" is admittedly always available online but again this scenario assumes "always-on" connectivity and good to high bandwidth.

What are your thoughts?

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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Use the calendar for more than dates

Calendars can be a great classroom resource and inspiration for research.

The Australian Schools Calendar on edna and this one from New Zealand both alert teachers and students to special days that can be "observed" in the classroom.

Student activities can be as simple as working out how old the person whose birthday is marked on the calendar "is", or looking for websites that are celebrating the day, the month or the year. Many of those sites have an educational focus and special activities for students.

Students will often get a real kick out of finding out who shares their birthday or if any significant events have happened on that calendar date. Once they have located some basic information they can research to find out more and present it to the rest of the class. Extended research could be turned into a powerpoint presentation or an e-book. They could create an online e-book at issuu.com

Another interesting source of information are the Google logos. You have probably noticed these occasionally when you use a Google search. The Google doodlers have become more adventurous over time and the logos more interesting.

For example today, Feb 8, the Google logo celebrates Jules Verne's birthday in 1828. Classroom research might start with how old he would be, but then get on to why we want to remember him. The library might have a copy of one of his books or you might find a movie based on it. If you have e-readers, then the Gutenberg Project may help you out. Around the World in 80 Days is here. You could create an e-book using ereadups.com or simply search Wikipedia or similar to find out what has been named after Jules Verne. Classroom discussion could centre around the role of visionary authors in pointing us to what might be possible.

So why not get started today? Print a calendar or two out. Festoon your classroom or your library with them, and start celebrating!



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Monday, 7 February 2011

e-books in classrooms

I'm looking for a bit of feedback with this post.

There have been a number of newspaper articles now about schools, particularly in the USA, taking delivery of e-book readers, in the main Kindles. But I haven't seen much in the way of post-adoption reporting.

Here are just a couple of the articles:

In September 2010 ClearWater High School in Tampa Bay distributed 2,100 Kindles (spending roughly $600K) to students and teachers.

Nashua High School in Arkansas is using 200 Kindles in English classes in hopes that it’ll be possible to use them in other subject-areas as a replacement for paper textbooks. article.

So far, the adoption of Kindles or any other e-reader in Australian classrooms seems to be minimal.
But I could be wrong. Maybe I am just listening to the wrong grapevines.

What I'd like from you, if you come across this post, is some more evidence of usage (anywhere).
In particular I'd like to hear about some post-adoption reports, that help me answer questions like these.

  • how are the teachers using the e-books & e-readers in the classroom?
  • what devices have they decided to use? Did they have to change their original plan?
  • Is the pedagogy different? What stumbling blocks have there been?
  • Is it working out cheaper for the school to use e-books?
  • specific details - are the e-books they are using supplied by a publisher? What are the terms and conditions? How are they distributed? Do they expire after the academic year?

I came across an article today related to a proposal by the Florida State Board of Education to transfer over to digital textbooks by 2014.
The writer gives many good points supporting the move:

  • they will replace heavy books
  • And e-books will make it less expensive than ever before; many of the classics on reading lists, for example, can be downloaded for free.
  • In addition, e-books have the potential for other broad, interactive uses in the classroom.
  • Most important, students gain access to books they never would have before.
  • Finally, being electronic, and therefore intriguing, young people might become more interested in reading, and learning.

But, the writer says, there are some questions that need to be answered:

  • how will the students acquire the books, and who will pay
  • will using e-books affect the way text books are chosen
  • will the system of state-wide (in Florida) use of the same texts still continue?
  • will teachers be given the freedom to choose their own e-texts

The writer concludes:

The transition will be an expensive one, but well worth the investment and effort as long as we do our homework and base our decisions on thoughtful research as opposed to over-excitement.

What do you think?

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Friday, 4 February 2011

Online Projects for school students

2011 the International Year of Forests

A new global project Forests: a global perspective is now available at http://www.ozprojects.edu.au/course/view.php?id=172
This project aims to engage students in a celebration of forests and increase their understanding of the global issue of sustainable use of forests for 2011 the International Year of Forests. It includes activities and resources for students from lower primary to lower secondary.

For more information or assistance please email ozprojects@edna.edu.au

2011 International Year of Chemistry

Water-A Chemical Solution: A Global Experiment for the International Year of Chemistry is an activity that unites students around the globe to participate in activities that highlight the role that chemistry plays in issues of water quality and purification. A project for both primray and secondary students.


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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Australian Schools Calendar 2011

  2011 Australian Schools Calendar - now available!

The Australian Schools Calendar provides a comprehensive list of events and celebration days with each date linked to additional information about the event making it easier for teachers to plan classroom activities.

Beautifully illustrated to commemorate the International Year of Forests and to raise awareness, the calendar includes month-by-month 'Be a Detective' activities to encourage students to identify how people are protecting forests and the environment.

A range of options are available for downloading the calendar including:
•    iphone and android downloads
•    iCal dates
•    PDF files of complete year and individual months.
Visit http://www.edna.edu.au/edna/go/schooled/calendar  to download the calendar.

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Safer Internet Day 8 Feb worldwide

Safer Internet Day in 2011 will help children and teens learn essential skills about safe social networking. This annual international event is coordinated by Insafe, the European network for internet safety.  In 2010 Safer Internet Day was celebrated through over 500 events in 65 countries all over the world.

The theme for 2011 'It's more than a game, it's your life' will be used to promote safer and more responsible use by children and teens when using social networking sites and will highlight the importance of protecting privacy and digital reputation as well as the need for good online etiquette.

A recent Telstra survey of parents has revealed Australian parents are equipping kids with latest technology gadgets, but not providing preparation on how to deal with cyber safety / bullying issues / digital etiquette.
More than a third of the parents surveyed with children aged 10 to 17 will send a child to school this year with both a laptop computer and a mobile phone.

There is an table on the report page comparing state statistics showing some staggering figures e.g.

Have a child who will  take a mobile to school this year
 74% (NSW)
 72% (VIC)
 75% (QLD)
 75% (SA)
 74% (WA)
In all states, over one third of parents have not spoken recently to their child about securing their mobile.  Just under one third of parents in each state have not spoken to their child about how to respond to a cyber-bully.

Perhaps parents have a false sense of security because in the majority of Australian schools, based on anecdotal evidence, students are required to keep their mobile phones turned off once they are inside the school gates, and in quite a large number the child is required to hand the phone in at the front desk at the beginning of the day and collect it at the end. 
When these are often also children who are dropped off by Mum at school, and collected at the close of the day, one can't help wondering why they are carrying a mobile phone. Is the mobile phone becoming a status symbol?

Resources for Safer Internet Day 2011 can be found on Australia's CyberSmart website. 

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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Building a new school library

My feature today is a Photopeach presentation of the construction of the new library at Penrith Public School in New South Wales.

The creator Ian Mclean has documented the whole process which came under Australia's national economic stimulus package BER (Building the Education Revolution), the brain child of the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Minister for Education Julia Gillard, who is now Australia's first female Prime Minister.

I think the slideshow is also a testimony to Ian's foresight in documenting the progress of the site, as well as his and colleagues' vision of what the new library could be.

See it here.

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