Who is Smik?

Thursday, 31 March 2011

e-readers are not "shared" devices

Many schools implementing e-reading devices, whether they are dedicated e-readers like the Kindle or multi-purpose devices like the iPad, have built up cases for buying batches of them, storing them in the library, and then lending them out as class sets.

While you can manage the sharing of them quite well, in reality once the device has to be handed back at the end of the lesson or the day then the following factors come into play.

  • no one student takes reponsibility for looking after the device
    • if something "happens" to its functionality, then it is easy to shift the blame onto the previous user, and not so easy to work out what has actually happened
  • making sure the battery is charged becomes the responsibility of the lending "authority"
  • there is a lot of down time - the device sits in the library storage between lessons, overnight, and on weekends.
  • there is a lot of intervention that goes into managing them
  • nor does their real potential ever get realised, simply because they are used for specific and limited purposes, and the users rarely have time to explore.
  • even worse the "class set" scenario assumes that even in use they are shared - one between 2, 3, or even 4 students

Most of what I have written above really applies to the multi-user devices, and when it comes to 6" dedicated e-readers like Kindles or Kobos, then use should not be shared.

That's why I was so glad to read Camilla Elliot's blog post today and her conclusion

  that makes me convinced an iPad is NOT a shared device, but a single owner tool.

More blog posts to check about iPads:

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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Will I eventually have to upgrade? - my Kindle, that is

My Kindle is a Kindle2, one of the white ones that has been around for over 18 months.

The Kindle3, which is the graphite (greyish) one that was released in time for Christmas giving last year, is slightly smaller, has better text contrast, and more importantly from my point of view, a slightly different "operating system" if that is the right term.

Already Kindle3 has released some upgrades. I've put the differences mentally on the backburner until this morning until I had to install the upgrade on the "work" Kindle which is doing the rounds of the office.

The features the upgrade brings don't seem all that important to me at the moment:

  • Public Notes
  • Real Page Numbers
  • Before You Go = Rate the Book
  • New Newspaper and Magazine Layout

But there are some other features to Kindle3 that I don't have, and so I'm trying to work out whether they are important.
The upgrades for Kindle3 are not available to Kindle2, so the only alternative really is to buy a new device.

There are other differences between Kindle2 and Kindle3, such as the fact that Kindle3 has double the storage capacity.
Kindle3 is slightly smaller and a little lighter.
Page turning is "faster".
You get a choice of US or UK dictionaries.
Apparently has a better web browser.
More of the screen is used for text display.

I already know that I can't download to my Kindle2 some of the "apps" Amazon has on offer, but are they important? They seem to just be games.
Or am I just suffering from device-upgrade envy? You know the feeling, you have a perfectly good functioning computer, but the newer one looks so much better, and you have thta feeling that oyu are missing out on something really important.

But I guess that some time in the next 12 or so months I will come to a cross roads. Or do I wait for Kindle4?

Perhaps if you have experience of both, you can tell me some of the differences you've noticed.

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Monday, 28 March 2011

Doing it a bit differently - teaching with blogs

Many teachers will tell you that they don't have time to blog, on top of everything else that they do.
But these have missed the point that blogging isn't just spruking on the street corner, hoping others will listen. It can be a useful classroom tool as well.

My first blog, also named You Are Never Alone, was a company blog for Education.au limited, and existed Spetember 2006 until earlier this year when it was "turned off". The aim was to run a commentary on educational issues and to promote company services like edna.  

I created my first personal blog, Smik's Learning Space, nearly 4 years ago, as a space where I could park materials for workshops that I was conducting. That blog now duplicates my Posterous posts via an RSS feed. From that starting point I went on to create another personal blog at beginning of 2008, geared to my interest in crime fiction.

One of the things that I'm really convinced of is the capacity of a blog to allow the writer some creative reflective space. You are also writing for a critical audience, and that influences the content. Now that is true whether you are a classrom teacher or a student. The second purpose of the blog might be the one I originally had for Smik's Learning Space - a place where you can deposit content for others to use, as in a teacher providing materials for a class.

Teachers might want to consider whether in fact they need two blog spaces - one for personal exploration and reflection and being part of the educational community, and one for use by their students to collect links and work.
And then of course, there would be the matter of having students create blogs for themselves. Writing a daily blog can create the same cathartic effect for your students, providing a reflective space, writing for a purpose knowing they have an audience (and responding to other student's blogs'), and developing a variety of literacy skills.

So here are some more blogs for you to explore:

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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Has Twitter changed the way you communicate?

I wasn't amongst the early adopters of Twitter, and I had seen it demonstrated as a "back channel" at a couple of conferences before I finally tried it out.


An article in Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald starts

Dismissed as a joke when it began five years ago this week, Twitter has revolutionised the way we communicate.

This morning when I wanted to send a friend a birthday greeting, I did it on Twitter.

As part of the work I do at Education Services Australia I tweet as findingmyfuture. Three times a week I send out messages about careers, about 10 messages a week. I follow 58 other "careers" tweeters, and nearly 100 follow my tweets. It is proving an effective way of delivering our messages about myfuture, and the resources that students, teachers, and parents can find there. 

Creating short pithy messages can be a bit of a challenge, it really makes you think about what you want to get across.
I add the hashtage #myfuture to each of the messages to help people find them.

I follow the tweets through TweetDeck, which works like an aggregator, where you can create "search" columns to follow particular hashtags.
I also use TweetDeck to re-tweet my #myfuture messages to the community that follows me in my "educational" Twitter identity of smik09. Actually the 09 indicates when I created this particular Twitter account, so I guess I could be seen as a bit of a veteran.
One of the early criticisms of Twitter was that so many signed up and then dropped off active tweeting within days.

In fact I created a Prezi about 12 months ago that asked Is Twitter in Trouble?


The other thing I've done is use my Twitter followers list to create a "Daily" newspaper that can be delivered to subscribers by email. This uses a free tool at Paper.li

The myfuture Daily gives a daily summary of the tweets in the previous 24 hours by findingmyfuture  and those that we follow .

I also created The Kerrie Smith Daily which is based on tweets by smik09 and the 224 people I follow in that persona.

Just a note: one of the things that I learnt to do early was to separate my personas.  I blog on educational matters about 3 times a week, and I blog about crime fiction daily. I had originally thought that I could use the same persona in both communities, but I soon learnt there is little overlap and merging both communities in my twitter account just muddied the waters.

So just as I have a personal email address, and a work/educational email address, so I have 2 different Twitter accounts, and 2 differently purposed blogs.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Will books ever die?

A tongue-in-cheek  article I discovered today Product Review: Will 'Paper' Replace E_readers starts

We were given some review samples of a new technology  called ‘paper’ earlier this week. Paper is a natural material that can be produced in bulk, relatively cheap, and some people think it will replace e-readers such as the iPad and Kindle.

There has been considerable publicity given to headlines like E-book sales surge at Amazon, with e-book sales first of all outstripping hard-cover books in the middle of last year, and, in the last quarter of 2010, outstripping paperback sales.


For every 100 paperbacks the company shifted, it sold 115 Kindle books.

We've also had a lot of publicity about the demise of a number of book stores, particularly specialist ones.

From where I stand though, I don't see made-from-paper books disappearing anytime soon, despite a growth in sales of e-readers in the last 9 months. In considering the Amazon statistics, it occurs to me that while I go to Amazon to purchase my e-books, I don't go there to buy either hardbacks or paperbacks. I get them at my local bookstore.

New research on UK eReader sales, from the Publishers Association. We already know that 2010 eBook sales accounted for just 0.4% of the UK book market. So what changed at Christmas? The Publishers Association polled 2,000 people recently, and found that 7% of British adults had some kind of eReader (smartphone, iPad or ereader) for Christmas.  source

There can be no doubt though that e-books are making their mark in the US, doubling from January 2010 to January 2011

I'm not sure that we are seeing the same here in Australia.

Trevor Cairney who blogs at Just in Case lists some good reasons why the book will survive.
He also lists some changes we will probably see in the publishing industry. 
Among them

  • Scientific journals will cease to be produced in paper form within 5-10 years.
  • Increasingly, authors will publish e-books themselves, creating major problems for publishers and even bookshops.
  • Bookshops will only survive if they change to become places where lovers of books meet, chat, eat, share books (in whatever form) and purchase e-books and paper books as well as associated products. Some are already moving down this path.

The remainder in the list are worth checking.


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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

What are your top 10 ICT tools for education?

I am interested in knowing which are the ten ICT tools that you use most often (or are the most useful).
Think about what you've used most often in the last 10 days.

Here are mine

  • Email: I have 2 different tools
  • blogging tools: Blogger, Posterous - I use both
  • MS Word
  • MS Excel
  • Prezi - I can't imagine going back to Powerpoint for my presentations
  • Twitter in combination with TweetDeck - again I have 2 accounts
  • XnView - I used this all the time for capturing screen dumps, creating images.
  • RSS reading software: again I have 2 different tools
  • Browser - combined with Google Search. Again I use 2 differnt browsers.
  • editing html - I often look at the raw html for a blog post especially when the blogging software doesn't readily enable a feature like indenting or whatever I've done creates line spaces I don't want.

You'll see I am listing more than 10... mainly because I've also used these in the last few days.

  • MS Access
  • MS Picture Manager
  • Second Life

So what do you use regularly that I don't have on my list? A comment would be great.

Some sites that may be useful to you

On his blog Chris Betcher talks about the skills 21st century teachers need to have.
He says there are 5 skills that affect our ability to function with fluency:

  1. Learn to Search
  2. Learn to resize and crop a Digital Photo
  3. Learn how to edit video
  4. Learn to use an html editor
  5. Learn to think in hyperlinks

What do you think? Are there any of those that you can't do? I must admit the video one is on my still-to-be-learned list. You might like to pop over to Chris' post and leave a comment there.

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Monday, 21 March 2011

Observing ALL BLACK DAY March 22, 2011


On February 22, 2011 Christchurch was devastated by an earthquake.  Lives were lost and others irrevocably changed. The city centre sustained massive damage and the landscape will never be the same.
Many in Australian schools have strong ties to New Zealand, and particularly, Christchurch.
 Therefore, to help them cope and contribute we have launched


On March 22, 2011. on the one-month anniversary of this event
we are asking the staff and students of Australian schools to wear all black
and to contribute a gold coin for the privilege.
All money raised is to be donated to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal

Christchurch Cathedral after the quake.
Photo by Geof Wilson

You can help by
  • helping to co-ordinate this event within your school
  • promoting this event in your school and community
  • playing this video on a continuous link
  • donating money raised to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal 
  • contacting your state co-ordinator advising the amount raised
  • watching this page to see the total grow
  • sharing photos of the events in your school


If your staff and students need assistance in dealing with the events in Christchurch
please  consult these resources for advice.


New South Wales

Jill McGeorge (primary schools)

Lara O'Donoghue (secondary schools)





Margaret Forbes






Judith Way



Western Australia


Jill Oats



Tasmania, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT


Barbara Braxton


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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

40 years of e-books

You might like to check the rest of the infographic above on TeleRead.

I hadn't realised until looking at that, that Project Gutenberg was that old, or that the digitized Declartion of Independence was the world's first e-book. You'll see also on the infographic that only 10 e-books were created on Project Gutenberg in the first 18 years, but that the Project has tripled output in the last eight years.

A number of factors have given the e-book project a real dynamic in the last 3 years.

I saw an e-book reader at Microsoft in 2001 but in today's terminology it was a real "brick" and didn't take off. Before the launch of Amazon's Kindle nobody could really take e-book readers seriously, and the only place you could read your Project Gutenberg e-book was on your computer, and even then it was often an unfriendly text file with peculiar line lengths.

With the advent of the Kindle came new technology and new features

  • e-ink
  • text sizing
  • a new way of acquiring the books through wi-fi download
  • text to voice
  • lighter in weight and smaller in size than earlier e-readers

Some of the other technology that has made the e-book (and e-textbook) revolution possible has almost passed us by without notice because it is has been so bound up with what we have come to expect.

  • faster computer processing
  • larger capacity storage chips
  • widespread uptake of wi-fi
  • file size reduction - we tend to think of file sizes as being bigger than they were, but that is true only to a point - in fact the file sizes being used in pdf, mobi, and azw files is pretty small. While the photos you take on your camera are often pretty large (4 MB+), the digital images used in e-reading software are much smaller because of the file compression software being used

With the arrival of the iPad on the scene in the middle of last year, then the idea of viable tablets/ computers where one of the applications was an e-reader really took hold. Dedicated e-readers like the Kindle still have the upper hand in terms of battery life and basic cost. The 3G Kindle retails at $189, and it seems that the iPad2 costs nearly twice that to manufacture and retails at approximately 4 times that. These are serious issues for educational institutions, but already we have seen contenders who are promising much cheaper tablets. Prices for the iPad in Australia are all over the place.

So now it is really coming down to an issue of whether you are happy with a dedicated e-reader, or you want, and are prepared to pay for, a tool that can do a lot more. I'm not sure that those who say that consumers won't buy both are right. There are already examples of people who are buying both.

Last week, March 6-12, was read an e-book week. So a belated happy birthday e-books!

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Friday, 11 March 2011

iPad trials in Australia

2011 has seen the proliferation of iPad trials in Australian schools and Universities.

In most of these cased the iPad has been adopted as much for the Apps available as for its e-reading tools.

Here are some sites and reports to look at.

iPads for Learning: Victorian government:
This website is for educators who want to learn about using iPads in education. Here you will find
information about the Victorian school iPads for Learning trial including specially selected apps,
classroom ideas and technical tips. The 10 participating schools are diverse, including primary, secondary, Prep to Year 12 and specialist settings.

St Peter's College Adelaide
In the Senior School, 338 Years 11 and 12 boys have been provided with wireless iPads to support an eBook program. Licences have been obtained to supply all students with e-textbooks via personalised secure access. A user friendly interface, Keystone, has been developed. Users have the ability to download and purchase eBooks, upload and share their work and ideas.

Other schools trials:

  • Queensland state schools: Throughout Semester 1, Kedron State High School and Doomadgee State School will explore the teaching, learning and business potential.
  • At least five independent Sydney schools will trial iPads in select classes this year.
  • Two schools in Singapore: A secondary school in Singapore, where the youngest students are aged 12, has spent S$135,000 ($100,000) to buy 150 iPads for 140 students and 10 teachers as part of this project.

In 2011 Adelaide University has given out iPads to to 750 students in first year science.

Other university trials

  • RMIT
  • Trinity College Melbourne pilot report - phase1 completed, a 6 months trial
    Report on the Step Forward iPad Pilot Project (you need to be able access Google Docs)
    blog: http://ipadpilot.wordpress.com/
  • University of Kentucky begins an 18 month trial on an iPad curriculum.
    The University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce is working with Apple to run an 18-month trial in which students, faculty and staff will all use iPads to complete course work. The department will use iPads for everything from student recruitment, admissions, seminars, graduation, and classes. Apple is supporting the school throughout the trial, with things like program development and strategy, as well as training users. The goal of the project is to explore how to take advantage of the device in the classroom setting and to discover which applications work best for studying diplomacy and international commerce. In February, about 50 Patterson School students, faculty, and staff began using the iPad trial, and another 35 students will join the trial program once the 2011 students are chosen. The program will include both first and second-generation iPads.

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Thursday, 10 March 2011

e-textbooks in schools: what do you need to think about?

Here in Australia school administrators and teachers are already beginning to think about next year.

In terms of converting over to e-textbooks for 2011 they've already missed the boat, but are beginning to think about what would be involved in implementation in 2012.

So what factors need to be considered?
The list below is by no means complete and you may like to suggest things to be added.

  • are you happy with the text books that you have?
    Do you want to replace any of them? Source new ones?
  • If you convert to e-textbooks what device will you deliver them on?
    netbooks, laptops, iPads, other table device
    What specs will the device need?
  • who owns the device? will the school buy it and lend it out? or can the students get the text on a device of their choice?
  • What sort of budget do you have?
    There is an impression that converting to e-textbooks will save money.
    Unfortunately that is not the way it is working at the moment.
    In general your e-textbook will cost approximately 50% to 70% of your made-from-paper one. You are basically leasing it and at some stage it will expire or self-destruct, probably at the end of the school year, but perhaps after 2 years.
  • who will supply devices for the teachers? And how will you encourage them to explore the productivities that come with e-textbooks?
  • Are you aware that your e-textbook has no resale value? And unless it actually comes originally as a CD that oyu own, then oyu won't be able to transfer it from one device to another because of restrictive DRM practices.

My advice:

  • Talk to your current textbook suppliers, tell them you are interested in the e-text scenario, and ask them what they can do for you
  • Talk directly to the publishers of your current text books and ask the same questions. Be sure to include questions about cost.
  • Ask your teachers to look for alternatives to their current text books.

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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Where do you get it? Calibre launches DRM free

calibre introduces Open Books, a site for easy browsing of DRM-free e-books (e-books without DRM) that are not in the public domain.

Open Books is a compilation non DRM e-books from various sources linked to enable readers to browse and download them.

So far the e-books are generally coming in via Smashwords, Closed Circle, BeWrite Books, and Carina Press. The cost for each e-book is fairly small, generally under $5, sometimes much less than that. The user is asked to abide by an "honesty" system that does not encourage piracy.

The e-books are generally available in .mobi (Kindle), epub and pdf.

For DRM-free public domain books visit the Project Gutenberg website. The Project Gutenberg catalogue contains public domain e-books free of cost as well as DRM-free in various languages.

One of the great pointers to e-books on the Project Gutenberg site is the Magic Catalog.

Amazon has a few DRM-free e-books. Look for "Simultaneous Device Usage" under "Product Details" and if it is set to "Unlimited" then the book is DRM-free.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

March 8, International Women's Day

Google is celebrating the 100th anniversary of  IWD with this new logo


Their link takes you to

We invite you to join tens of thousands of people coming together on bridges all over the world -- from the Millennium Bridge in London, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, to the Grand Barriere Bridge joining Rwanda and Congo -- to show your support for women's causes and celebrate women's achievements.

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

Messages to give girls about careers

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Friday, 4 March 2011

New version of My School released - Australia

New features in this release of My School include:

  • an easy-to-use profile page with key facts and figures;
  • financial information for each school;
  • an indication of students' literacy and numeracy achievement as they progress through school; and
  • students' NAPLAN performance over a number of years.

The My School website has two main purposes.

Firstly, it provides parents and students with information on each school – its view of itself and its mission, its staffing, its resources and its students’ characteristics and their performances.

Secondly, it provides schools and their communities with comparisons of their students’ performances in literacy and numeracy with those of students in other schools, most importantly those in schools that serve similar students. These comparisons provide information to support improvements in schools. Among schools with similar students, those achieving higher student performances can stimulate others to lift expectations of what they and their students can achieve. The schools with higher performing students can be a source of information for others on the policies and practices that produce those higher performances.

My School enables you to search the profiles of almost 10,000 Australian schools. My School is an Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) information service. ACARA is an independent authority with functions including the publishing of nationally comparable data on all Australian schools.

Key changes that have been made to the website in 2011 include:

  • Providing an easy-to-use summary page with key facts and figures, including an expanded commentary on the school context, information about students from language backgrounds other than English, and more nationally comparable senior secondary outcomes information
  • Reporting financial information for each school, including recurrent income and capital expenditure broken down by funding source
  • Enhancing depictions of NAPLAN results, including a new depiction of students’ literacy and numeracy improvement as they progress through school.

Interestingly the search for specific schools is protected by a Captcha and "accept conditions" button. I can't help wondering why?
Is it a literacy test or an information literacy test?
I can't see any place where I can insert any spam (should I want to)

All sorts of interesting info available though, including lots of graphs, how many students it caters for, and financial information showing how much the school budget is, and recurrent income per student.

However one not so good sign - the site froze temporarily during my exploration. - heavy load?

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Thursday, 3 March 2011

2011 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes - celebrating school science

Entries for the 2011 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, Australia's premier national science awards program, are now open.

Celebrating school science in two ways:
1. For the students
Have your students create a short film on any science topic to be in the running for cash prizes and fame. Enter the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for primary and secondary students.
For info go to http://eureka.australianmuseum.net.au/enter and select the primary or secondary category. And don't forget that there are resources online to help get you  started

2. For the teachers
Do you know an outstanding secondary science or mathematics teacher, one who motivates and inspires students? Enter yourself or nominate a colleague for the Industry & Investment NSW Eureka Prize for Science or Mathematics Teaching.
For info go to http://eureka.australianmuseum.net.au/eureka-prize/science-or-mathematics-teaching

Entries close midnight AEST Friday 6 May.
Do you have a question about our school science program, or need help with an entry or nomination? Contact eureka@austmus.gov.au or phone 02 9320 6483

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011


I received this from Barbara Braxton this morning.

If you are at an "overseas" school and want to participate, I suggest you contact Barbara direct.

It is one week since the devastating earthquake that has shattered Christchurch and its people and there would be few schools in Australia that do not have a student or a staff member with a Kiwi connection.

Psychologists say that the trauma can be intensified by a feeling of wanting to help but being unable to do so, so to help overcome this a group of Kiwi teacher librarians teaching in Australia are proposing


We are suggesting that on March 22, 2011 students be allowed to wear all black instead of their regular school uniform and pay a gold coin for the privilege. 

If school regulations demand students remain in uniform, then an alternative could be to create a coin trail over the words ANZAC, Aotearoa, Christchurch, or Otautahi (Maori for Christchurch).

Any other form of fundraising would also be welcome. If you have ideas, please share them with us to share with everybody.
The money raised will then by donated to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal http://www.christchurchearthquakeappeal.govt.nz/ through whatever financial procedures schools have to follow to do this.

Amounts raised would then be reported to a state co-ordinator who will tally them so we can determine the total contribution of Australian schools and share this with participants. We are planning to establish a Facebook page so state and national totals are available and even photos of students participating can be posted.

We need you to
•    publicise this event as widely as possible, sending it to any network you belong to
•    consider volunteering to be your state co-ordinator which will just involve receiving emails from schools with their tallies and sending the total to a central co-ordinator.  We already have co-ordinators for NSW and Queensland, but no doubt they would appreciate help.
•    spread the word about your school’s activities with any media connections you have

If you have any questions, or are willing to act as a state co-ordinator, please contact one of us.

Barbara Braxton
Teacher librarian (retired)

Jill McGeorge
Teacher Librarian
Willoughby Public School

Lara O'Donoghue
Teacher Librarian
Lake Macquarie High School

Margaret Forbes
Teacher librarian
Moreton Bay Boys' College

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