New!

 

A new year and some new projects for 2013 in the library!  We don’t start back to school for a couple of weeks yet, but that doesn’t mean teachers aren’t hard at work. I been running across excellent resources for my new projects and get them organised before I forget.

iPad Cafe

This year our school is launching their 1:1 iPad program, beginning with the Year 7 classes. Each student supplies their own iPad and while IT will get everyone set up on the devices in the first week, the school library will be offering an iPad Cafe every 3 weeks so students and staff can come and learn more about how to use them, find/share apps and just generally get comfortable with iPad technology for learning. 

I’ve got a small team of students (3 so far) who have ‘applied’ for the position of iPad Genius and will be available on the set day after school for an hour to pass on their knowledge  We can’t pay them as such but have arranged to present an honorarium to them and provide a letter of recommendation if they do well in the position

Photo shared by: hammerhead 27 via Flickr cc

Photo shared by: hammerhead 27 via Flickr cc

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For the short hiring interview, I asked them to come prepared to impress me with some tips or tricks. It was interesting that while they knew a few things,they all knew the same things and were not as ‘savvy’ as I’d hoped. So I’m now busy skilling myself up further and gathering ideas to up-skill my genius’s as well. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a Tumblr site keep tips on and decided to go ahead with it. This could be great for the school community — they can go back, review, check it out on their own time and become familiar with a new Web tool (well that would be mostly for the adults). 

So here is the new Tumblr site, not much on it just yet, but will be wonderful soon. http://vscipad.tumblr.com/

Our 21st Century Destiny

Maybe you have to be a librarian to get excited about the Library management system but I hope not! Especially when it comes to the Destiny Quest feature of Follett’s LMS that we  launched a couple of weeks ago at school. It’s so slick and user-friendly that I’m hoping the whole school will be kicking into high gear over it.

What does Destiny Quest do?

Well it will took our catalogue from this:

Regular Destiny page at log-in

To this!

 Destiny Quest Homepage

Destiny Quest Homepage

This is a little pet project I had at the end of last year that was on a back burner until our IT team had time to upgrade the system (sadly we were behind about 5 versions).

So now searching looks more appealing and much easier to read. But wait there’s more! You can also:

  • customize the look of your page
  • write reviews
  • friend people and recommend books/websites
  • place holds on books
  • check your overdues
  • make wishlists
  • make resource lists
  • check your reading history
  • see what’s new to the library collection

And to really pull the library into the 21st Century ….

  • a smart phone app that connects to your library (go to iTunes store or Android Marketplace)
  • an iPad app that connects to your library.

Our school is beginning a one-to-one iPad program next year (incoming Year 7s); this wonderful Library Management System will mean that we remain front and centre – students will be required to install the library app as part of their suite of apps and we’ll be showing them how to use it as part of their Library orientation.

What more can I say except …
SQUEEEE!

 

FYI: on Growing Personal Learning Environments

Photo courtesy Balanced Crafts on Flickr

The latest issue of FYI recently arrived in the post.  Yay! FYI is the quarterly journal of SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria). This is the issue that focussed on Learning Communities and featured the article I wrote last year about Personal Learning Environments for students. We concentrated on Year 9’s last year as part of their Pathways and Careers program but the groups delegated to me were so large (75-90 students) it was difficult to assist everyone properly and caused some lag issues with the site and our internet system at school.

I’ll be focussing this year on helping the Learning Enhancement students set up their PLEs. I think teaching one class at a time will mean that I can give much better support. PLE’s are really a two-part job: 1) Get the site set up; 2) develop the learning environment. Nothing new there – its alway learn the tool then use the tool.

Here’s the article below for those who can’t access the journal —

Growing Personal Learning Environments

At the end of 2010, I reached a cherished goal; the completion of my Masters degree in Teacher Librarianship. In 2011, I changed schools and what a change it was! After 10 years, I moved from a very small, independent primary school to a 1200+ government secondary college – all part of a plan to stretch my professional wings.

Sound scary?

It could have been but it wasn’t really. That’s because I didn’t do it alone; I had my ‘net’ with me. Or should I say my Personal Learning Network. The resources (human and literature-based) I’d been cultivating to support my learning helped me to swiftly engage with my new school community. As I found myself drawing on my PLN to help me in my new role, it set me to wondering about the students’ networks. How well do they use theirs? Are they even aware they have one? What can I do to help them make better use of their learning community and grow their learning networks? One day (via a blog I subscribe to) I came across a video of a Year 7 student in America demonstrating how her PLE works. After researching to learn more, I knew I’d found an avenue.

What is a PLE?

We all have favourite tools, websites, and people we trust to help us learn. We may access videos and podcasts as we carry out research; write blogs or reply to posts as we get involved in pursuing our passions. But bookmarking everything can become unruly and jumping from Facebook to forums to keep up with topics and groups can result in ‘info-whelm’. A Personal Learning Environment or PLE is a way for students to grow, curate and organize their learning. PLEs are online environments; they are individualised, learner-created and learner-directed. The platforms most widely used to create PLEs are social dashboard sites such as iGoogle, Netvibes and Symbaloo.

How are we using PLEs?

After reading more about PLEs, I evaluated a few dashboard sites. I chose Netvibes based on user-friendliness, visual appeal, physical layout, flexibility of features, and the fact that it has an active help forum. When I approached our Head of Library about introducing PLEs to students, I’d already set up a sample PLE to demonstrate (http://www.netvibes.com/bottomdrawer/). She saw the value in it and took the idea to the school administration. The idea was approved and time provided in the schedule to introduce PLEs to the students and teachers. We originally envisaged working with students at the end of Year 10 so they would have a PLE for their VCE studies, but the school’s Pathways & Transitions team became interested in the project. We now introduce PLEs to the Year 9’s at the end of Term 4 and help them incorporate their Pathways Planning into the PLE as well as their regular learning areas and subjects. We built a Wikispaces site (http://vsc-ple.wikispaces.com/) to introduce learners to the concept and purpose of a PLE and to guide them through the set-up process on Netvibes. We were given a session with each of the Year 9 groups so students had time to work through the wiki, ask questions and receive guidance from the TLs. Teachers contributed website suggestions for different subjects to get the PLEs started and we demonstrated RSS feeds and Twitter #topic searches during the session. We encouraged teachers to set up Netvibe sites too so students could follow them (as well as each other) in order to connect, collaborate and share resources. We are looking forward to evaluating the success of the PLEs at the end of the year with a short user survey.

What are the benefits?

A PLE is not an assignment or something teachers need to check up on or assess. A PLE is a way of putting control, choice and responsibility back into the hands of the learner, helping them to become more independent. PLEs are set up according to each student’s learning needs, styles and preferences. The social aspect of PLEs can offer a way to create and/or strengthen connections within the school community. They offer a consistent connection to resources from home, from school and via mobile access. They encourage collaboration and sharing of resources as well as reaching out to the wider community with possibilities such as Twitter and Skype. Research is also suggesting that such learning environments encourage the integration of formal and informal learning (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). This in turn promotes a positive attitude toward learning and develops lifelong skills.

Conclusion

I am excited with this new opportunity to support our learning community, but I’ve tried to imagine the pitfalls too. A student might set a PLE up then choose not to use it. However, they will have increased their awareness of new resources and possibilities available to help them learn in the future. I can also imagine students adding sites to their PLE that are not relevant to their studies: games, chat and other distractions. Filters will block most of them at school but stepping back, these are study skills topics ripe for discussion: myths of multi-tasking, effective time management strategies and goal setting. Problems can be opportunities! The giving and getting of support for everyone is the essence of learning communities. Demands on students and teachers are increasing so we all end up time-poor and overwhelmed by information possibilities. A PLE can offer students a Web 2.0 way to control and organize their learning lives just like they do their social lives. It can help build skills, connections and habits that will last a life-time. Win-win!

Reference Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2009). 21st Century learning environments. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/tools-and-resources/publications/600

A New Kind of Catalogue – The Open Library

open sesame by 1541This week I’ve been concentrating on the workbook exercises that have to do with The Catalogue and some of the questions in the book (eg. Find out about other cataloguing networks) put me in mind of a site I’d stumbled on last year but hadn’t checked in on in a while – The Open Library

The Open Library has a goal  – to create a web-page for every book ever published. At the time it seemed like a helluva(n) undertaking and while I cruised around on it admiring the enormous amount of content (today it has 23,543,896 books listed) I remember vaguely wondering why they were doing it. So today (a bit older and wiser) I went in search of the answer online. I came across this article in the UK Guardian.

I really admire what they are trying to do and was pleasantly surprised and interested to see the person driving the bus was Australian and has been involved with several other mega-projects including Flickr and the Flickr Commons scheme. I loved this idea especially:

“Imagine books more as a networked object, rather than a single entity,” she suggests. “We start with this kernel and then we see what we can pile onto it … it’s a locus for all the information about a book that’s on the wider web.”

If you have the time it’s worth looking through the FAQs , take a guided tour or read about some of the challenges they are working through as they develop a completely new kind of catalogue. They are rethinking everything from points of access (eg. Subject headings) to the schema of the information to the technology that will support it. They are building a catalogue for the public not just libraries and librarians. They are building it using a wiki, using the good will of many organizations and individuals  and they are building it to be completely open to editing.

This is a real opportunity to watch one of the future directions of catalogues/cataloguing being born. And one I will be keeping a closer eye on (and maybe one day participating in) now that I am a student of ETL505 Accessing Information.

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Photo from Flickr by: 1541

“Electronic Neanderthals” and Squirrels

One of this semester’s subjects in my course is ETL505 – Organising Access to Information – what many refer to as Cataloguing. Some say “DRY”. I think, “Tell me more, I’m drowning out here”.

And that is probably why this quote in our textbook caught my attention —

cataloguing and the kind of imposition of order on the flow of knowledge and information that it represents may be all that separates up from becoming electronic neanderthals … (Gorman in Hider & Harvey, 2008, p. 8 )

This really rang true for me as I reflected on my increasing frustration in trying to organise and keep track of my own resources for study and professional learning. The common practices of tagging and word clouds in wikis, blogs and book-marking tools such as delicious.com are such a flabby ways of organising access to these resources. I may start saving articles for an assignment one day with certain tags but three weeks later I may be saving under some variation and not even realise it. Access becomes more difficult the greater the number of things saved/bookmarked. Like a squirrel running around hiding nuts for winter, I don’t always remember where I’ve put them later.

Electronic Neanderthals or Electronic squirrels – neither is a pretty picture when it comes to taking on the huge job of making digital information accessible. There really needs to be some standards to bring about better order for better access.

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Creative Commons flickr photo by: Kalense Kid

Hider, P., & Harvey, R. (2008). Definitions and introductory concepts. In Organising knowledge in a global society: Principles and practice in libraries and information centres. Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies.