Progression with iPod Touch – recording

My iPod Touch earphones and mic (bloggers own photo)

My iPod Touch earphones and mic (bloggers own photo)

My exploration of iPod Touch for school library/classroom use continues.

I now have earphones with microphone and remote controls.

In the photo you can see the little bar that hangs off the earphone. On verso side is the mic – the smallest I’ve ever seen. I’ve experimented with speaking into it and talking with someone standing/sitting next to me: the mic’s ability is very good. As long as the person beside the mic-wearer isn’t mumbling, this mic will pick up their voice no problem. I’ve yet to experiment with voice + background noise which is a reality in classroom/library use.

The side of the mic that can be seen is the remote  – from it the wearer can adjust the volume up and down with the + and – buttons. The large button in the centre is for fast forwarding/skipping/rewinding.

This bit of hardware has been essential for use with one of the apps that comes loaded on the iPod Touch – Voice Memo. It allows you to record audio notes and short readings. In fact I’m not sure how long you can record on Voice Memo for – I did a five minute reading and it hadn’t cut out so I’m supposing it can go for a decent length of time.

There is a slight disadvantage to this app in that you cannot rename files you’ve recorded so they are named by date and time only. On the upside, the app has a  ‘Share’ function which means the sound file can be emailed to someone. You must set up one of your email accounts on the iPod Touch under Settings – Mail in order to do this.

I was curious to see what format the audio file would be and how one would open the sent file so emailed a trial off to my personal email address from my gmail. When I opened my laptop and email then the file (it was in an .m4a format) my iTunes automatically opened and played the file. Easy! I’ve also emailed a trial off to my work email to see how it might be opened from there. I don’t think I have iTunes loaded at work; something I may have to rectify and may have to include on all our computers at school.

Of course this probably isn’t the app for use in creating podcasts but I can see the value of messages, ideas, readings, stories being sent to/from a teacher/home /fellow student. This could be especially valuable for students with special needs and learning needs.

I just found a fantastic presentation on Mark Warner’s site Ideas to Inspire on ways of incorporating iPods into the classroom:  Fifteen Interesting Ways to use an iPod Touch in the Classroom

I liked the idea of using Voice Memo to create collaborative stories. I’m going to give it a try in one of the library sessions in two weeks time. Sites and their ideas such as these are gold. Ultimately it’s not the apps but the practical applications that will sell the use of these technologies to teachers and institutions. Understanding and sharing how to incorporate the ICT tools into the pedagogy is the goal of my exploration.

Pinning down a slippery fish – Information Literacy

Andrea Williams Flickr Creative Commons --

Slippery Fishies by Andrea Williams Flickr Creative Commons

There is a very timely discussion occuring on the OZTL_Net forum about that well-worn topic — what is Information Literacy (IL). This discussion is timely on two fronts: the draft national curriculum has been released with a lack of clarity regarding IL, and on a personal front, as I am in the process of writing an article for a professional publication about the Information Literate School Community.

IL is notoriously difficult to introduce into schools and Teacher Librarian students in many courses (including the one I’m doing) engage in the debate of what and why and the barriers. It interests me as I read yet again the research and professional literature that something so central, something so critical is so darn hard to define, apply and practice.

A slippery fish indeed!

I am currently reading a paper by Bruce, Edwards and Lupton (2006) promising to shed some light onto why this is such a problem.  Six Frames for Information Literacy Education: a conceptual framework for interpreting the relationships between theory and practice seeks to explain the different ways people view the concept/process of IL and how that will affect their approach (or lack of) to IL, all based on their views of teaching/learning. This sounds very helpful to me — the more I can see this from others’ possible points of view the more I should be able to communicate and persuade colleagues to embrace IL.

As I engage with this article there are questions asked in the first few pages, ones I thought worth pausing over and articulating for clarity of my own views and practices.

The first question is how do I see teaching and learning?

I’ve always seen learning as a growth process through the acquisition of knowledge in whatever form it came to a person: active or passive. While I believe that active engagement with experiences and problem-solving are highly effective means of learning, as a reader and observer of other humans I also believe in the power of vicarious learning and creative imagination.

Teaching I see as a process of guided support, in the early years there is so much children don’t know they don’t know. It’s an exploration of what’s out there; a wondering time and a tinkering time. In the middle/secondary years, I see teaching as guidance in helping student s gain control of the information, making sense of it and using it to become real thinkers, evaluators and problem solvers.

The next question then asks — How do I see Information Literacy?

I like the definition that the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professions (CILIP) set a few years back —

Information literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.

It’s clear, straightforward, simply worded, and very similar to the American Library Association’s original definition back in 1989, but I’m not sure if it conveys a message of urgency or importance to the question of why it needs to be specifically incorporated into the curriculum. Is it too easy for an educator to think, “Well, my students already do that.”

The paper also asks me to consider how my organisation/colleagues/students see information literacy and here’s the crux of the problem — they don’t, really. I’ve introduced it to them; given presentations, tried to get some collaboration happening but my attempts are not successful. The most common reply is that they are too busy, there is no time to fit anything else in. Do they think, “We already do that.” Do they think finding and assembling facts is all that’s needed at the primary level? We have missions and goals and a philosophy of teaching for our organisation but that does not address personal paradigms —

Bruce, Edwards and Lupton’s paper promises to address a further question —

How can we use an appreciation of different ways of seeing [teaching, learning, IL] to progress the practice of IL education?

I look forward to being further informed and am hoping for some insight from this article.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Bruce, C., Edwards, S., & Lupton, M. (2006). Six frames for information literacy education: A conceptual framework for interpreting the relationships between theory and practice. Italics, 5(1), 1-18.

Retrieved from

Getting to Know Search Engines – A Useful Guidebook

Photo Courtesy: fotologic on Flickr Creative Commons:

Photo Courtesy: fotologic on Flickr Creative Commons:

Just like any other journey it is always helpful to have a guidebook to consult. It makes things that little bit more pleasant to have some information from someone who’s been there ahead of you and knows a bit about what it’s like.

So I was pleased to come across this wonderful and concise Guidebook to Internet Searching.Everything is explained in laymans’ terms and in highly readable format.

The Introduction covers the basics of search commands then covers the big search engines before going into specific types of searches including: people, products, images, videos and several others including one I’d never thought of before – real time searches which picks up on ‘buzz’ as it happens online!

Each section has screen shots, explains how the search engines work, advantages, tips and often has links to articles that explain further.

A great guide to dip into when you’d like to try something new.

And as an aside and a word of caution: I read about it on MakeUseOfGuides on — before you click on the link be prepared to re-surface hours later — it’s one of those fascinating sites!

Getting to Know Search Engines – Ask Kids (aka Ask Jeeves)

askjeeves screen shotI’m back on to acquainting myself with the many search engines available. Funny that once you start looking there are so many more than you’d imagine.

Ask Jeeves was an old favourite of mine. I used to recommend it to the kids in primary school because it coped with them typing  in a whole question. It picks out the keywords and searches for them. But it used to be pretty limited in its relevant results and very American-oriented so we dropped off using it.

It’s now called Ask Kids and has ‘grown up’ some since I used it last.

The home page is really kid friendly and clean (no advertising at all). Once in a search there are sponsored websites but no advertising. I tested both natural language (What endangered animals are there in Australia?) and keyword (volcano causes) searches.

Once you’ve hit the search button, the next screen offers you some broader and narrower search term options in a side bar(the Australian animals search options were not Australian however) and then the search results in the main body of the page.  There was much more success with the volcano search than the Australian animal question – it still appears to be heavily slanted to American audiences. The first 5 hits I did get for Australian endangered species were:

  • Kids’ Planet – to be searched by continent – ‘grey wolves’ were incorrectly listed under the Australian continent! and the fact sheets for most of the animals were general not Australian specific. (Info quality – poor).
  • a dead link to a public library homework page
  • Perth Zoo with some species listed in their conservation program

So overall a disappointing result. But Boolean searching using keywords ‘endangered animals OR species’  brought up different and better results.

I had much better luck with volcanoes. First 5 hits included:

  • ThinkQuest
  • Cascades Volcano Observatory
  • Volcano Live (website of John Search scientist and volcano adventurer)
  • Staffordshire Learning Net Web Enquiry (webquest)

Ask Kids also offers options to search ‘images’ and ‘video’. Again the first question had poor results, the volcano search results were much better.

One feature I really missed on this site was knowing the total number of hits for a search. It always helps me to gauge if the student is searching too broadly or narrowly.

Ask Kids has other areas including one called ‘The Schoolhouse” which features databases by subject area. I searched here too and found useful information for both topics.

Overall, this search engine performs best  if keyword searching and Boolean search strategies are used. It seems to be well pitched for middle primary to lower secondary or for ESL students. Subjects still need to be fairly general in order to get decent search results.

Getting to know Search Engines – Bing

Continuing with my exploration of and education in search engines.

Bing is Microsoft’s replacement for LiveSearch. It was launched in June 2009 and is still in Beta (which means they’ve released it to the public but are still testing it).

The homepage is nice and clean (no advertising or boxes full of sponsored links). There is a background feature photo (today of rice fields in Bali) containing relevant hot links to video and promotional information. (You can see in the photo above a box that appeared when I scrolled over one of the links).

As I started a  search with my keywords (global warming) their ‘search suggestions’ feature fired up and offered me:

  • global warming
  • global dimming
  • globalization
  • global tv

and many more. This feature can be turned off by clicking a link at the bottom of the box. I find this feature very useful for students who are not good at spelling. They can concentrate on the search and not be embarrassed or sidetracked.

Once I hit enter,  the search offered me 13,900,000 results with sponsored sites (clearly marked) at the top. I know more hits is not better so I was more interested to see that the most relevant sites pulled up did not differ at all from the ones pulled up by Yahoo!7 except in order (but not by much).

One of its best features you won’t see until you scroll you mouse over the text for a result. It’s then that a little orange dot appears on the right-hand side, scroll your mouse to it and a preview of the page pops up. You’ll get the first few sentences on the web page and perhaps some details of what else is on the opening page (if there are portals or links) — you can see the little box below on the right.

Related search terms are listed in the left sidebar and are helpful for students not quite sure of the best search terms.  Like Google, if you click on the little hyperlink “cached page” the page will come up with your search keywords color-coded and highlighted throughout the text – useful for very long documents.

One feature on this search engine that could turn out to be a real time-waster for students is a search option called “xRank” trademarked by Bing.  Here’s Bing’s blurb on what it is:

xRank keeps track of notable people and puts them in order for you. We count Bing web searches for movie stars, musicians, and other famous people. Then, we compile our findings into an insightful ranking formula that tells you who the world is searching for most. The result is a cultural snapshot of who’s hot and who’s not!

This search option will also allow you to create graphs that compare the popularity of two celebrities over the last six months. Hmm, useful? I guess if you were involved in the paparazzi this could help.