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


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.

Toolbox: e5 iPad Apps

Next year the Year 7s at our school will be bringing their iPads to school. This is part of the plan to answer the Big Question presented to our teachers at the end of 2011 —

How does Vermont Secondary College better prepare its student and teachers to meet the challenges of the 21st Century?

The Year 7 iPad Program is also meant to significantly reduce the number of text books purchased by families as well as offer additional organisational options and creative tools to staff and students.

As a teacher librarian it is my role to evaluate and recommend resources of any sort to support high quality teaching and learning.  So I began to read blogs about apps for education, I listened to individual recommendations, I  uploaded and trialled hundreds of apps over the year but only passed on a handful to specific teachers. I began to question the quality of educational apps available (most seemed like gimicks, games or had limited use). Were we expecting too much too soon? I decided I needed to use a different approach.

I’ve followed Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano of  Langwitches Blog fame for several years and found her charts:

to be exremely clear and easy to use. It got me thinking …

The Victorian DEECD (Dept of Education and Early Childhood Development) recently introduced its e5 Instructional Model into schools and VSC has been trialling it for the past 12 months. My question became: How could I support teachers to implement the e5 Instructional Model via the iPad Program? Was it possible to create a chart that would be  easy to use and  could provide apps suitable for each of the facets of e5? I decided to take the DEECD up on their invitation to:

…  engage with the e5 Instructional Model as a framework for defining what high quality instruction looks like in the Victorian government education system.

And here is what I’ve come up with —

 As I worked through the model applying it to the apps I trialled, I had several things in mind:

  • to look for apps that were not specific to Key Learning Areas (not always possible)
  • to choose apps that could support teachers, students or both (not just students)
  • cost should be minimal
  • check the terms and conditions (especially with regard to age restrictions and ownership of uploaded work)

I found that:

  • many apps suited more than one of the facets of the e5 Model
  • there were many suitable high quality apps not listed in the educational section of  the iTunes Store
  • the apps I trialled and found suitable for the Engage facet of e5 tended to be subject specific so I sampled from different learning areas and included them

To make this chart more accessible I’ve turned it into a pdf file, you can click here to download. Any comments or constructive feedback would be greatly appreciated. I’ll blog again when I get some feedback from the teachers at the high school.

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 …


Diving into Digital Fiction: Some IF and CYOA

Photo courtesy: enersauce on flickrcc

Photo courtesy: enersauce on flickrcc

The line between digital fiction, fiction and gaming is very fuzzy indeed. Choose Your Own Adventure books (CYOA) have always been popular in primary school libraries and books like Encyclopedia Brown adventures provided a little interactivity. So it was not surprising to see that there was so much out there in these areas. Interesting that they are all branded as games not stories.

Choice of … series

This site has several genres of story that  follow the traditional ‘choose your own adventure’ format. I expect it will be blocked at school, but I should be able to request that it be unblocked. So far I’ve played:

Choice of Broadsides

Multiple-choice swashbuckling naval adventure, in the spirit of C. S. Forester’s Hornblower or Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin books, with a dash of Jane Austen.

It was fun being able to choose an all woman crew for the ship – a little gender equality goes down well with me. And one really has to pay attention to details in this game – your crew depends upon you. This I’ll definitely include for the Year 8’s.

Choice of the Vampire

I’m not a big fan of the vampire/horror genre but this is well-written and takes place in ah historic setting so offers a bit more than Twilight-type stories.

Begin your two-hundred year journey as a vampire in New Orleans, 1815; choose whether you will seek love, power or redemption as you negotiate the growing-pains of the young Republic.

Choice of Romance by Heather Albano

Play as a young aristocrat who comes to court looking for love… and catches the monarch’s eye. Will you find true love? Gain a crown? Lose your head? Choice of Romance is a text-based multiple choice game of romance, deception and court intrigue.

CYOA stories are written from the second person point of view (which takes a bit of getting used to) , and Choice of Romance is on par with some of the lighter pulp romance (think Georgette Heyer, Mills and Boon) Because I’m planning to share with year 8’s I had to work my way through this clicking on the ‘naughtiest’ options to see how much sex might be included. It is very light on; I saw it described as ‘low steam factor’ on another site – I ended up sleeping with the King (how does one say ‘no’ to the King?) but it was described only as ‘beyond my wildest dreams’.

PS Of Note: it is possible to choose a same sex option for this story. Iam interested to see that it is an example of inclusive fiction rather than exclusive , but am undecided at this stage whether the teacher will be comfortable with the mention of sex  of any sort in the story given the age group.

I’ve just discovered that there is also the possibility of putting these stories on hand-held devises for a low cost.

Lost Pig

Another adventure game, described on its site as:

… a text adventure game ( also known as “Interactive Fiction”) about an orc named Grunk and a pig who would much prefer to remain lost. The story is told entirely from Grunk’s perspective, in his own words (just words – no pictures), so the player gets to experience the world through Grunk’s unique point of view.

This really did feel more like a game than a story but I will make it available for students as an option to explore from home. It needs specific game software loaded to play it.

Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual: Interactive Illustrated Stories from Retropolis and Beyond

This website has plenty of eye appeal and humour, it  is retro-sci-fi at its quirkiest and its fun to explore all the other parts of the website. The site  has two kinds of stories:  the first are interactive, the second are non-interactive, serial stories with the current one having updates added every Monday and Thursday. As well as the story, the characters carry along with them items such as ID cards that give more back-story when you click on them.

Quick Update on iPod Learning

Things have been quiet on the blog because I’m currently half-way through my practical placement for uni. I’ll blog about it at a later date but wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out journalling my progress with the iPod Touch. Much of the professional literature emphasises that teachers should get plenty of opportunity to familiarize themselves with iPods and what can be done with them. This is common sense advice I willing to indulge in.
I’ve used the earphones with mic now in several library sessions while discussing meanings of text and have found that the mic is quite powerful – able to pick up nearly any child’s voice in a group setting as long as they are speaking at a normal volume. It’s been very useful to replay these sessions to prepare for further discussion and to record remarks for later writing activities with the youngest students.

I’ve been loading, assessing (and in many cases deleting) various educational apps that I’ve run across in readings or have had recommended by people. So far I’ve kept:

  • Etch-a-sketch,
  • BrainPop,
  • iTalk,
  • iChoose, and
  • StoryKit.

I’ve also downloaded Juxio and iKindle Reader apps but haven’t had a chance to explore their potential yet. The sheer number of apps out there is overwhelming and Louise Duncan in her video (see previous blog entry) recommended building a toolbox of review sites to help with selection of appropriate, quality apps. I intend to do this and will set it up on a seperate page of this blog.

I’ve also purchased a Nike sensor for measuring and recording your fitness routines (walking/running). I’m still familiarizing myself with all the bells and whistles of this accessory, but can see a lot of value in it for getting kids active and measuring distances, speed, calories burned etc.