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It was with great shock and then anger that I learned from my nephew that his school makes him hand write his essays. He is in year 10. I tweeted this out and the conversations that ensued were very interesting and enlightening..


 As we live 60kms apart, I rely on Google Docs for tutoring him in his essay writing, so he has to type up his responses for me to comment on and then handwrite his work to be handed in. Surely this time could be better used? If plagiarism is an issue, there are tools for that. It’s bad enough that 13 years of schooling is geared towards the year 12 exams, but having to handwrite essays in my opinion, is a waste of time and opportunities. What are your thoughts?


Dear blog,

Please forgive me. I’ve neglected you. I’ve been spending lots of time curating three new topics on scoop.it; My dream school, eBooks and libraries and Teach meets, in addition to my other topics Pottermore and Are you game.

I’ve been sidetracked by lots of items that came up at the #plnlead day lead by Will Richardson at the State Library of Victoria on 20 July. Some of the notes from the day can be accessed here:

Some of these items include writing part of an article on the #vicpln program and hashtag for the Australian College of Educators and collaborating with other teachers in forming the #plnaction group and writing a response to the DEECD New Directions paper for school leadership and the teaching profession.

And I’ve been busy preparing and presenting my session on Creative literacies and QR codes for the AToM conference held on Saturday 11 August at the State Library of Victoria. I’ve been unfaithful as I used a posterous blog for this material.

Is there any way you’ll forgive me? I know it’s all my fault and I’d hate to break up as we’ve been together for a while now and I think we understand each other. Let me know what you think. I know I ate your chocolates too, but you hadn’t touched them.

Love, me xx

Finally, this was my contribution to the speed sharing session presentation from the ICTEV conference a few weeks ago.

It is also what I will be speaking about at #tmmelb on Saturday.

The reason I became a teacher

Yesterday I was reading a newspaper on my iPad while on a treadmill at the gym. A young man approached me and asked me if I ever taught at a certain school. When I said I did, he introduced himself. I had taught this now 31 year old man for pastoral care for one period a week when he was in year 9.

He still remembered my name (and I remembered him well, once he had told me his name. Of course in the meantime he had changed from a boy to a man) which surprised me. But the most pleasant revelation was what a fine young man he had grown into. He was extremely well-spoken and polite.

He admitted that when he left school, he tried to get a job without any further qualifications, but it was impossible. He took on an apprenticeship and is now a tradesman, gainfully employed and enjoying is work. He is also completing further study to improve himself and his future prospects. We agreed that learning is much easier all round if the student wants to learn, is ready to learn.

We discussed technology in schools and he really gets what a lot of teachers don’t. That if young children are playing with interactive devices like iPads to play games and read interactive books, when they get to school, it’s hard for them to be engaged and want to learn if they are forced to use a pen and paper all day every day.

How nice to think that I might have had even a tiny influence on the way this fine young man has developed. He really has got his act together. He didn’t even have to approach me, he could have just walked past.

This encounter really made my day and is the reason why I became a teacher.


Further to my post earlier this year about an afternoon tea for teacher librarians in Melbourne, Michael Jongen from Preshil has generously offered his school library as the venue for us to meet. Details are:

(library is between the cottage and the big house)

View Larger Map


Please register below so we know how many people to expect.

What an appropriate day to launch the National Year of Reading – Valentine’s Day. Those of us who love reading thought it very apt.

The State Library of Victoria hosted a lovely morning to officially launch the #nyr12.

The morning began with demographer Bernard Salt speaking about literacy. Based on census results, we need to work on literacy with (for example)

  • Migrants
  • People aged 50+
  • Gen Y young men
  • Maryborough
  • Colac
  • Melton

Literacy rates of Australians (dip in graph is good...)

We are our most literate between the ages of 35-45.

Areas in Victoria like Kerang, Inglewood and Wedderburn have very low tertiary education participation, so how do we deliver education to somewhat remote areas like that?

Wyndham and Whittlesea are the fastest growing areas in the continent. Other statistics include:

  • Robinvale 14% indigenous population
  • Dimboola 40% volunteers
  • Melton 13% volunteers

We need to match volunteers up with literacy needs; provide slick, corporate style programs that are attractive to baby boomer volunteers. Now volunteers want kudos.

Primary school literacy programs will be needed in next 10 years as over 50,000 children will be added in 5-9 age group.

In 1931, you were a child until you turned 14, then you were an adult. Age of death was an average of 63 years of age. In 1971 death at 71, teenager from 13-20. In 2011 death 82, adolescent until 30. There has been a postponement of commitment, particularly to marriage. Way of life in our 20s has changed in a generation.

34% teachers in 2006 were aged 50-55. So obviously we need more teachers coming in. Global citizens need a second language, if not a third.

Melbourne football players promote reading

The Premier, Ted Baillieu officially launched the National Year of Reading.

Then the winning book in the Victorian section of Our Story was announced.

Victorian Our Story finalists

Well done those men by Barry Heard is the Victorian winner.

Henk Kraima, an international expert in the promotion of books and reading showed examples of how a culture of reading has been built in the Netherlands.

  • Professionals must work together to make their own performance better.
  • Reading is facing stiff competition from gaming and social media but also these industries have slick advertising.
  • Play it smart if you don’t have the money. How? Work together!
  • All must have the same goal. 
  • Reading is a life skill for well being. It’s in your head and heart. Your motor. Exploit the feeling. 
  • We need to be creative, entertaining and innovative when promoting reading.
He went on to illustrate three examples from the Netherlands:

1. Promote reading aloud.

Everyone supports it. Prime Minister. Royal family. CEO of all big business. All go to visit schools and preschools to read the same book aloud on the same day. Paparazzi and TV crews in schoolyards, reading makes the news. Everyone is Facebooking and Tweeting about it. Dutch parents hear from people that interest them that reading is important. They talk about reading at home. Children ask their parents to read the book to them. Libraries are on on Facebook and Twitter. Same graphics sent out to all stakeholders.

Bookshops sponsor a breakfast for schools and pre-schools on the same day. This is also promoted via Facebook and Twitter. Whole bookshops are set aside temporarily for children. Publisher print a special edition of the chosen book, which is usually the picture book of the year. Publishers provide point of sale materials to bookshops. Bookshops advertise heavily and offer discounts.

  • Authors and illustrators visit schools
  • Schools inform parents
  • Schools host evenings with parents about the value of reading aloud.

Everyone has to find and agree on a date. Then raise awareness. Websites are developed.

They then mobilise aid of others. Companies can give financial support and advertisements. ABN Amro put ads on cash point receipts and bank account statements or online accounts.

2. Book week
For one week everything revolves around books. Everyone who is involved in the promotion of reading does something special. Free train rides for readers; if you buy a book or become a member of library, free travel for a Sunday. Had to put extra trains on. Successful people wrote letter to 15 year old self.

3. One book, one city.

This is done on a national scale. People are encouraged to join libraries and not take them for granted. Libraries give away 700,000 copies of a small Dutch classic book.  Shops sell luxury bound copies and audio books. Published complete book on poster. Used Facebook and Twitter to promote. All students the read book. Made book letters from book title put in library. There were queues to get into libraries. Book Week was promoted on all television and radio stations. Conversations about books were occurring everywhere. The book selected must be at least 20 years old.

It’s all about timing, money and attitude.

One event each month of the year (except December):

  • January read aloud day
  • February poetry
  • March Book week
  • April Children’s jury
  • May YA
  • June month of crime books
  • July/August summer reading
  • September national book fair
  • October children’s book week
  • November Nederland Leest (Netherlands Reads)

We can change the behaviour of people, but we must do it now. Don’t wait for another opportunity.

Over the time, there’s been a fair bit of airtime on Twitter as to the evils of grading. I’m not sure exactly what the arguments were against grading, but just that it was no longer the thing to do.

As a student whose entire secondary schooling (apart from year 12) was based purely on a pass/fail assessment, I can say that the lack of grading resulted in a lack of motivation for me to do my best.

For the first few terms in year 7, I carried on with my primary school ethos to do my best as I loved learning. But seeing other students, who rarely did any work and any they scratched together to hand in was pretty awful, get the same grade as me who’d spent lots of time and effort to do my very best was pretty soul destroying.

So from then on I did the minimal; just enough to get a pass. I was ill prepared for HSC where exams, grades and marks were all that mattered. The same went for university. However, the system of grades at year 12 and Uni meant that my philosophy changed back to trying my very best.

Anyway, apparently my views are anachronistic and certainly unfashionable. But what I want to know is how does gaming for learning, where games give players instant feedback, scores, access to levels, access to resources and even leaderboards be good and even desirable for people who are against grading? Don’t get me wrong, I have used gaming for learning to great success and believe that in fact, the instant feedback, scores, etc. are one of the things that motivates people to play. Why else do so many businesses now try to incorporate gamification? Badges, leader boards, mayors in FourSquare anyone?

I am not a fan of class rankings (which to me = gaming leaderboards) as students will never collaborate if they are ranked against each other. (Rather like how teachers will stop collaborating with each other if performance pay is introduced. A group does the work but only one get rewarded.) However, I do see that grades = scores are a motivation. Game players are always trying for a better score, motivated to improve. How is that different from grading?

So I’d like someone who is against grading but for gaming to explain to me why one is bad and unacceptable and one is good and desirable.

Pam Thompson invited me to write on this meme. I’m guessing as teachers we write about what we would have liked our teachers to know back in the day, so here goes….

1. I’m much better at writing than I am at speaking.
2. Therefore, I’m not all that comfortable contributing to class discussions.
3. I like instant feedback and there’s nothing worse than slaving over a piece of work for weeks and waiting several more weeks for some feedback.
4. I thrive on encouragement. It doesn’t have to be much, but it has to be there.
5. I find spatial learning is out of my grasp. Sorry, but there it is.

Now apparently I have to challenge five people to write a similar post. Being the last day of school holidays for Victorian government teachers, that might be a tall order, but @penlpn, @novanews19, @taniatorikova @mgraffin @reinaphung might have a go…

A new year, a new challenge or two

I’ve been meaning to post for the last fortnight or so, but Christmas and the Christmas Day storms got in the way.

I’ve seen a few people joining and a few people continuing their 365 (or 366 in the case of this year’s leap year) photo challenge, so I decided (late, as always) to have a go. You can see the results at 366challenge.

As a result of a few people’s actions (or lack of them), I’m also starting a daily post on modern manners. See modernmanners. Happy to accept contributions if you have them!

Happy New Year to my wonderful PLN!

Over a year ago, I started downloading eBooks for their ease of use; having a library with you when travelling without the weight or awkwardness of a pile of books was brilliant. Having a book in my possession moments after reading a great review was another bonus. Over the time, I’ve used the Kobo, Kindle and iBooks apps, all pretty much without incident.

Until this week.

I’ve been taking my iPad to the gym to read, it’s ideal for using on the treadmill as pages stay open (unlike a traditional book) and there’s a ledge on the treadmill that’s just perfect for it. But upon opening the Kobo app, several of my books had disappeared; including one that I was in the middle of. Kindle to the rescue for the moment and I was able to read something from that app. I went home and looked more deeply into the problem. Kobo issued a statement through the app explaining the problem and how to fix it.

It didn’t work for me. I updated my iOS, updated Kobo app. Reloaded library from website. No deal. The books just wouldn’t load from website to app. After several hours of faffing around, I sent an email to the Kobo help centre. I waited a while, giving Kobo time to reply, seeing that we’re in different timezones. Nothing. I tweeted. Nothing.

Days later, still silence. I retried all of the suggested steps. Still no deal. I went to the settings on the iPad and decided to use an advanced setting “clear all local data”.

Set "clear local data" to on

Set "clear local data" to on

Upon opening the Kobo app, I needed to sign in and my library was totally empty. It was like I was using the app for the first time. However, once signed in, all of my books started to load. Yes, all of them. This step was not mentioned in any of Kobo help information.

A quick Google search today shows that there are plenty of people around the world having issues with Kobo customer service. My gripe is twofold:

  1. You expect to be able to read the books you’ve paid for when you want to.
  2. You expect some customer service for items you’ve paid for. I’ve had none.

The other thing that worries me is that as a teacher librarian, we’re pushing on with eBooks in schools and trying to convince the naysayers that they’re the future.

Issues like those I’ve had are not going to win eBooks any fans. And I can just hear the naysayers saying things like “that’d never happen with a real book!” And they’re right. For the public as a whole to take on eBooks as a default requires issues like these to be non-existant. Or fixed quickly.

I certainly won’t be recommending Kobo to anyone, let along buying anymore of their titles. I will stick with the Kindle and iBooks apps though, as I’ve not had any problems with them. It’s a shame as personally I preferred the layout and screen view of Kobo.

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