Changing Spaces, Changing Minds – Libraries and Learning Spaces as Places of the Future

Today my colleague and I were fortunate to participate in a workshop run by the passionate and inspiring Liz McGettigan, who is the Director of Digital Experiences at SOLUS. The workshop was entitled Changing Spaces, Changing Minds, and focused on  how to combine the physical with the virtual in public spaces. Although the workshop was aimed at Librarians, and investigated Liz’ and the participants’ experiences in libraries, many of the ideas and concepts could easily be adapted to apply to any learning space.

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Like many institutions, libraries are currently in a state of flux. Whereas once libraries were a fount of knowledge, and librarians the gatekeepers of information, today, everyone has the world’s information in their pocket. So how do libraries (and many would argue schools) remain creative, relevant and sustainable community spaces where rich, real and relevant learning occurs? Just like in Will Richardson’s text Why School? (a extended essay which for $3.10 is a must read for anyone involved in education), Liz challenged us to step away from negative mindsets limited by funding shortages and staff cuts, and instead to embrace a new way of thinking about libraries, which focuses on leadership and vision.

“At a time when the provision of knowledge and culture is increasingly digital and screen-based, the value and importance of high-quality physical spaces and experiences is growing, not diminishing” Roly Keating, CEO British Library.

This quote by Roly Keating set the stage for an important discussion – how to effectively combine the physical and the virtual – to find the right balance so that library is seen not as a dusty remnant of the past, but as a living incubator of ideas, learning and innovation. The clues for how to achieve this are in the strategies employed by the commercial sector – entrepreneurial vision, effective marketing and meeting user needs – indeed, Liz encouraged us to ‘shake of our modesty’ and promote the wonderful work libraries do, and to make sure everyone knows that the library they remember from their childhood is now a completely different space!

The libraries of yesterday are nothing like the centres of creation and inspiration they are today!

The libraries of yesterday are nothing like the centres of creation and inspiration they are today!

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Super Furry Librarian
creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by The Daring Librarian

Learning Spaces(4)

Here in ResourceLink, we have been working at combining the physical space with the digital for some time. We have re-designed our physical space to create a more open, welcoming atmosphere, with more areas for groups to meet and work, inspired by the work of David Thornburg, Ewan McIntosh, Bruce Mau Design and others as you can see in this infographic I created to the right (click for a larger image):

We have played with Augmented Reality, both as a learning tool and as a way of engaging our users in our displays and resources, which we shared in this blog in the article Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace

A staff member viewing Rick's video explanation using an iPod touch. Students using mobile devices to view the past and the future with Augmented Reality

A staff member viewing Rick’s video explanation using an iPod touch.
Students using mobile devices to view the past and the future with Augmented Reality

We deliver a hybrid collection of resources, including physical items, digital and online resources through our online catalogue. Indeed, my colleagues and I joke that we would like our library management system to be one day ‘greater than Google!’. We use a range of different tools for information service delivery, including social curation tools such as Pinterest, Diigo and Bag the Web and social catalogues like Library Thing (click these links to see some of our collections).

The BCE Digital Library is delivered via our online library catalogue and enables students and staff at all 137 BCE schools to access ebooks and audiobooks.

The BCE Digital Library is delivered via our online library catalogue and enables students and staff at all 137 BCE schools to access ebooks and audiobooks.

Additionally, we provide access to e-books and audiobooks using the Overdrive platform, integrated within our library management system. Also included in the catalogue are bibliographic records linking to resources that include online video clips, websites and app reviews. Users may also search and access a selection of alternative providers from within the catalogue. This carefully evaluated and up to date list of alternative providers include Getty Images, Khan Academy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Australian National Library.

In doing so, it is hoped that if no physical item is available to meet the user’s needs, there is a far greater chance that the information the user is seeking will be available via one of these alternative formats or avenues.

makeyWe have also dabbled in Makerspaces, creating kits that schools can borrow so that they can play and learn. The development of these kits was inspired by the work of Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, and was informed by the best use of our space, and the needs of our users, which are mainly schools. You can read about these kits, and see how we put them together in these blog posts, Resourcing the Maker Movement and  Running a Maker Faire.

With a focus on learning, creating and innovating, ResourceLink also has a production room, where we create many short films working with other members of staff at Brisbane Catholic Education. One of our productions was created to introduce users to our Digital Library collection:

What’s next for ResourceLink? Inspired by Liz McGettigan’s workshop, we hope to venture more fully into the social media space, engaging with our users more regularly in the virtual world, and spending more time developing our knowledge around online learning. We aim to continue developing our content and to work towards truly being an incubator of ideas, inspiration and imagination.

 

How to Haiku!

Presentations that work

I was recently asked to run a workshop on how to develop effective presentations. I had run this workshop last year, but of course, last year’s work needed updating, as so much changes so quickly that workshops from even last week seem out of date! Some things remain the same:

Of course, a lot of things have also changed; and one of the most important updates I made to my workshop was to introduce participants to Haiku Deck.

What is Haiku Deck?

Originally an iPad app, and now available on the web, with future plans for access on other platforms, Haiku Deck is a gorgeously simple slideshow creator, that enables the user to create presentations that easily meet all of the tips for presentations mentioned above.

The creators behind the app focus on three words: simple, beautiful and fun.

Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.
Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.

A ‘deck’ or presentation can be created in four easy steps, and the finished result can be shared on social media such as Twitter or Facebook, embedded on a blog, website or in a learning management system, emailed or opened in PowerPoint or Keynote for further editing (if necessary).

How to Haiku

The steps to create a deck are incredibly easy. The process described below is for the iPad app – but it is very similar using the web-based app, and extremely intuitive.

First, click the plus sign in the centre of the bottom of the screen to create a new deck.

Then, give your deck a name, and choose a theme. Don’t worry – if the theme doesn’t suit, you can always change it again at any time during the creation process.

The different themes run across the top of the iPad screen. Simply scroll through to choose your favourite.

2014-06-30_1109The deck creation process is determined by the four images you will see on the left hand side of the screen. These allow you to (from top to bottom) add text, add images, arrange your text and add notes.

Adding text is very simple, and the beauty of Haiku Deck is that it encourages you to keep the text to a minimum. Yes, they have made additions, to enable users to input dot points, or blocks of text, however the deck is most powerful when text is used sparingly.

One exception to this is using the block of text option  for quotes, which can be quite powerful when combined with the right image – see this example below:

quote eg

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choosing images is the fun part. Haiku deck cleverly identifies key words in the text on the slide, and automatically allows you to search a database of thousands of images using these words. You can also choose to search using your own key word, or upload your own image. The thing that really stands Haiku Deck apart from other presentation software is that if you choose a Creative Commons Licenced image (read more about this type of image here) it automatically includes the attribution on the slide – saving an enormous amount of time.

You can also choose from a range of pre-formatted charts, or choose a solid background colour (handy for those quote slides or for when you do need to include a lot of text). In addition, in the iPad app, you can purchase stock photography right from inside the app, with images costing $1.99 US.

Even if you are not wanting to create the entire slideshow in Haiku Deck this automatic attribution is powerful. Why not  create a deck of awesome pictures, complete with attribution in Haiku Deck, and then export the slides to PowerPoint or Keynote (say if you wanted to also embed movies, music or other features not currently a part of the Haiku Deck suite).

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

The third stage is to place the text. Here you have a number of options, which are useful for working around the image in order to best combine image and text. Although the options are somewhat limited (you can’t freely place text anywhere you wish on the slide, you must choose one of the set positions), this restriction actually frees the creator, as it enables the focus to be on simply word and image, and speeds the creation process.

The fourth step is optional, and is the addition of notes. You can make these notes either private, or you can publish them along with your slides, for sharing with others. This is a much valued addition to Haiku Deck, as it really enables the tool to be used for much longer or more complex presentations, and is a godsend for those of us who get nervous when speaking, and like to have a visual prompt!

When to Haiku

Haiku Deck has been designed to be used for any type of presentation, however it’s ease of use and the simplicity of the slide design lend itself particularly well to the following uses:

2014-07-01_12431. Prayer/Reflection/Meditation: when you want beautiful images and few words, nothing beats a Haiku Slide deck. Being based in Brisbane Catholic Education, many of our meetings and gatherings begin with a simple prayer or reflection; and often these are required at short notice. Even the most familiar prayer can be given new life when it is paired with amazing imagery.

2014-07-01_12422. Conference reviews: when you attend a conference, you hear many nuggets of wisdom. What better way to capture and share these, than by using Haiku Deck. When you return from the conference, and have an amazing looking presentation to share with colleagues, no one will know just how quick and easy it was to create!

There are so many other creative ways to use Haiku Deck; young students could easily create a deck for a show and tell item, use as a simple way of sharing visual instructions, create awesome looking flashcards to learn a foreign language, and then share the great holiday snaps upon return from said foreign location; the list is endless!

You can find many more exciting and wonderful applications for Haiku Deck on the Haiku Pinterest Page. Better still, share ways you have found to use this beautiful piece of technology in your classroom, library or beyond!

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Graphic: Introducing Graphic Novels to the Classroom – Resources and Inspiration

2014-06-06_1037It is undeniable that we live in a new media age. In this age, literacy requires students to be able to make meaning from information in a wide variety of formats, one of the most prevalent being visual. The Australian Curriculum identifies the important role that visual literacy plays in contributing to a student’s overall literacy level, so much so that it forms one of the four major building blocks within the Literacy Capability.

Within this context, the graphic novel is perfectly poised to provide a powerful teaching tool, which enables students to develop literacy skills. As Di Laycock identifies, graphic novels can be considered the ‘holy grail’ of literature, as they are truly multimodal texts, encompassing all five semiotic systems.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide. Image: McCloud, S 1994, Understanding comics: The invisible art, HarperPerennial, New York, p. 68.

 What is a graphic novel?

Graphic novels are often seen as ‘not real literature’ or as an easy way out for readers who don’t want to engage with ‘proper’ texts; however as Will Eisner points out, reading graphic novels challenges readers in ways perhaps educators haven’t considered:

“The format of the comic book presents a montage of both word and image, and the reader is thus required to exercise both visual and verbal interpretive skills. The regimens of art (e.g. perspective, symmetry, brush stroke) and the regimens of literature (e.g. grammar, plot, syntax) become superimposed upon each other. The reading of the comic book is an act of both aesthetic perception and intellectual pursuit.” Comics and Sequential Art, p.8)

You will note that in this quote, Eisner speaks about comic books as opposed to graphic novels. The difference is defined as one of serialisation; comics and graphic novels share the same format, however a comic is generally one part of a larger sequence, with a continuity plot that extends over multiple issues, whereas a graphic novel is a complete and extended narrative (Laycock, 2014).  While we are in definition mode, let’s turn to the work of Scott McCloud whose amazing work Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art gives a terrific explanation of what distinguishes this format from others such as picture books or movies.McCloud-Comic-Definition2

This definition focuses on the fact that it is the juxtaposition of images, which have been deliberately sequenced in order to make meaning, which differentiates graphic novels or comics from other multimodal formats such as picture books or movies. Watch this fascinating Ted talk where Scott McCloud explains this in more detail:

Using graphic novels in the classroom

Di Laycock’s research has led her to work with many teachers using graphic novels in the classroom. One of the things that she has noted which may make graphic novels less appealing is a possible  lack of familiarity with this type of text. Many teachers and students simply don’t have the metalanguage required to ‘talk about’ graphic novels, and indeed, many may need explicit instruction as to how to read a panelled page.

Fortunately quite a few terrific resources exist to take both teachers and students into the world of the graphic novel. Aside from the books which give an indepth foundational understandings of this form, such as Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, there are also books that focus more specifically on how to include graphic novels as part of the curriculum:

Click on this image & access this collection on Amazon to learn more.

Click on this image & access this collection I have compiled on Amazon to learn more. Teachers of Brisbane Catholic Education may borrow any of these titles from ResourceLink.

For those who like to use digital resources, generously shared graphics such as the one below also provide a fantastic introduction to the format:

Choosing graphic novels: for the library and the classroom

Another challenge for teachers and teacher librarians who want to introduce graphic novels to the curriculum is identifying which are quality texts. There is a growing number of graphic novels for sale, but evaluating these for use in teaching can be time-consuming and overwhelming for someone not familiar with the format.

Just as there are novels that you might choose for a trashy ‘summer’ read, and others which you might choose for their literary merit, so too are graphic novels published for many different reading purposes. Thankfully there are a number of resources online which assist in this area of selection. Selecting graphic novels for inclusion in a general borrowing collection for a school library is also different to selecting texts for inclusion in the curriculum. For teacher librarians looking for advice on how to develop a quality collection of graphic novels for students to borrow, I would direct you to Di Laycock’s excellent article from Synergy (PDF download).

Unfortunately at the present time there are few evaluation sites for graphic novels run by Australians for an Australian audience (if they do exist, please let me know in the comments section!). Nevertheless, there are some fantastic sites for teachers and TLs getting started – one of the best is Getting Graphic, by Canadian teacher Kym Francis. This website has an excellent introduction to using graphic novels in the classroom, as well as an extensive vocabulary page which is good for building up ‘metalanguage’ skills, as well as a page devoted to evaluation processes for choosing great graphic novels. Another fantastic source of up to date information is Comics in Education, which has a very comprehensive site, and which tweets a lot of good information for educators wanting to keep up to date in this area. Follow them at @teachingcomics on Twitter.

There are other good information sites also; some of the best are pinned on my Pinterest board about graphic novels.

Of course, no post on graphic novels would be complete without a few suggestions for fabulous titles to consider. Here at ResourceLink, we have been fortunate enough to be able to build up a small graphic novel collection, so I have had the pleasure of reading quite a few titles recently. The graphic novels below are now available to borrow by BCE staff!

Great graphic novels to investigate:

9780141014081

Click the image to access teachers’ notes on this title.

Maus is an incredibly powerful tale of two generations, and the impact of the Holocaust on both. Cutting between the father’s story of his survival as a Jew in Poland during World War II, and the son’s story of his difficult relationship with his father, as he tries to learn about his family history, Maus has themes of racism, guilt, masks, imprisonment and family. From the Puffin teaching notes:

The comic book is able to depict the events of the Holocaust in a less confrontational way than photographs or films, especially with the distancing element of the characters being depicted as animals. However, Spiegelman did meticulous research and based his drawings of Auschwitz on photographs and plans.

An array of teaching resources to support Maus in the classroom is available on the Melbourne High School website.
This graphic novel would be best suited to students in Year 11 and 12.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Another graphic novel which uses anthropomorphism is the recently published An Anzac Tale by Ruth Starke and Greg Holfeld. This title retells the Anzac Story from the perspective of Wally and Roy, two young larrikins who sign up for adventure and to earn some extra money for the family. An author’s note inside the front cover notes that the animal representations were chosen either for their indigenous associations with the country (kangaroos, wombats and koalas) or for their symbolic association with the country (e.g the British Lion, or the Bengal tiger of India). Terrific teaching notes are available from Working Title Press. This retelling would be suitable for middle primary students and above.

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Blue tells the story of Christian, as he looks back on his youth  growing up in the fictional industrial town of Bolton. While some of the language is ‘colourful’, it is necessary to the authenticity of the story, which the author describes as a combination of Stand by Me and District 9. This graphic novel has themes of racism and immigration, which lends itself to classroom discussion, and the entire book can be accessed online at Pat Grant’s website, for further discussion on how the book translates into the digital medium. Best suited for students in Year 9 and above.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

          For something completely different, Classical Comics provides graphic novel versions of many popular high school novels – and interestingly, they offer them in ‘original’, ‘plain’ and ‘quick’ text, so that readers of all abilities (and those who are time poor) can access the story more effectively. These are of beautiful quality, and well worth investigating. In addition, the titles have extensive teaching notes available. Staff of BCE can borrow packs of several of these titles which include all three text levels and teachers’ notes – Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Frankenstein. These are available in Australia through Book and Volume .

           So where do I start?

Like anything in teaching, it is the pedagogy that is the most vital part of the puzzle. Don’t include graphic novels in the curriculum simply because you can; include them because they are the best tool to use. A great deal of the Australian English Curriculum focuses on multimodal texts – either working with them or creating them – and so familiarity with this format is an awesome way to develop student’s skills in multiliteracies.

An example of how graphic novels might be used in a series of lessons for Year 8 is available here. These simple lesson plans have been developed by myself and our Education Officer – English, Kim Summers, as a way of introducing teachers to the possibilities in using this format in the classroom.

Start just by sharing a graphic novel with your students. Consider a graphic novel version of a text you might usually teach, or better still, deepen your teaching by using both traditional and graphic novel format. Investigate having students create a graphic novel (or part of one) as a writing task. Almost all literature strategies equally apply to graphic novels, but check out this list of easy to implement strategies for graphic novels for more ideas.

Teachers in Brisbane Catholic Education are welcome to borrow from our range of resources to support their investigation into graphic novels. For all other readers, check out our Pinterest Board of resources.

If you have used graphic novels in your library or classroom, share your experiences or advice in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!

References:

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Hill, R. (Ed.). (2004). The Secret Origin of Good Readers: A Resource Book. Retrieved from http://www.night-flight.com/secretorigin/SOGR2004.pdf
Laycock, Di (2014) The Power of the Panel. Workshop presentation for English Teachers Association Queensland, 31 May 2014.
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Reprint edition.). New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.
Oddone, K. (2014). Graphic Novels – bring your teaching to life. Pinterest. Curated list. Retrieved June 10, 2014,
from http://www.pinterest.com/kayo287/graphic-novels-bring-your-teaching-to-life/

Creative Commons and Flickr – a solution found!

Flickr

I’ve written before about the amazing collection of Creative Commons images that are available on Flickr, which are perfect for students (and teachers!) to use when creating any sort of visual content.  It is so important that as educators we model the use of Creative Commons licenced materials, because even though we do have some flexibility in education due to various copyright exceptions, if students wish to publish their work publicly these exceptions do not apply.

You can read more about Creative Commons if you are new to this term on this previous post on the ResourceLink blog.

Unfortunately, the solution which is described in this earlier post, using Greasemonkey to access Creative Commons licence information came unstuck late last month, when Flickr updated their image pages, which ‘broke’ the script.

As Cory Doctorow writes in this article about this issue, having no easy access to this Creative Commons licence information is extremely frustrating; such a wonderful range of images, which are so very difficult to attribute puts users off, and certainly sent me off looking to other sources for images when I was putting together some presentations last week.

The solution Cory suggests, using the Attributr script available through Github is terrific, but not for the faint hearted. It isn’t easy to navigate Github and get the script working; in fact, after reading this Lifehackr article about Github, I decided to look elsewhere for a solution.

2014-04-14_1305_001

Thankfully, Alan Levine, the creator of the original Greasemonkey script that I blogged about earlier, has again come to the rescue! He also has used Github to create a bookmarklet, but the difference is he’s designed it in such a way that it is really easy to use.

Simply go to his page (click the screen grab image above to access it), click on the Bookmarklet button and drag it up to your bookmark toolbar.

Now, when you go to any page on Flickr which has a Creative Commons Licenced image on it, click on the bookmarklet button, and a window will pop up with all of the attribution information you need! Too easy!

It looks just like this:

This means once again it is so easy to attribute creative commons images found on Flickr – and this is thanks to the work of others sharing their scripts and work generously under a Creative Commons Licence which allows us all to benefit from their technical skills. So thank you Cory Dodt (even though I found your solution too complicated for me) and thank you Alan Levine (Work found at http://cogdogblog.com/flickr-cc-helper/ / CC BY-SA 3.0) and thank you also to all of the other creators who share their work via Open Source or under a Creative Commons licence; together we is bigger than me!


creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by opensourceway

Love Your Library on February 14

library lovers displayMove over St Valentine! February 14 is now also known as ‘Library Lovers’ Day’, and to celebrate, this post is all about why everyone should reconnect with the library – be it their school or institution’s library or a nearby public library.

Too often, we librarians hear comments such as ‘who needs libraries when we have Google?’, or, when they hear that one is a librarian, the response ‘so you just spend all day reading and telling people to be quiet!’

Today, more than ever, libraries play an essential role and events such as Library Lovers’ Day aim to raise the profile of the services that most people don’t even realise are freely available to them in this information age.

If, after viewing Pam Sandlian Smith speak, you still aren’t convinced we need libraries in the 21st century, ask yourself this:

What can your library and/or librarian do for you, that Google can’t?

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

1. Provide access to curated information that specifically meets your needs

Trying to find quality information on the internet has been described as trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant. Even choosing a novel to read can be an overwhelming experience when faced with the millions of titles available through providers such as Amazon.

Your library provides access to information and resources that have been carefully curated, chosen because they are of high quality and will meet local needs. What’s more, your librarian has been specifically trained to help you find the information you want; they know tips and tricks for searching online, have access to databases and indexes that allow them to drill down into areas that a simple surface search will not reach, and are familiar with the collection of resources that are currently available.

What’s more, with more resources being available digitally either online or for download, library catalogues are becoming far richer than simply lists of books that are sitting on shelves. The ResourceLink library catalogue  provides access to books, DVDs, CDs and other physical resources, as well as e-books and audio-books to download, links to websites, reviews of apps for installation on mobile devices and more. This movement to seeing the library catalogue as a social space, is being adopted across many libraries.

Librarians take pride in developing rich library catalogues that take users directly to high quality resources; the ten top ‘hits’ on a catalogue are probably much closer to what you need than the ten top ‘hits’ from a simple Google search.

2. Provide access to resources and items which may not be practical to purchase

Not everyone can afford to buy every book they want to read. Educational resources, used once in a classroom, can be difficult to justify, and technology is so expensive that it is often not worth buying something that you just want to play with to see if you like it.

Libraries can come to the rescue! Loaning out expensive items that are often used as a ‘once off’ makes economic sense, and in an age of sustainability also reduces waste. The ResourceLink library is purchasing increasing numbers of kits such as the Despatch Box and realia such as Indigenous and religious artefacts, which schools can borrow for the period of time in which they require these resources. Expensive texts can be borrowed so that teachers can peruse them before making the decision to invest, and DVDs, CDs, puppets and posters are available for effective lessons that involve multimedia, without the need for purchase.

3. Provide a social space to meet, collaborate, research, learn, share, relax!

The library provides one of the last public spaces which is truly free. While some may insist that the stereotypical ‘silent’ library still exists, in most places you will find that libraries provide spaces for meeting, talking, eating, working, studying, playing and more. With great examples of modern libraries here in Brisbane such as our own State Library, The Edge and our wonderful public libraries, we here at ResourceLink are also working towards making our space a welcoming, flexible learning environment. School libraries have long been a place of refuge from the playground for many students, and now, with changing technologies and concepts such as maker spaces becoming common place, libraries are even more exciting places to explore than ever before.

ALIA promotes Library Lovers Day, and this year, they are asking everyone to share why they love their library on social media, using the hashtag #librarylove – and take the time to vote for your favourite library also!

If you haven’t visited your nearest library recently, take the time to drop by. Let’s make it a date!

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Tech Tools for Christmas Classrooms

santa-in-sled-with-reindeer-hiIn the last few weeks of school before Christmas, it is often challenging to find quality resources that are engaging enough to keep over-excited students involved, and yet of educational value. This time of year is also extremely busy for teachers, who are writing reports, devising class groupings for next year, meeting with parents, directing Christmas concerts and more.

To meet the needs of time-poor teachers, I’ve devised a list of apps and digital tools that might be useful for keeping students challenged and engaged right up until the last day of school and even perhaps beyond into the Christmas break; please feel free to share your own ‘lifesavers’ in the comments below!

1. Caritas Advent Calendar

Click to download App or PowerPoint version.

Click to download App or PowerPoint version.

This beautiful Advent Calendar is available as a mobile app for iPad or Android tablets, or as a PowerPoint for those without a mobile device. Beginning December 1st, users are able to click each day on the marked button, and read reflections, consider social justice issues and pray about different causes and concepts. Go to http://www.caritas.org.au/advent or click on the image to learn more.

2. Holiday Time Machine


This app is amazing, and at 99c, will provide hours of entertainment and learning for students of all ages. This app has over 2500 videos including holiday specials, commercials, music and movie trailers dating from 1896 to 2013. This means students can view anything from original footage of a snowball fight filmed in 1896 to 2013 Christmas television commercial – and so much in between. Needless to say, having this much historical footage at one’s fingertips lends itself to fascinating historical inquiries, awesome visual literacy and critical literacy learning opportunities, comprehension activities, cultural literacy investigations; the list goes on. It also provides wonderful discussion starters for considering how our views of Christmas have changed, whether Christmas has become more commercialised, and how advertising reflects societal mores. Overall, a wonderful tool with many uses, and also entertainment on Christmas day – prompting memories and conversations across the generations! Download the app here.

3. Norad tracks Santa

Click to learn more.

Click to learn more.

Broaden student’s geographic knowledge using the Norad (North American Aerospace Defence Command) Santa tracker, which goes live on December 1st. Each day there is a  countdown, different games and activities, videos, music and more.  The site has been updated for 2013, and will feature  a 3D globe and new interactive games. Available as an app in the Windows, Apple and Android stores, it is also online at http://www.noradsanta.org/ . Tracking opportunities are also available on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+  by  typing “@noradsanta” into each social media tool to begin.

4. Yummy Christmas

Click to access this app.

Click to access this app.

This free app presents very simple recipes to encourage young students to get involved in cooking this Christmas. Cooking offers many learning opportunities, not the least measurement skills and the chance to discuss healthy eating and the importance of a balanced diet during the holidays! The recipes are beautifully presented in a visual format, and feature easily obtained ingredients as well as a focus on healthy choices.

5. Christmas Nativity Scene

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Click to download this app.

Another free app, this one would be useful when teaching about the different versions of the Infancy narrative in Luke and Matthew’s Gospels. Students choose from a range of scenes and characters to create a Nativity scene; what they choose to include could be used to determine the differences in the different Gospel versions. Images can be saved to the photo roll on the iPad for easy sharing with others, or to be imported into a different app to be added to further.

On behalf of the ResourceLink team, I would like to thank all of our readers and followers, and wish you all a  very happy Christmas and a refreshing holiday break.  I look forward to sharing more interesting information with you in 2014!

Running a Maker Faire: Good Hard Fun at St Joachim’s

After being inspired by our fantastic day working with Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez at the Invent to Learn day hosted by Brisbane Catholic Education (which you can read about in the earlier post, Resourcing the Maker Movement, my colleagues and I decided to run a Maker Faire at one of our schools. Being based at ResourceLink, I began creating kits of resources and equipment that we could use to run the Maker Faire, and which could then be borrowed by schools who wish to investigate using this style of hands on learning.

Running the Maker Faire

The plan was to run the Maker Faire at St Joachim’s, Holland Park West, where we could work with the Teacher Librarian who had also attended the Invent to Learn day, to introduce the Year 5,6 & 7 students to a range of hands on activities based on the ideas in Invent to Learn.

We organised the students into groups of 8, and timetabled them to spend about one hour on each of the activities, which they would rotate through throughout the day. cardboard alley

One space, ‘Cardboard Alley’ was open for the students to visit at any stage during the day, and offered the students the opportunity to use Makedo and Rolobox equipment with a huge assortment of cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes. This was an important option, as it provided students a place to go and recharge if they completed an activity early, or if they just needed a ‘brain break’ from the more challenging activities.

During the Maker Faire, the students had fun with:

Lego WeDo – an introduction to Lego engineering and robotics, Lego WeDo allows students from Year 3 and up to build and program simple models such as cranes, cars and ferris wheels. Using either the Lego WeDo software, or the free programming app Scratch, students can experiment and develop skills in  language and literacy, math and technology, as well as enhance their creativity, communication and design skills.

lego

Arduino – Arduino is an open-source electronics  platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Using Arduino, students can write simple programs using  Arduino open source software to create projects using motors, gearboxes, speakers, LEDs, switches, cases and many other electronic parts.Projects can be as simple or as complex as you wish, suiting users from Year 5 and up.

arduino

Makey Makey – allows students to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. Simply use the supplied wires or alligator clips to connect any type of everyday item (such as fruit, plants, coins, play dough etc) to the Makey Makey board, and then plug the board into the computer, and you are able to interact with the computer by way of the attached objects. Students love playing computer games using fruit as the controllers!

makey

Squishy Circuits– by combining conductive and non-conductive dough with a battery pack, leds, small motors and buzzers, students are able to create innovative simple circuits of any shape. A fascinating way to learn about circuitry and basic electronics.

squishy

Interactive Cardcraft– students were able to make light up greeting cards by using conductive paint and copper tape along with led lights and small batteries to create simple circuits on the cards. The challenge was to apply their understanding of circuits and switches to the real-life application of the greeting card.

paper

Interactive Wearables – Using ideas from this wonderful soft circuits booklet, students created brooches and arm-bands that lit up by sewing circuits using conductive thread, copper tape, batteries and led lights. While the sewing was challenging, so too was the application of their understanding of simple circuits to another practical challenge.

wearables

During the day, the students had so much fun. Their smiles, their engagement and the question ‘is this really school work?’ was evidence that the Maker Faire was a big success. However, not only did the students have fun; they also learnt so much about circuitry, programming, robotics and simple electronics, as well as developing their creativity, their problem-solving strategies and their ability to collaborate and work together. We encouraged the students to ask each other for help, and to share their successes and failures throughout the day. Listen to the conversations the students are having during this short video:

Constructing the Invent to Learn kits: advice for libraries wishing to resource Maker Spaces

When creating the kits for the Maker Faire, I purchased equipment from a range of different outlets. As a library, ResourceLink cannot supply the consumable equipment required for these kits, and so I created detailed lists of what was included and what the user needed to supply in order to run the activity successfully. This information is included in each kit on a laminated card (copies of which you can download below). I also included where possible printable information and instruction cards, which you can download also from the links below. Being based in Brisbane Australia, please note that some of the suppliers are locally based, however some of the online retailers ship all over the world.

Cardboard Construction:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Squishy Circuits:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Makey Makey:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Arduino:2013-10-30_1217_001Lego Engineering:2013-10-30_1217_002Interactive Papercraft:2013-10-30_1217_003

Links to all of the resources you could possibly need to learn more about Maker Faires and creating maker spaces in a library are available on the ResourceLink Pinterest Board, Makerspaces and STEAM in Libraries or Anywhere, and also curated on this Pearltrees site.

For those who want to try running their own Maker Faire, I can only say: Go for it! The learning, the enjoyment and engagement is well worth the organisation, and the equipment is really not as costly as you would imagine. Start small, and build up. You may be surprised at what your school already owns, once you start investigating! For those in Brisbane Catholic Education, borrow these pre-made kits as a ‘try before you buy’ – contact ResourceLink find out how you can borrow these new resources today!