SLANZA 2015: Lots to Learn from our NZ Neighbours!

By Kay Oddone

In September, I was honoured to take part in the School Library Association of New Zealand’s biennial conference, in Christchurch. Presenting a workshop and keynote, I was delighted to meet many of the amazing professionals who do a wonderful job managing school libraries across the North and South Islands, many of whom go above and beyond to ensure that NZ students have access to contemporary, effective and high quality information and resourcing services.

The three days passed in a blur of conversations, author breakfasts, conference dinners, keynotes and workshops, and reading back through the three Storify collections I created which collated the huge number of tweets shared (we trended in both New Zealand and Australia on several occasions!), I was compelled to write this blog post to share with others the rich learning that took place.

Below you can access the three storify articles, but for those short on time, and who would like to dip their toes into the learning, I have also created a Haiku Deck slideshow that attempts to capture just some of the themes of the conference. Click on the image below to view the slides.

The keynotes were fascinating in that almost every one raised the pressing issue of workforce change, and how technology, automation and globalisation are rapidly bearing down on us. For educators, we are on the precipice- skills previously valued will no longer be of use, and students live in a world which requires new ways of information management, cognitive load management, higher-level and different types of communication skills as well as the ability to learn quickly, manage constant change and think creatively. Research such as the articles pinned on my Futures Pinterest board all point to the need for a re-think in what students learn, and how they learn it; as jobs are automated, outsourced or radically re-imagined.

The storify collections below contain fascinating reading; take some time to be inspired, to discover and to make connections with the School Librarians of New Zealand; and share your thoughts in the comments below!

storify day 1

storify day 2

storify day 3

Linking Literature to Makerspaces

Libraries seem to be the space where makerspaces are taking off.

a makerspaceThe library is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

A makerspace is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

In schools, the library is the only learning space not limited by curriculum; it is an open learning space, which can be interpreted in many ways, and I suggest that this is why so often makerspaces find their place there. Outside of schools, public libraries are increasingly one of the only ‘3rd places‘ where people can feel free to meet, collaborate and learn, without the pressure to spend (even coffee shops move you along if you linger without a coffee in front of you).  Not to mention that library staff are often the most open to new, exciting and innovative ways of interacting and engaging with learning and technology!

I have written before on makerfaires, resourcing makerspaces and the role of makerspaces in enabling creativity and creation.

However recently, I got to thinking about how there is a natural link between this new development in library culture – makerspaces, and one of the original and most seminal aspects of libraries – books.

There are several types of ‘maker’ books, and this blog will look at each in turn. But first, a description of these maker book categories.

The first and most literal interpretation are books that describe how to make things. These books have existed for as long as anyone can remember, but as the maker movement grows in popularity, have moved back into the limelight. Now, as well as the ever present craft and hobby books, there are also books available on a wide range of project types.

The second type of maker book are those about the maker movement. Either charting its development, or describing how or why you need a makerspace, these books are less in number, but are essential reading for anyone considering moving into this space from an educational or practical perspective.

The third and least considered category of maker books are picture books and other literature that features characters that display a ‘maker’ mindset. These beautiful books are fantastic for inspiring an open mind, a ‘give it a go’ attitude and for reinforcing the importance of persistence and problemsolving.

So – what are some of the best examples of each of these categories of maker book, and how can you use them to inspire young learners to get excited about inventing, innovating and creating?

Books about making things (category 1):

One of the surefire ways to ensure a successful makerspace is to get the students involved and engaged in what such a space might look like, and what local interests it might encourage and enable. So why not inspire them by creating a collection of books that encourage exactly the type of activities you might include in your space? There are literally thousands of ‘how to’ books for every craft, hobby or activity you could even think of; this selection is just a small sample of the wonders that await you at your library or bookshop. Look for books that are highly visual, that offer projects at a range of expertise levels, and that feature activities suitable to your local context. Check out the titles below, and if you would like to see more, have a look at this work-in-progress list for further suggestions.

PicMonkey Collage

Books about the maker movement (category 2):

Anyone wanting to implement a makerspace should spend some time reading and learning about the ideas and thinking behind the concept. Laura Fleming, in her recently published book, Worlds of Making, spends much of the first chapter emphasising the importance of an innovative, empowering, safe culture, where failure is celebrated as a way to learn, and makers feel confident to take risks. Without this, even the most well-equipped makerspaces can fail, says Fleming.

Another essential part of planning a successful makerspace in a school is having a shared understanding of the reasons why it is being introduced – a strong understanding of the learnings possible in a makerspace, as well as how it contributes to the curriculum is how to ensure the makerspace is not seen as just this year’s fad. One of the essential texts which covers this is Invent to Learn, by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, which gives an amazing introduction not only to the practicalities of makerspaces, but also the pedagogical understandings and reasoning informing this movement in schools.  Informing much of the maker movement is STEAM/STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics. Titles that explore this connection include Design Make Play by Margaret Honey and David E Kanter, as well as From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts by David A. Sousa and Thomas J. Pilecki. 

Beyond these practical texts, those interested in implementing makerspaces might also benefit from a deeper understanding of the maker movement in general, as well as some of the research regarding the importance of innovation, creativity and the need to prepare students for a future unlike anything we currently experience. Titles that you might consider include Creating Innovators and the Maker Movement Manifesto; books that examine what innovation looks like, how to develop innovative thinking and why creating, inventing and just getting your hands dirty making can lead to discoveries not possible through any other type of learning.IMG_0576

So you want a Makerspace is a list of these books and more; it is, as all good curated collections are, a work in progress, but it will put you on the path, and give you lots of food for thought. Almost all of these titles are currently available for loan to Brisbane Catholic Education staff through ResourceLink (link requires staff login), otherwise, try your local library or buy online or at your local bookshop.

Books about the Maker Mindset (Category 3)

The third group of books, and the least well known, are the growing number of picturebooks that have been written with little makers (and not so little makers) in mind. These books encourage the ‘give it a go’ ‘fail = first attempt in learning’ mindset that we want all students to have. From Rosie Revere, Engineer to Monkey with a Toolbelt, to Harvey, the boy who couldn’t fart, who invents a farting machine to resolve his problem, these cute characters encourage children to get hands on with their learning. Beyond being engaging stories, these picture books provide a great starting point to inspire children’s own initiative and inquiry, and can be the catalyst for any number of adventures.

Other titles, for older readers include The Invention of Hugo Cabret (suitable for readers around 10 years of age) and for adults looking for a novel with a maker mindset, why not consider Makers by Corey Doctorow, a sci-fi future tale of technology and enterprise.


Examples of all of these types of maker books can be found on my Pinterest Board, Makerspace Picturebooks (and lists of other inspiring titles):

Why not create a display in your library, and inspire discussion around making, makerspaces and the potential creative use of library space for providing another avenue for learning and discovery; it could be the first step into a larger world!


Images appearing in this post are CC Licenced and used with permission from:

Phillipe Put, Thomas Leuthard, IMagineCup, Hindrik Sijens, Kenny Louie, L’ubuesque Boite a Savon, Sarah Houghton, Stuart Madeley.

Digital and Open Badges – So much more than a sticker chart!

By Kay Oddone.

I was cleaning out my closet last weekend when I found my school port from Year 2. It was a hard blue port, the type that kids in the early 80’s all had, with clips at the front and the tendency to rattle loudly when it was filled with just a lunchbox. Covering the port were stickers. Stickers I had earned from my teacher, and had proudly displayed on my port (yes, I was a nerdy little kid!!).

Digital badges are like super-powered stickers, displaying an achievement of skill; but their super-powers make them much more than glorified reward stickers.
The MacArthur Foundation defines digital badges as:

an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.

This short video gives a great introduction to what badges are, and their role in contemporary learning.

In a world where information is everywhere, and learning can happen anytime and anywhere, the way we demonstrate proficiency must change. As social media and ubiquitous internet access puts us into contact with expert teachers and mentors from all over the world, and MOOCs and Connected Learning environments enable us to develop skills and understandings in new and unexpected ways, we need a method of displaying what we know and can do. Traditional, formalised learning opportunities are not the only sources of education, and paper-based certificates just don’t cut it in a digital world.


Created by @BryanMMathers, This work is licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence

As professional development becomes more learner centred, badges offer a more flexible and personalised method of recognising achievements. Badges allow for modular, learning-centred designs, where multiple learning pathways are accommodated, acknowledging the varying levels of expertise held by participants, and reflecting achievement in short courses, work-based experience, assignments and projects, as well as soft skills such as the ability to collaborate, problem solve or engage in positive conflict resolution.

Created by @BryanMMathers, Licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence.

Created by @BryanMMathers, This work is licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence.

Digital badges enable potential employers to check against specific skill and knowledge needs. The ability to capture skills, knowledge and abilities developed from experiences across personal and professional spheres makes sense in a digital and fast changing environment such as education, where many skills need continual updating as recognised by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Systems such as the open badges infrastructure developed by the Mozilla foundation address the issues of identity, verification, validation and the ongoing management of badges. Badges created and issued using infrastructure such as this include metadata which is hard-coded (‘baked’) into the badge image file itself. This links back to the issuer, criteria and verifying evidence. Badges are also not necessarily permanent, and can be de-activated after a particular period of time if skills need to be refreshed (such as in the case of the yearly update required to maintain certain first aid qualifications).

Badge Anatomy This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Created by Kyle Bowen

Badge Anatomy. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Created by Kyle Bowen

The Horizon Report (2015) places digital badging as a technology which is likely to enter mainstream use in K-12 education within the next 4-5 years. The report is a well-respected research document which is widely used internationally to shape strategic plans in education in both K-12 and Higher Education sectors. Currently, large corporations such as Samsung, and schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Kahn Academy and Yale have all begun developing and using badges.

If the introduction of digital badging is introduced in a cost-effective way, organisations could see benefits through better management of professional learning, more data on the levels of professional learning of staff and more effective placement of staff through the recruitment and selection process.

Disclosure: This post was written not just to share this information, but also to earn myself a badge! In researching this topic, I discovered #OB101 which is an online course about open badges. The first task was to write 250+ words on the following:

  • What Open Badges are
  • How Open Badges are different from digital badges
  • Some ways Open Badges can be used

Did I meet the criteria? You will have to check my Badge Backpack to find out!

Making the most of your conference – Twitter and the Tweetstream

By Kay Oddone.

Conferences are exciting – groups of like-minded professionals, gathered together to network and hear experts share their wisdom, sometimes in far-away locales and always with too much food.

However, conferences are also expensive, and in some ways, a leftover from days before the internet brought us all together with the ability to connect across time and space. A traditional conference presentation is generally a passive, one-way experience – the presenter speaks and the audience listens. As so many people have gathered, hands on activities are difficult to manage, and the limited time-frame of a conference means that pre or post interactivity may be limited.

We’ve all been a faceless delegate at a huge conference… flickr photo shared by richard.scott1952 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Twitter (and other similar micro-blogging tools) has changed this. Inviting participants to share with a conference hashtag via a Twitter back-channel at a conference opens a multi-way conversation for a much richer experience. Using a conference hashtag,  conference delegates (and even those who can’t physically attend) have a way to discuss their responses to speakers,  inspirations and the resources presented at the sessions they attend. Here’s an example of how one person can curate a massive amount of information shared online from a Conference.

But wait…I hear you say “a conference what-tag via a Twitter which-channel??” The lingo of Twitter can be confusing for the uninitiated, and may be a reason why at so many conferences, this powerful tool is under-utilised. So let me explain.

By now most people are aware of Twitter and the increasing number of people using it as a professional development and networking tool. One of the most useful elements of Twitter is the hashtag; a user-generated term, which, when preceded by the # hash symbol becomes a key word that enables users to search and gather together similarly themed tweets. When a conference has a hashtag (such as #sxsw or #edutech15) participants can post tweets that reflect what the speaker is saying, share resources or communicate their inspirations and responses, and ‘link’ these with other delegates by including the hashtag in their 140 characters.

These tweets form the conference ‘back-channel‘ – the discussion between the delegates (and speakers!) that goes on even while the session is taking place. The back channel has always existed (and exists in every classroom or lecture hall) – it is the whispered asides, the notes passed between friends, and the aha moments noted down – but the power of Twitter means that everyone can now benefit from these perspectives, and even those who can’t be there physically can still take part, discovering new interpretations and adding to the conversation.

An example of a conference back-channel; photos and tweets shared, connected by the conference hashtag #adolesuccess15

An example of a conference back-channel; photos and tweets shared, connected by the conference hashtag #adolesuccess15

If you are a conference delegate, sharing your notes via Twitter means that you are more likely to connect with other participants (you may notice someone else also tweeting and make plans to meet up) and you are also sharing the conference more broadly with your twitter followers. This can also result in fantastic networking opportunities.

Keeping track during a conference can be overwhelming, especially if lots of delegates are rapidly sharing. A tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite helps manage this fast flow of information. These tools allow you to separate the various information ‘streams’ coming in to your Twitter stream across a series of columns; you can follow the conference hashtag in one column, tweets that have been sent to you in another (enabling you to easily conduct a twitter conversation while keeping an eye on the rest of the conference tweets) and a third column devoted to all other tweets. Essentially, these apps provide a ‘dashboard’ experience, so you can stay on top of your social media while it is coming at you from all angles! There is even scope for scheduling tweets, so you can set a specific time to ‘tweet’ (such as to promote your session 10 minutes before it starts, or to tweet resources 5 minutes before the end of a workshop).  Having trouble choosing which to use? This article is a simple summary of the best of both.

A Hootsuite Dashboard allows you to 'separate' out the streams you receive in Twitter.

A Hootsuite Dashboard allows you to ‘separate’ out the streams you receive in Twitter. Click to view a larger image.

In addition, once the conference is complete, you can use a tool such as Storify to collate all of the useful tweets into one place for re-reading after the event. This is better than note-taking, because not only do you capture your own thoughts and observations, you also can draw upon any of the other participants’ tweets for a very rich reflective piece on what was shared.

An example of a conference that I have ‘storified’ is below; click on the image to go directly to the story to explore further:

Click to read this Storify in full.

Click to read this Storify in full.

Storify is easy to use. You can log in using your Twitter details, and then simply create a heading and subheading. Then drag the relevant tweets (or just add them all) from the column in the side, which you have identified by searching using the hashtag. You can also search across other social media as well as add text and images, so you can make your Story as rich as you would like. Here’s how:

The conference organiser perspective:

If you are a conference organiser, having a Twitter hashtag is also a great way to advertise the conference and promote it to others. Before, during and after the event, tweets that capture the spirit of the conference and share what delegates are likely to experience and take away from the event will draw new interest, and tweets that delegates make during the conference may entice those who couldn’t attend to plan for next year’s event. Tweets like this are fantastic promotion:

tweet to catch upHow do you make your tweetstream come alive during the conference? Consider these tips in your planning:

  1. Create a short, meaningful hashtag that hasn’t been used before:
    Tweets are 140 characters, so don’t take up characters with a long hashtag (that is also likely to be harder to remember and slower to type!). Select one that is meaningful and related to the conference (and if you are likely to repeat the conference consider keeping the same tag, and suffixing it with the year e.g. #edutech15). Before announcing the hashtag, do a search to make sure it is not already in use – you don’t want irrelevant and unrelated tweets cluttering your stream!

sign up

2.Promote the hashtag well:
Nothing kills a backchannel like hashtag confusion. Label all booklets, posters, fliers and all web presence with the hashtag, so that people can begin to use it even when preparing for the event. Embedding the tweetstream on the conference website also builds excitement, as delegates and those considering attending see the hashtag in use and read about others they might meet at the conference.

3.Consider a TwitterTeam:
Create a team of delegates or organisers who will lead the tweetstream. Having regular tweets (preferably with a range of media such as photos or videos attached) can capture the flavour of the conference, encourage others to tweet and retweet quality observations already being shared. If they are happy to wear one, perhaps consider giving them badges so that others who need technical advice might know who to chat to at the conference.

4.Provide Twitter 101 and a Tweet-Up
Not everyone comes to a conference as a Twitter expert, however many might like to participate if they only knew how. Providing a simple tutorial prior to the conference or in the conference paraphernalia encourages those who are keen to try Twitter, without having to ask others for help (which they may find uncomfortable). Also, give those who are tweeting the opportunity to meet in person, by choosing a time for a Tweet-up during the conference, where all those who have been networking online can meet up in person. This takes the best of the digital world and connects it with the real world for a win win experience! Something like this simple interactive image might be all participants need to become familar with the Twitter interface.

5.Display the tweets during the conference
Not everyone will be twitter savvy, but everyone can benefit from a public display of the tweets being shared. Apps such as Twitterfall or Visible Tweets make it easy to display on the big screen what others are sharing. Simply type in the conference hashtag and watch the tweets appear! These apps are free, and simply convert the tweets to a more public view; if you want more control (say at a student conference, where it is possible that inappropriate tweets may be shared) paid apps such as Tweetbeam (which also has a free option) allow you to moderate tweets before they are displayed, and give you more control over the way the tweets appear.

Visible Tweets is just one way to make conference tweetstreams visible.

Visible Tweets is just one way to make conference tweetstreams visible.

So the next conference you attend or organise, why not take advantage of the power of Twitter to create a much richer experience for everyone. Promote, share, network, question and connect – all the things a good conference aims to achieve!

Like this info?  Click the image below for a printable handout that might be useful to distribute and share.

bring your conference alive with twitter (1)


Fake it till you make it – Some easy ways to make great quality media for the not so creative person.

  • by Ben van Trier

It’s a phrase that we have all heard and it is also a phrase that we all have a stance on.

flickr photo shared by built4love.hain under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Amy Cuddy shares a great TEDtalk  about body language and how ‘pretending’ to be one way might help us to become that way.

While the focus of this blog is not about body language and personal identity, it is about a few quick tips, tricks and tools to build engaging and dynamic media that will impress your audience.

It is important to note that if you are working within an educational context it is vital that you ensure the privacy of your subjects, particularly if you’re making media that includes identifiable images of others. Check with your leadership team or organisation for their policies and guidelines when it comes to photographing or filming within a school context.

When creating media, you also have a responsibility in relation the intellectual property of other creatives. The ResourceLink wiki created by Kay Oddone Copyright and Copyleft is an easy starting off point to learn about copyright and creative commons licencing.

Firstly great media isn’t about access to technology or possessing a high level of skill – it’s all about the story you are sharing! The Humans of New York story is a sensation that has captured the hearts and minds of many on the internet. It began as an artist small idea and grew to a worldwide phenomenon. The portraits are beautiful, nothing overly staged or digitally remastered, and why are they so engaging?
flickr photo shared by ForbesOste under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

You as an audience member read a story from the image. This is the most important question to consider when starting out building media, what is the story and why is it important to share.

Secondly, great media isn’t about access to technology or possessing a high level of skill – it is about following some simple rules. Photography Mad is a beautiful blog that has stacks of tips, tutorials and techniques. Whatever type of product you are making be it print, still photography or a film if you don’t capture your subject well the product will always look amateurish. Great composition will always mean that you have a quality end product.

flickr photo shared by blacktsuba under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Thirdly:  great media isn’t about access to technology or possessing a high level of skill – it is about putting all the pieces together in a simple and engaging way. If you have access to professional editing software, great!

If you don’t, here are my current favourite apps and web tools for making great media:

1. Replay is a simple high quality app for iPhone or iPad, edit together video and still images to make high quality videos. It’s free to download but you do need to pay for removal of watermarks and some theme packs.
2. PicLab and PicLab HD are photo editing apps for Apple and Andriod devices (PicLab HD is only available for Apple users), once you’ve mastered this user friendly app you’ll be making high quality images in the palm of your hand. It’s free to download and you can upgrade to PicLab HD for other features.
3. Video Scribe is an online tool by Sparkol for making whiteboard style animations. Once you master the user friendly web tool you’ll be making high quality and dynamic animations. There is a cost to subscribe but with a few different pricing options you can find a plan that best fits your needs.
4. Canva is an online tool and iPad app for creating highly quality graphic designs. Make fliers, posters, photo collages and more easily and quickly.

Finally great media isn’t about access to technology or possessing a high level of skill- it is about sharing the story with your audience in a safe and responsible manner. As mentioned earlier, if you are working within an educational context, it is vital that you ensure the privacy of your subjects if you’re making media that includes identifiable images of others. Check with your leadership team or organisation for their policies and guidelines when it comes to photographing or filming within a school context.

With the ability to build media so fast and so easily, it is also vital to remember that you have a responsibility in relation the intellectual property of other creatives. Don’t forget to check out the ResourceLink wiki created by Kay Oddone Copyright and Copyleft is an easy starting off point to learn about copyright and creative commons licensing.

flickr photo shared by mrsdkrebs under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

So there you have it – a few simple tips that will help you ‘fake it till you make it‘ as a producer of high quality media! Making your own media is a bit like DIY home renovations – sometimes it’s best to bring in a qualified and experienced expert to ensure the products success.

What does it all Meme? The whys and wherefores of a modern communication phenomenon.

See more on Know Your Meme

By Kay Oddone.

An internet meme is that thing that everyone is talking about. The blue/gold dress. Charlie bit my finger. LOLCats. Some of the most well known internet memes are the image with a pithy quote overlaid. They can be in turns hilariously funny, insightful or just crude, however they are a contemporary form of communication which many young people seem to instinctively ‘get’ and which leave many adults feeling like they are missing the joke.

The term meme was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, as a way of using evolutionary principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena such as melodies, catchphrases or fashion. These small units of culture were spread through imitation and innovation upon an original idea – a spread that is similar to a virus, as they go through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success.

The meme above, known as ‘One does not simply’ is a good example. Drawn from a quote from The Lord of the Rings, where the character Boromir makes the quote “One does not simply walk into Mordor”.

The meme spread across sites such as Reddit, Tumblr and Imgur, with variations firstly on the word walk –

See more on Know Your Meme


See more on Know Your Meme


and became so well known it was included as an Easter Egg on Google Maps:

Now, the phrase “one does not simply” is well known enough that memes such as the one shared at the beginning of this post can be applied to a wide range of scenarios, with an underlying understanding of the context – that whatever is being suggested is no simple matter.

It is this rich intertextuality that makes memes both worthwhile, yet challenging. One must know the context of the initial post before the meme truly makes sense, but if the shared understanding is strong enough, the meme becomes a powerful and viral mode of communication.

Internet memes, and their viral spread, are an example of participatory culture, as the reproduction, imitation and re-interpretation of these nuggets of society are practices which have become a huge part of contemporary digital culture. In fact, Limor Shifman, in her text Memes in Digital Culture goes so far as to say that we live in an era driven by a hypermemetic logic, where almost every major public event sprouts a stream of memes. He argues that although at first glance they appear to be trivial pieces of pop culture, upon deeper reflection one sees that they play an integral part in some of the defining events of the 21st century.

Limor Shifman also takes the time to define internet memes differently to the original concept of a single cultural unit as described by Dawkins. Her definition describes an internet memes  as

(a) a group of digital items sharing common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance; (b) that were created with awareness of each other; and (c) were circulated, imitated, and transformed via the internet by multiple users. –

So why do educators need to be aware of memes and their role in communicating culture? They don’t. Educators don’t NEED to be aware of memes, anymore than they must play Minecraft or read Twilight. However, there are several compelling reasons to consider taking the time to think about memes and how they might play a role in teaching – particularly of older students.

Reason One: Engagement

It is true – memes are fun. They can be playful, humorous and, well, there is a reason they spread so quickly. Select use of memes can hook students in, and challenging students to create a meme actually demands higher order thinking at a level students often are not required to meet. The need to not only respond to a context, but respond creatively and concisely is difficult, and the most successful internet memes are often actually very clever. This is not to say all memes are clever; like everything online, there are many in poor taste, and with little depth. However an example of inferential comprehension required to understand a meme is evident with the popular ‘Soon’ meme:

See more on Know Your Meme

What appears to be an innocent cow in a field is rendered threatening by the simple addition of the word ‘Soon’…why is this so?

Reason Two: Information Literacy

Dr Alec Couros argues that the digital participatory culture within which students communicate, socialise and learn provides essential opportunities for information literacy, and suggests that memes are a powerful way of discussing many different aspects of this literacy. He begins by suggesting that students examine memes with a view to understanding how information travels and is distributed online. The viral nature of memes means that whether by merit, messenger or manipulation, a chunk of information/culture/art may be spread via networks at an astonishingly fast pace. Students who understand this are not only more likely to be aware of their responsibilities when sharing online, but are also more prepared for a world where marketing is pervasive.

Reason Three: Critical understanding of current world events

The Australian controversy with our previous Federal Parliamentary speaker is a very recent example of current events becoming a viral meme (helicopters anyone?).

See more on Know Your Meme

One which we can examine with the benefit of hindsight is below:

See more on Know Your Meme

In a hypermemetic world, it is completely possible that current events filter into our Facebook feed as a meme before we even realise the deeper story behind them. A case in point is the Pepper Spray Cop (also known as “Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop”) –
See more on Know Your Meme

which went viral after the image of a police officer casually pepper spraying a group of Occupy protesters at the University of California  was captured in 2011.
See more on Know Your Meme

The image was photoshopped into a variety of contexts, which enflamed what was already a very tense political situation, and when the police officer’s contact details were made public online, he was the target of a huge text and email campaign critiquing his actions. This meme influenced news reports, customer reviews of pepper spray available for sale on Amazon and spawned songs and videos. The repercussions of this single (questionable) action resulted in the resignation of the police chief and the loss of the police officers job, as well as compensation claims and legal suits. The full detail of this meme can be read on Know Your Meme, however it is clear that a much larger and more serious story lies behind what many probably thought was a humorous internet joke.

Internet memes are an interpretation of the fad joke that has always been there, however with the power of the crowd and the potential to manipulate and remix in the hands of so many, they have become a much larger part of internet and general culture. It is important to be aware of the complexity behind many of these simple jokes (and be able to enjoy the ones that are indeed just simple jokes).

Have you taught using Memes? Please share your experiences and resources in the comments!



Couros, A. (n.d.). open thinking [Blog]. Retrieved 11 August 2015, from
Gladwell, M. (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston: Back Bay Books.
Internet Meme Database | Know Your Meme. (n.d.). Retrieved 11 August 2015, from
Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.


AustLit – Australian Literature like you’ve never accessed it before!

By Kay Oddone
austlit logo

Every Australian teacher, and any teachers of literature across the world who teach Australian Literature should make themselves aware of AustLit, an amazing resource created by a dedicated team of researchers and indexers based at the University of Queensland, funded by the Australian Government and a range of University and research partners.

AustLit’s mission is ‘to be the definitive information resource and research environment for Australian literary, print, and narrative cultures’ – and indeed it is.

AustLit is available to patrons of subscribing libraries, educational institutions, other organisations, and individuals. Currently, all registered users of subscribing libraries or institutions have full access to AustLit, which includes registered users of almost all Australian universities, the National Library of Australia, Australian State & Territory Libraries, a number of local council libraries around the country and…ALL STAFF AND STUDENTS OF BRISBANE CATHOLIC EDUCATION!!

The decision to subscribe on a system wide level has enabled all BCE students and staff to make full use of this fantastic resource – and this blog post aims to give some insight in to just some of the fantastic resources available to support quality learning and teaching.

Tip One: Use Search Effectively

austlit searchAustLit is a database, and as such it has a powerful search ability to access the 152 000 writers and organisations who have created the over 840 000 accessible works. This includes full text novels, poems, films and TV, children’s and young adult literature, biographies, criticisms and reviews.

Understandably, a simple search may not pinpoint the exact work you are looking for, so making use of the Advanced Search capability is a time-saving feature for busy teachers and students. AustLit provides extensive information on how to search effectively, as well as an overview of how to use the built in Boolean Operators and the handy Subject Heading thesaurus.

The Advanced Search allows for very fine-grained searching; a search for female authors of the crime genre, who were born in Brisbane revealed that there are eight that fit the bill:

adv search

brisbane authorsTip Two: Make Use of the Curated Exhibitions/Trails

Austlit staff don’t just add records to the database; they also curate rich resources known as Exhibitions or Trails around their research projects. These curated collections of AustLit records and other relevant material  provide insights into specific fields or areas of study – just some of them are pictured below:

Click on the image to access these and other research trails.

Click on the image to access these and other research trails.

Tip three: DO check out Black Words

Click on the image to read more about BlackWords

Click on the image to read more about BlackWords

BlackWords records information about the lives and works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers and the literary cultures and traditions that formed and influenced them. BlackWords is the most comprehensive record of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander publications available. It includes texts both by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and literary and storytelling cultures.

This resource is magnificent, both for Australians wishing to learn more about Australia’s heritage and our first people, and for those internationally who would like to learn more about the oldest culture on earth. This article, by Dr Jeanine Leane (PDF) outlines what resources are available through BlackWords, and how teachers might use these resources to meaningfully embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the curriculum. Please note that the link to the map of pre-colonial Australia referred to in the article has changed; the map can now be accessed here.

Tip Four: Don’t forget Reading Australia

Reading Australia was created separately, by the Copyright Agency of Australia. It is a list of over 200 Australian titles, many of which are accompanied by practical teaching resources that align to the Australian Curriculum. In addition to these resources, AustLit has created a series of curated information trails that provide context and supporting information relating to the Reading Australia texts.

Click on the image to go directly to Reading Australia.

Click on the image to go directly to Reading Australia.

 Tip Five: BCE Students and Staff – access AustLit TODAY!

As mentioned in the introduction, AustLit is available through many channels, but for Brisbane Catholic Education students and staff, the database is being delivered system wide, with the username and password available via the ResourceLink Portal.

Go to the ResourceLink Portal AustLit page, where you will find further resources, as well as useful links and our conditions of use. BCE staff can share access information with BCE students. Simply sign into KWeb and go to the ResourceLink Portal, click on School Access and then Austlit, or go directly using this link, signing in when prompted.

AustLit has an active social media presence, as recognised by this recently crowdsourced list of Australian historic fiction; follow them on Twitter @AustLit or stay up to date via their blog at

Have you used AustLit in your learning or teaching? Share in the comments what you did, and how it went – we’d love to hear from you!