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 https://marketing.canva.com/ipad/ 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.

Your Professional/Personal/Passionate Learning Network – Your PLN!

Struggling to stay afloat in a sea of information?

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

If there is one thing that is true of education today, it is that change is the only constant. Staying abreast of educational change can seem like a full time job in itself, and sometimes it seems fair enough to think that it is just not possible to stay afloat amid the overwhelming amount of information that is presented to us every day.

You are not alone! We are living in an age of information abundance, and it is no longer reasonable to expect that any one person can hold the entirety of knowledge on any particular topic within their brain, nor keep up with the rate of change in knowledge and information. In fact, people like David Weinberger, author of books such as (the extremely long titled) Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts are not the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room and Everything is Miscellaneous go so far as to say that technology is reshaping the way we understand and experience knowledge, and that we must begin to teach network literacy, as it will be the connections that we have, and the ability to access information when we need it that will be a determinant of success in the future, rather than the ability to store knowledge in our own brains, which has previously been how we have assessed expertise.

As educators, we know more than anyone that in a rapidly changing world, a student who has learned how to learn, who is flexible and is able to transfer skills across contexts, and who knows how, when and of whom to ask the right questions are likely to be the most successful – in life, if not in standardised tests.

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

So in an  environment of infowhelm, who can we turn to to seek support, ask questions, share learnings and sometimes just have a laugh (or cry!)? Teachers have always been able to turn to each other for this support, however in a networked world, we are fortunate in that we can reach beyond the boundaries of our own school, and connect with others all over the country and the world.

These well-known diagrams by Alec Couros sum up the potential of making connections for the 21st century educator:

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

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

A networked teacher, connecting to the many sources which Alec Couros has described above, has a very healthy PLN – a Personal, Professional, Passionate Learning Network  – a community of like-minded individuals who might never meet in person, but which challenge, push, share, teach and support each other.

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

All of this talk about having a support network sounds nice…but educators are busy people, and you may feel you need more convincing that connecting and developing a PLN is worth the effort. Don’t just take my word for it! Here are some of the wonderful members of my PLN, sharing why they love having a network of teachers and thought-leaders at their fingertips…

why pln

So if you are convinced…or even if you want to give it a go…there are many tools that you can use.
One of the most popular is Twitter, and I have written before on the value of using this tool as a way of making connections with other educators (just click on the link above or on the image below to read the blog post about how to get connected using Twitter).

flickr photo by Rosaura Ochoa http://flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3419823308 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by Rosaura Ochoa http://flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3419823308 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


Of course, Twitter is just one tool; you can build your PLN using Facebook, through subscribing to blogs, by contributing to communities on Google Plus or Diigo, or by connecting with and following curators on Scoopit, Pinterest or Pearltrees. You can choose one or all – the beautiful thing about PLNs is that they are PERSONAL! No one can tell you how best to grow your connections, or which tools will suit you best! You can spend as little or as much time as you like developing your networks, and the flexibility of online PLNs is that they are always accessible – either during working hours, or after hours, whether you are a night person or a morning person, a visual person or a verbal one – you learn the way that suits you best, where it best suits and when.

Hopefully this post has whetted your appetite for exploring the potential of developing your own PLN.

If so, these resources may get you on your way:


You can also check out my presentation, which I shared at the Edutech Conference in Brisbane in June 2015, (see below) or become part of my PLN – you can follow me on Twitter as KayC28.

PLN using social media

Celebrate Australia Day – It’s Great to be an Aussie!

With the news being filled with tragic and terrible stories of terrorism and violence, it is sometimes difficult to remember that living in Australia we are truly blessed. Why not take time on Australia Day this year to reflect on all of the positive aspects of being an Australian! Use any of the resource ideas below to share with students the ‘good news’ about our young and vibrant country.

What are the facts?

Did you know that for the 3rd year in a row, Australia has been ranked the happiest of 36 industrialised nations in this OECD survey? Click the image below for a fascinating infographic which compares the Australian way of life with others.australia_day

Ideas for students:

READ a great Australian book – choose from this list, or even better, have the students create their own list – compile it on Pinterest or GoodReads and share it with the world!


COOK a fantastic Aussie feast – we have all of the cuisines of the world to choose from, and we also have our own local delicacies – bring a plate to share, or pool your favourite Aussie recipes and create an enviable recipe book!


SING (or sing along!) to a playlist of great Aussie songs; choose traditional tunes or groove to the JJJ Hottest 100 – an Australia Day tradition. Why not run your own music quiz similar to Spicks and Specks? (This Wikipedia article gives a great explanation for some of the games from the show).


WATCH an Australian film or documentary – AustralianScreen has 1065 short clips with teachers’ notes, suitable for students of all ages. Divided into categories such as History, Film and Media, Identity and Culture and more, these clips give insight into many aspects of Australian life. Perhaps your students will be inspired to create their own great Aussie documentary?


TRAVEL around Australia – with the internet, you don’t have to leave the classroom to tour our amazing country. Why not plan a virtual Australian trip visiting key historic or geographic sites, or use Are we There Yet? by Alison Lester to inspire Australian travel discussions and activities.

Whatever you do, celebrate Australia Day! We have an amazing country, filled with fascinating people, nature and culture – share below in the comments how you plan to spend Australia Day in your classroom!

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!

Understanding E-Textbooks – it’s not Elementary!

Many  schools are currently wrestling with the concept of e-textbooks. The traditional textbook provided a simple interface to support student learning; the e-textbook creates numerous complexities. However, like everything in education, we are challenged to provide whatever offers students the best learning experience.

The ability to publish books in a digital format is still so new; although we have had access to pdf versions of textbooks and texbook information available via a cd-rom for some time, the iPad, through which so many of us access e-publications was launched on the 3 April, 2010 – just 3 years ago! The Kindle became available in Australia just one year before that – on October 19, 2009.

It is easy to forget this fact, and also to overlook the fact that the physical textbook itself has gone through many iterations to become what it is today. One of the earliest textbooks is Ars minor (The Smaller Art [of Grammar]). It was written in the 4th century by Aelius Donatus, who was the teacher of Jerome who translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. Donatus’s Ars minor was one of the first items to be printed in Europe, on Gutenberg’s printing press.  By the time education was made compulsory in the 19th century, the textbook had established its place in the classroom; it sold approximately 2 million copies in 18th century America.

So a tool that has been central to teaching and learning for over 300 years is now being challenged by a new delivery method – is it any wonder that for those of us teaching during this time of transition, we are finding that it is not all smooth sailing!

The University of Queensland Library defines etextbooks as follows:

E-textbooks are a subset of the ebook format. E-textbooks are written for students, published for use by educational institutions. They cover core course content. This contrasts with ebooks bought by the library that support research, or to supplement the learning experience. E-textbooks generally come with features not available to print equivalents: assessments, such as quizzes; lecture slides; social media channels, facilitating student interaction. Until recently, e-textbooks have been digital equivalents of printed books…there is an increasing trend for e-textbooks to be born digital, and to not be released in print. (University of Queensland Library, 2012)

Unlike physical textbooks, digital textbooks can take different forms:

  • Hybrid textbooks – print textbooks with a cd rom insert with digital support material
  • Digital textbooks – replicas of print textbooks in different file formats
  • Enhanced digital textbooks – delivered online or in ebook format, these textbooks feature interactive elements such as quizzes, video clips or social media capabilities
  • Proprietary publisher solutions – online teaching and learning environments which contain textbook information as part of the offering (Hallam, G. 2012)

Some challenges may derive from the fact that the potentials of digital delivery of learning materials go far beyond the traditional textbook format, however currently some publishers are trying to replicate the textbook model, using digital tools.

The advantages of e-textbooks seem logical:

  • 24/7 and remote access
  • enhanced mobility and reduction in physical size
  • inbuilt features such as search, dictionary
  • enhancement of learning experience via inbuilt multimedia and interactivity
  • improved accessibility for students with sight impairment

However,  teachers and teacher librarians report challenges including

  • the need for digital  infrastructure including strong WiFi networks
  • the cost of providing/maintaining devices required to deliver digital content
  • the time-consuming nature and complexity of management
  • the inability to provide textbook hire or resale of texts

At present, there are many models of digital rights management, and each publisher retains the right to determine how users may access the content, and for how long. Textbooks may be licenced to individual students via registration keys which may expire after 12, 18 or 24 months, and the ability to transfer ownership should a student no longer require a text varies in complexity, and is in some cases not possible. Schools which previously operated a book hire scheme cannot offer this cost-saving measure when using digital textbooks. Students themselves often find that they find the traditional paper textbook easier to manage, depending upon the subject material.

It is not surprising that these challenges exist, given how recently digital textbooks have become available. As technology improves, and as publishers establish more effective models of distribution, these issues will reduce. In fact, one product which seems to address some of these challenges is LearningField, which is  a new initiative from the Copyright Agency. From the Learning Field website:

The website and application provide an industry solution for the distribution of digital textbooks to secondary school students. LearningField provides a resource-rich digital platform which allows teachers to select the best material to support the differing needs of Years 7–10 students across all subject areas. Initially content is provided by publishers Cambridge University Press, Jacaranda, Oxford University Press and Pearson.

While paper textbooks will probably exist for quite some time yet, initiatives such as this show that there is scope to move beyond traditional models of content delivery, and to embrace the potential that digital technology provides. The next few years will most probably be a bumpy journey, and currently e-textbooks are anything but elementary; but one good thing about the rate of technological change is that we certainly will not be waiting for too long!

For a summary of this post and for further resources, check out this interactive image: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/447617168394158080


Hallam, G. C. (2012). Briefing paper on eTextbooks and third party eLearning products and their implications for Australian university libraries. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/55244/

The New England Primer. (2013, October 11). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_New_England_Primer&oldid=576716878

University of Queensland Library (2012a). E-Textbook FAQs. Retrieved October 18, 2013 from http://www.library.uq.edu.au/about-us/e-textbook-faqs

Resourcing the Maker Movement – ResourceLink ventures into the Makerspace!

This title is available to BCE staff to borrow through ResourceLink, or to purchase online through Amazon.

This title is available to BCE staff to borrow through ResourceLink, or to purchase online through Amazon.

This is the first of two posts on the Maker Movement – inspired by a recent visit to Brisbane Catholic Education by two educational leaders, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez.

Their ‘Invent to Learn ‘ day inspired the twenty or so fortunate educators who were participating in their workshop, including myself, to take up the challenge and bring hands on tinkering and making to learning.  Gary and Sylvia gave a fantastic overview of why the ‘maker movement’ is such a powerful way to bring learning to life in the classroom, before setting we teachers loose at a range of learning stations, where we could see for ourselves the enjoyment and reward of ‘making’, as well as the clear connections this hands on learning has for Maths, Science, Technology, The Arts, English and more.

Inspired by this day, we decided to plan a ‘Maker Faire’ for students at one of our schools, and how we did this and what happened will form the second ‘maker movement’ blog post. This post focuses on some of the many wonderful resources already available for teachers who wish to learn more about how to bring about this learning in their classrooms, and why it is so powerful.

The books mentioned in this blog post are all available for sale online, but are also available to borrow from the ResourceLink library for staff of Brisbane Catholic Education.

The seminal text in this area is of course Stager & Martinez’s recently published ‘Invent To Learn‘. Accompanied by a fantastic website, the book begins with ‘an insanely brief and incomplete history of making’, which brings readers up to date with the work of Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert, exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach and highlighting how hands on learning has featured in classrooms during many periods of history, but has never been as accessible as it is now:

‘Today we have the capability to give every child the tools, materials and context to achieve their potential…thanks to the personal fabrication and physical computing revolution… unencumbered by the limited imaginations of today’s education policy makers.’

Stager and Martinez provide not only theory and sound arguments for why kids learn better by making – they also provide strategies, advice and resources for teachers who want to bring making into their classrooms.

The maker movement is all about hands on – and so the first titles that were added to our library’s collection are ones that inspire exciting, innovative and ‘dangerous’ projects – just the thing for those looking for something to make or do.

Unbored is available to BCE staff for loan from ResourceLink and available for sale online.

Unbored is available to BCE staff for loan from ResourceLink and available for sale online.

Unbored is a huge resource. According to the introduction by Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of Boing Boing,

‘it is the first kids’ book to truly encourage a hands on approach to creating a personally meaningful life –  a powerful antidote to those forces that constantly try to shape us into passive consumers of pre-made reality.’

With Chapters devoted to you, home, society and adventure there are over 350 different activities, games, challenges, story excerpts, comics and more to keep kids and adults entertained for months.

Visit unbored.net for a sample of activities and ideas from each of the book’s chapters, which are complete with exhaustive resource lists with further reading and websites.

50 Dangerous Things is available for loan to BCE staff through ResourceLink, and available to purchase online.

50 Dangerous Things is available for loan to BCE staff through ResourceLink, and available to purchase online.

Another terrific title we have added to our collection is 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) by Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler. Tulley is best known for his school, Brightworks which is a non-profit private school, currently catering for 30 students. The students learn through a hands-on pedagogical approach where students investigate their own ‘arcs’ – projects of their choosing which have three different phases: exploration, expression, and exposition.

In 50 Dangerous Things, Tulley and Spiegler give explicit instructions (with note paper provided to jot down observations, improvements and new ideas) for 50 wild and crazy things – things that some kids have never even considered trying.

These projects range from mastering the perfect somersault to constructing your own flying machine, and reflect the truly sheltered nature of some childhoods compared to those of 20 or 30 years ago. While some projects are challenging and do require adult supervision (such as changing a tyre or experimenting with fire), others, such as climbing a tree or walk home from school encourage kids to take back the childhood experiences many adults took for granted.

This is available to for BCE staff to borrow from ResourceLink or to buy online.

This is available to for BCE staff to borrow from ResourceLink or to buy online.

For indoor making adventures, we purchased Super Scratch Programming Adventure! – a colourful, graphic based book which gives students step by step instructions for creating different games using the free to download Scratch program, which will run on most basic computers and enables kids to experiment with graphical programming. Scratch was developed and is maintained by the MIT Media Lab, and is a simple tool allows kids to program their own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share these creations if they so choose with others in the Scratch online community.

This video is a great way to learn more about Scratch.

The Super Scratch Programming adventure gives kids a starting point for making different games – and once they have begun coding in Scratch, they are free to iterate, improve and develop the games in complexity and quality. It’s the hands-on ‘getting inside’ of the computer game that empowers kids to explore and take an active role rather than passively consuming pre-created games; it also gives kids a huge kick when others play or interact with one of their own creations!

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Morten Diesen: http://flickr.com/photos/mortendiesen/8091682612/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Morten Diesen: http://flickr.com/photos/mortendiesen/8091682612/

Each of these hands on ideas books are open exciting avenues for teachers – but will your principal let you take this path?

Thankfully, ResourceLink has also added to its collection books that give you the theory and the research that shows that operating in the makerspace is a credible and worthwhile investment.

Two of these books available for loan to BCE staff (and available for sale online) are World Class Learners by Yong Zhao and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner.

Both of these titles are available to BCE staff to loan or to purchase online.

Both of these titles are available to BCE staff to loan or to purchase online.

Zhao argues that students leaving school today will be entering positions which increasingly require creativity and entrepreneurial skills – and that current educational systems which focus on standards and high stakes testing are not necessarily the best methods for developing these:

…existing evidence suggests at least that tightly controlled standardised curriculum, a uniformly executed teaching approach, narrowly prescribed and carefully planned learning activities, and rigorously watched and frequently administered high-stakes testing do not produce creative and entrepreneurial talents, although they may lead to higher test scores. Zhao, p17.

Zhao concludes that students who have autonomy to follow their interests and passions, who are given the opportunity to produce and create and who are not limited to working solely within the limits of the classroom will have a greater chance of developing the skills and qualities required by a 21st century workforce.

In Creating Innovators, Wagner echoes these findings, identifying schools, colleges and workplaces where cultures of innovation are nurtured through collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving and intrinsic motivation. Below is just one of the 60 videos created to support the text. 

The maker movement is innovative, exciting and has so much potential for learners – stay tuned for our next post about how we bring it to life in one of our schools.

Living ‘appily ever after in the library

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Serge Melki
In education, mobile devices have taken a strong hold – and for good reason. They are less expensive than computers, more portable, and far more responsive for impatient learners who demand instant access. There are thousands of apps designed with an educational focus, and many more productivity and content-creation apps that can be used effectively by students to facilitate and enhance their learning. Like all new technology, apps bring challenges to the school library – the centre in the school for resource and information management.

The library’s resource management role

The school library may be given the responsibility for managing the school’s fleet of mobile devices, and is certainly a natural centre for managing the purchasing of apps. This is an opportunity for the library to develop another area of service for students and teachers, and to reinforce the resource management role of the library.

Managing apps can present challenges, as most mobile devices are designed to be owned and managed by an individual. When managed centrally, creative approaches are needed to ensure the device is set up to meet multiple users’ needs while complying with complex legal limitations.

Identifying apps

It can be overwhelming to keep track of recommendations for app purchases. Time-poor teachers often leave requests until the last moment, or request an app that meets the same needs as one already installed on school devices. One way to manage this is to create an online form that teachers complete in order to request the purchase of apps. You can see an example of such a form here.

Online forms may be embedded into webpages, meaning the request form can be built into the library’s online presence. Using a form such as this controls the flow of app requests, helps teachers to consider why they are requesting the app and how they are going to use it, and also gives library staff time to manage the app purchasing and loading process. Having a set time each week for app loading, and making this clear on the form, should go some way to streamline  requests and ensure apps are ready for lessons.

Cataloguing apps

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Glyn Lowe Photoworks
Once apps are purchased, the next step in effective management is to add these to the library catalogue.  As well as providing access to the range of hard copy resources that are physically stored on the library shelves, the school library catalogue should also be a doorway to a range of carefully curated digital resources, including apps.

By cataloguing apps, librarians are placing into the hands of users a way of finding quality apps that have been evaluated from an educational perspective and which, through the use of metadata, may be linked to other supporting resources and tools. Cataloguing apps also allows librarians to quickly identify whether an app has already been purchased and the device it has been loaded onto, which is an organisational boon for those managing large fleets of devices.

Curating and promoting apps

Of course, there also needs to be an awareness of the range of apps that are available on school devices. It is here that social bookmarking tools such as Pinterest and Pearltrees may be useful. These curation tools create appealing visual displays, and are popularly used by students and teachers to manage information. A Pinterest board of apps related to inquiry learning, for example, is a great way for librarians to advertise apps already purchased, and how they might be used. Similarly, Pearltrees allows for apps to be categorised according to learning area or topic.

Acquiring apps

One of the best things about apps is their relatively low cost. Although a few specialist apps can be expensive, on the whole paid apps range from 99c up to $10. In addition, there are many free apps available, some fully functional, and others as ‘lite’ versions that provide a ‘try before you buy’ experience.

The decision to choose the free or paid version is dependent upon the app. In many cases, choosing the paid version of an app results in a better experience for users. This is for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that, essentially, nothing is really free and, often, free apps are funded with advertising or require ‘in app’ purchases in order to reach full functionality. Secondly, some free apps allow the user to create content, but limit the ways of exporting or sharing the finished product. Other times, the app will watermark the content, or limit the number of times something can be produced.

Even though apps are relatively inexpensive, paying for apps to be installed on multiple devices can quickly increase costs. There is a misconception that one app may be installed on up to five devices; however, this only holds true for personal use, and schools must purchase one app per device. Accessing Apple’s volume licencing goes some way to reducing these costs for those using Apple devices although not all apps are available through this program.

Who manages the purchases of apps, and how they are purchased is also an issue that must be addressed. If apps are being loaded centrally by the library staff, then it makes sense that they should be in charge of purchasing. The budget for these purchases may be centralised, or may form part of the app request process (i.e. teachers must ensure they have enough funds available to purchase apps that they request). Often gift cards are used to remove the need for credit cards, which can add an extra layer of complexity. An added benefit of using gift cards is that these frequently go on sale, allowing users to save up to 20% on the cost of purchase.

Evaluating apps

Evaluation of Apps

Click on this image to download a printable PDF of an evaluation form

Ideally, every app should be carefully evaluated before it is purchased, to ensure the best use of school funds. When evaluating apps, there are three main aspects that must be considered: purpose, design and content, and process.

Quality teaching comes from using apps that are not just chosen because they were recommended, but when teachers recognise the app’s purpose and potential.

This includes teachers knowing and being able to articulate:

•    what added value the app brings to the learning context
•    how the app enriches and adds to the pedagogy being used

•    the potential for the app to amplify learning through creation, remixing, publication and sharing
•    a familiarity with where the app sits within Puentedura’s SAMR model and whether or not the app simply automates or substitutes for a traditional learning task, or if it brings about truly informative and transformative learning, that simply could not be achieved any other way. (based on the work of Rosenthal Tolisano, May 27 2012).

The design of the app is hugely important. The app should be intuitive to allow user independence. It should provide a secure and stable platform, with a variety of ways to share the content created. It is also worthwhile to check if student data can be stored, so that if an activity is interrupted partway through, work may be resumed from the same point at a later time. Ideally, the app will also be flexible in use, suitable for a range of learners, or for a range of learning experiences.


Finally the content and processes of the app must be evaluated. This evaluation will be dependent upon curriculum requirements, the classroom context and the experience of those working with the app. Criteria such as the authenticity of the learning, the connections to the curriculum and the opportunities for differentiation and personalisation should be considered. Many apps are excellent in providing rapid and effective feedback to learners, and allow learners to be creative and self-directed in problem solving.

There are many checklists and rubrics available online to guide this evaluation (some are available here). Schools may find that it is best to create individualised criteria, to reflect unique school needs and requirements. One of the best ways of managing the information gathered from this evaluation process is to use an online form, so that evaluations are collected in the form of a spreadsheet that all users may access. An example may be seen here.

e-reading vs apps

Another way libraries are using mobile devices is as e-readers. The distinction between an e-book, an e-audiobook and an app is becoming increasingly blurred, and an app may provide another way of engaging a reader. While there is some evidence to suggest students are growing to prefer e-readers to traditional books (Bosman, 2011 and Indiana State University, 2013), there is still a place for a physical collection. The decision to offer e-books and audio books via mobile devices is one that libraries might make as a way of meeting the needs of many different types of learner, and to offer a variety of avenues to access information. The evolution of e-books in the library space is one that demands close observation, and cannot be ignored by librarians who are operating at the cutting edge of this area.

Libraries are always being challenged to take on new and innovative ways of delivering information and resources to their patrons. Effective management of mobile devices and apps takes forward planning, but the benefits of having a well-organised and centralised system for evaluating, purchasing, cataloguing and loading apps will result in a service that is appreciated by all members of the school community.


Bosman, J. (2011). E-readers catch younger eyes and go in backpacks. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Indiana State University. (2013, May 24). Research Shows Students Perform Well Regardless of Reading Print or Digital Books. Newswise. Retrieved June 5, 2013, from http://www.newswise.com/articles/research-shows-students-perform-well-regardless-of-reading-print-or-digital-books2


This article was originally published in SCIS Connections, Issue 86.

You can view it online here: