You must be joking!

A selection of work by cartoonist, children’s book illustrator
and director, Greg Holfeld, whose graphic novel, “Captain Congo”
has been nominated for the Children’s Book Council Awards this

I was thrilled to meet the talented and friendly Greg Holfeld this weekend, at Supanova Convention, at Olympic Park, Sydney, Australia. I was able to tell him how popular “Captain Congo and the crocodile king” is proving to be with the students at my school, and he autographed some copies of his previous picture book, “You must be joking!” (It was only later that I realised that the boy hero’s pet in that book is a super-powered Jack Russell terrier – not unlike mine!!)

We enjoyed a laugh together about the bizarre prevalence of giant purple gorillas in classic comic books (and at least two of his own works.)

Greg also threw into my package of purchases a copy of “Monkey, Bug, Rabbit & Goose have lunch and save the planet“, issue #1 of a unique reader, in comic book style, which he created for for fledgling “comicophiles” at his children’s school.

Thanks so much Greg.

365 photos

A few weeks ago, I happened across two different references to a blogging project that was called “365 Photos“. The concept is to use a digital camera to create one photograph per day, using an almost-impromptu, aim-and-shoot technique. Some days, one finds oneself putting a lot of thought into a photo, or at least the subject matter. Other days, a surprise opportunity just presents itself. And other times, it might reach 11.58 pm before one realises that the day has almost slipped by without a suitable photo opportunity. The family dog is useful for such moments of panic (even if he’s asleep).

I’ve been uploading the resultant shots to my Flickr account, and assembling them as a cumulative “set”. This also means that I can create a slideshow, as I did a few minutes ago, by requesting an automatically-generated URL from Flickr. eg:

Click here

The slideshow presentation will get longer and longer as time goes on, of course. And there is an option to display captions – or not.

Although I’m doing this as a personal blogging exercise, over on my other blog – and it has certainly ensured that I have no shortage of things to talk about on that blog – I’m beginning to realise there are endless ways to adapt this project for use with a class of students. Not to mention the potential for using it to discuss visual literacy!

I found a great online explanation of “365 Photoshere, and the reflections of its first advocate here.

IWBs and ICT – a pre-test survey

Earlier this term, our school’s first interactive whiteboard (IWB) arrived, and the Year 4 and Year 5 students in a composite class did a “pre-test” survey in Circle Time with me.

Our survey was called: Does the use of Interactive Whiteboards assist with student engagement in their education and therefore improve students’ literacy and ICT skills?

Do you have the Internet at home?
Yes: 21
No: 1
Don’t know: 0

What does an IWB do?
• Like the Internet, plays videos, like a TV
• It helps you learn
• Lets you read a book to the whole class (eg. “Pete the sheep” simultaneous reading day) – looks bigger
• Like a plasma TV with bigger speakers
• A computer from the future, touch screen, can save work
• Like a normal computer only bigger
• Can search for stuff
• Can show stuff again, and save work
• Like the Internet only bigger, can do more things
• Like a computer, can touch the screen to change things
• Don’t know/Pass: x 11.

How is it better than an ordinary whiteboard??
• Can save stuff, use Internet, write things, use screen keyboard
• Like a computer, play games, do stories
• Don’t use Texta – use finger to write and draw
• Play games x 2
• Internet
• Already has information in it (eg. Notebook 10)
• Can save
• Can click to rub out x 2
• Like a computer and whiteboard combined
• Play music
• Can type or write with finger/IWB pen
• Look at everything on it
• Get pictures (eg. Google Images), save, rub out – not gone forever
• Can go back weeks later to revise
• Don’t know/Pass: x 6.

Why are we using an IWB to write, publish and read our Identity Rap blog posts?

Year 4 (who did the “Olympic Rap” on the library computers in 2008):
• Screen is bigger, easier to see
• Computer monitor too small
• Not bunched up, and no more arguing over chairs (ie. sitting around small monitor screen)
• Much bigger screen, can sit at tables and chairs
• Bigger screen, can write more things
• No people are stuck up behind others
• Can’t see small screen properly
• Don’t know/Pass: x 3.

Year 5 (who are doing the “Identity Rap” on the IWB in 2009):
• On small screen, you can’t see well x 2
• Easier to read writing
• Screen is much bigger
• Don’t know/Pass: x 1.

What will Year 5 have learned when they have finished the rap?
• Learn about our environment x 2
• About human body x 3
• Teamwork is really easy with an IWB
• Learn about other people’s identities
• How living things work
• Learn about where people come from (eg. Schools doing the rap with us)
• Transport – how cars move
• What the topic is, learn more about it x 2
• Learn about the solar system
• Cooperate with each other
• Know more things than the first time
• Don’t know/Pass: x 8.

What else could we do with an IWB?
• Use it as a TV, watch movies on DVD
• Make it read books
• Play games x 2
• Play music x 2
• Listen to heavy metal music x 2
• Learn rules for playing sports
• Read stories
• Look at different websites
• Draw
• Search the Internet
• Browse the Internet
• Learn about first aid
• Learn about speech writing
• Use Google Earth
• Search for things with Google
• Write stuff
• The school could buy things they need on eBay
• Don’t know/Pass: x 0.

We are going to do this survey again at the end of the Identity Rap.

Communication – what?

Okay, this week I’ve been reading lots of concerns from teacher-librarians worried about new wireless Internet connections invading their private spaces in their school libraries. People are asking about the health and safety risks of having even more (and larger) electrical cabinets humming away in the background throughout each school day…

Yes, I realise that sometimes teacher-librarians can be completely left out of a school’s decision making processes, but my two random thoughts of the day are:

1. You know, I can’t recall the last time I actually sat at my desk in the library office. It’s a tiny place I race into, to put a spoon of instant coffee into my cup, once a day, before heading off to the staff room at morning tea time. Or, it’s where I attempt to answer the telephone (which usually hangs up just as I reach it, breathlessly – although running in a long, double-portable library is definitely not good for the brand new interactive whiteboard). Or, I also go to the office to snatch a book out of Teacher Reference. If I do any sit down work in the library, it tends to be out in the main library area, since nobody would notice me squirreled away in the back office.

2. Yeah, send all this hardware back, I say, and make the little blighters do their research on slates, with authentic slate pencils, like in the days of yore. (Or is slate a deadly toxin, too?)

Seriously, if someone is insisting that a big, ugly, noisy box is moving into somewhere where you usually work, find yourself a change of scenery! Create yourself a new alcove, on the opposite side of the building. Very few library desks are nailed to the floor. There are ways around everything. But the key to any of this is surely communication. If you (and your principal, OH&S committee, Fed Rep, cleaning staff and teaching colleagues) have not established satisfactory communication skills at your school, then you have much more to worry about than electrical emissions from a new bit of machinery.

School libraries in 21st century schools?

The School Libraries & Information Literacy Unit at State Office, NSW DET, is asking for comments on the question, “Do we need a school library in 21st century schools?”. There is a School Libraries 21C blog and associated readings.

Today I added thusly:

I love those reports from country towns, where their tiny public library facility would be under threat of closure – and many of the people who turn up to the town meeting would be residents who’ve never actually stepped foot into the library. But they realise its importance, and they don’t wish to contemplate the possibility of life without a public library. Just in case…

Even for myself, I tend to buy most books I want/must have/need to read. My own ventures into libraries unknown (public, university and school) – as a then-class teacher, when a mature age student, and also when researching a commercial piece of freelance writing – are quite sporadic, but the thought of a 21st century that’s somehow “moved on” from the concept of a physical library space is quite abhorrent.

But I think I am ready for any future library to have a different size, shape, location (partly in holographic or even cyber space?) or collection. I stare at my amazing, new iPhone – which is so reminiscent of Dick Tracy’s funky little two-way wrist radio/computer in comic strips of the 50s – and am lost for words. I mean, I only just discovered that my iPhone has been diligently copying across all songs I’ve been downloading from iTunes to my Macbook Pro, ever since I bought it last September. I simply hadn’t thought to look in that bit up till now!

The other day, while doing a presentation about wikis and blogs, and relying on a live Internet connection, the link went down and we had to call for a replacement computer. Only later, I remembered that all of my extended notes, on another page of the wiki, were accessible via my iPhone’s internet connection. I had my palm cards, of course, but the PowerPoint material and much more were only a few button-presses away!

An off-the-cuff mention of Tasmania tigers yesterday, during Year 6’s library lesson (we were looking at a unique picture book, “How WEIRD is that?”, one of this year’s Crichton Award CBCA nominees), permitted the impromptu calling-up of 1930s b/w moving footage of Australia’s last captive Thylacine, and now we can display him on the IWB at point of need.

Library books aren’t going away – I’m especially reminded on those days when air-conditioner-overload causes yet another blackout in the library, but the power of us having so much instantaneous information is both exciting, and another whole can of worms (as to helping students to be able to sift their way through it all).

Envisioning school libraries

I loved reading Noel McDonough’s observations of a typical lunchtime in his secondary library, on the School Libraries & Information Literacy Unit‘s School Libraries 21C blog.

It sounded very much like the scene in my primary school library on any day. I can’t imagine a day when school libraries have vanished completely.

When he says “Although ‘libris’ means book – a book is just a piece of technology for the storage and retrieval of data from which we glean and construct knowledge”, Noel is exactly right. We can only guess what the next few years of advancements in mobile phones, iPods, interactive whiteboards (IWBs), and electronic paper, are going to bring us.

Worryingly, I do see the gap between digital natives and some older digital immigrants getting wider and wider, and I’m so glad I keep being brave enough to explore some of what Web 2.0 has to offer, but knowing there’s so much more out there, and more to come.

When I was editor of “Scan”, we made a point of asking, with every new article that was commissioned, how new technologies and changing pedagogy improved student outcomes. Applying that same question to my daily life as a teacher librarian has certainly helped me keep perspective on what new things I need to try out first, and to prioritise them.

I also have come to believe that using Web 2.0 in my daily life, outside of the education workplace, is what has allowed me to build personal confidence to use new ICT tools with students.

I look forward to the unfolding discussions.


Today Emma Quay, illustrator, and Lisa Shanahan, author, launched their exciting, new children’s picture book, “Bear and Chook by the sea”, at our very successful teacher-librarians’ professional development day.


I can’t wait for Term 4, when Jenny Scheffers and I coordinate a book rap based on their two “Bear and Chook” titles.