My eThings in Overdrive on Friday Night

Friday night and I’m excited! No, not by knitting!

I  mean it … I AM excited by this latest innovation in my eWorld.

I’ve really liked the idea of being able to borrow ebooks and audio books from my community library.  I admit – I tried it.  But I found it just one-step-too-many-clunky.  You know – log onto the computer – log onto the library catalogue – log onto Overdrive – download the item – transfer to my device.  No – not for me. Kindle ‘air-wave’ downloads I liked. Not this.

But then I noticed in my blogstream that Overdrive had released an App for the iPhone/iPad.

So I downloaded an App to test it – quickly searched my local library – and five minutes later was listening to my test book as I wrote this post.  Superb!

This is a fantastic option for all education settings, and your community library.

I am so glad that my community library has Overdrive!

I AM excited!

Here’s some of my screen shots from my iPhone.  Below you’ll find more information.

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From an OverDrive Press Release via No Shelf Required:

Public, school, and college libraries now provide direct eBook downloads on the iPad® with the free OverDrive® Media Console™ app. The optimized app enables users at more than 13,000 libraries worldwide to wirelessly download and enjoy eBooks and digital audiobooks from a local library on the Apple® device. Popular and best-selling titles, including “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson, “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, and “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, are a few of the Most Downloaded Books from the Library (www.overdrive.com/mostdownloaded). These digital books and more in popular genres like romance, mystery, thriller, and virtually every subject can now be borrowed from libraries and enjoyed in an optimized iPad app.

The OverDrive Media Console app for iPad is available in the App Store (http://bit.ly/OverDriveApp). To see if your library is a member of the OverDrive network, visit http://search.overdrive.com.

OverDrive’s app for iPad gives users wireless access to their library’s EPUB eBook and MP3 audiobook catalog without a PC. Users can find their library using the app’s “Get Books” feature, then browse for titles, check out with a valid library card, and download directly to the iPad. Brightness and text-size controls allow them to customize their eBook reading experience. Users can also create bookmarks and resume from the last point accessed. The eBook and audiobook titles from the library automatically expire in the app, so there is never a late fee.

The iPad app joins the previously released OverDrive apps for iPhone® and Android™, which have been downloaded by more than half a million users worldwide. In addition to iPad support, OverDrive’s app for iOS devices was updated to enable new features, including landscape and portrait orientation, support for hyperlinks, and an updated interface with a lending countdown calendar.

OverDrive provides digital distribution services for more than 13,000 libraries, retailers, and schools worldwide with support for Windows®, Mac®, iPod®, iPhone, iPad, Sony® Reader, NOOK™, Android, and BlackBerry®.

QuietWrite is worth a mention

I was intrigued by a few recent references on Twitter and by bloggers of  a new tool called Quietwrite.  So I’ve jumped on over, and taken a test drive.

This is definitely a distraction-free online editor, allowing  you to concentrate on your writing, rather than wrangling with a blog interface. Easy to use, and  quick to get on with it.

Larry Ferlazzo explains:

Quiet Write is a new and simple application that lets you write online in a no-frills environment and then publish your work and are given a unique url for your creation. Registration is equally as simple — your email and a password. Unfortunately, unlike other somewhat similar apps, you can’t add images to your page.

It’s no “great shakes,” but it could be another option for a super-easy place for students to publish their work online with no hassle.

Quietwrite offers:

  • Focus on writing
  • work is automatically saved as you write, so you’ll never lose a thing.
  • Start a simple no-frills  blog in seconds and share your writings (use it for conference/meeting notes as well)
  • Edit what you write on an iPad
  • Export writings to your WordPress blog

Now hang on – that last point is a nice feature!  Here’s what this means:

Quietwrite offers peaceful WordPress integration: Link your QuietWrite account to your WordPress blog. This will allow you to easily export any of your writings to your WordPress blog, whether it be on wordpress.com or on your self hosted domain. We’re sure that our editor will be a delightful addition to your WordPress workflow, allowing you to concentrate on fleshing out your blog posts, and then quickly exporting it to your blog.  A  peaceful place for people to write anything, for anywhere. That includes blog posts, books, articles, or that sci-fi novel that you’ve been putting off.

I’m liking the sound of this new-fangled toy :-)

Google proof your image attributions

Often, you are in a great need for some pictures to freshen up your webpage and would like to include one of these images. If you want to do this, there are quite a lot of steps necessary:
  • Make sure you understood the license correctly
  • Get the correct HTML code for the IMG tag
  • Link the image back to the Flickr photo page
  • Give the author of the image proper credits (Attribution)
  • Link to the Flickr profile of the author
  • Link to the license the image is licensed under

Flickr currently hosts more than 75 million images that are licensed under a Creative Commons license.  Depending on the license, you may use the images on your private or commercial webpage, or make changes to it.

ImageCodr solution

With ImageCodr.org, there is no need to do all this manually!!

You simply grab the URL of the picture page that you are interested in.

Drop it into ImageCodr.

Then ImageCodr.org will generate the ready-to-use HTML code for you to drop into your online platform of choice.

It will also display a brief and easy license summary, so you don’t get in legal trouble because you missed something.

I know that students (and teachers) just like to copy and paste images from anywhere into anything. But we really can’t afford to miss the opportunity to teach our kids real digital citizenship skills even if it’s just about how to use images.

From small acorns, big trees grow! What seeds are you planning on help grow today?

Kids of Dreams – 2010 marks 21 years!

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It’s not long since our wonderful Friday evening launch and celebration of the 21st edition of our annual Kids of Dreams publication which celebrates literary and artistic talent. Student’s  prose, poetry and artwork from Years 7-12 are included in the publication.

It was an amazing night! Why?  Well it was ‘special’ for a number of reasons.  I was the main editor of the production this year, along with my wonderful Teacher Librarian colleague Kirsten Reim (who wrote a wonderful editorial for me), supported by my ever efficient library team. We came to the job a little late this year, so it was a complete scramble to the end, making sure that everything was as right as possible.  So much writing, so much art, so many decisions about layout and presentation. It was an amazing and rewarding experience to be able to work on a publication that showcases the work of our students who have the courage to speak up in artistic forms.

Author Brian Caswell provided the judging of the student’s literary works. Brian was Writer in Residence at the College earlier in the year.  Brian’s comments for each item he chose for an award are worth reading – so much so, that this year I included the judge’s comments within the publication itself  as a record of achievement for the students.

Kids of Dreams was  launched on Friday 19th November with the help of my talented Twitter friend Mark Pesce (inventor, writer, theorist, panelist on #newinventors, obsessed with language, communication, social networks).  I was able to tell the audience that Mark was the first VIP guest to come to the College as a result of an invitation arranged through Twitter!

Mark provided an inspirational keynote/official launch presentation – and focussed on the power of creativity to drive our learning and thinking. Creativity and inspiration is inside us all, and around us every day. How we harness these talents and opportunities is up to us, and how we share them with others is the key to change and development of value in all we do.

Hey! I never thought I would be MC at an event with Mark!!  Thanks very much Mark for making out 21st celebration a stunning success.

I swear I wasn’t smoking anything!

“I swear I wasn’t smoking anything. But I might as well have been”… is a tantalising statement in an article from Harvard Business Review earlier this year on How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking. To quote:

A study showed that people distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQs. What’s the impact of a 10-point drop? The same as losing a night of sleep. More than twice the effect of smoking marijuana. Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we’re getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process. You might think you’re different, that you’ve done it so much you’ve become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that. But you’d be wrong. Research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, works against you.

The value of this article hit home for me yesterday when I read 7 Powerful Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down. I’ve not read Henrik Edberg’s book – could be good or bad for all I know.

But I do like some of the sentiments he expressed, particularly when I think about multi-tasking, and the use of technology.  I do believe that educators have to stop and think a little about  how important it is to promote reflective writing in our students. There is very good value in stopping and thinking AND there is still very good value in stopping and thinking with a pen and paper.

Well, of course, I’m not pushing against technology so much as pushing for technology melded with the a form of technology that is less  conducive to multitasking – i.e. writing on paper. It’s about capturing ideas. It can be about the tactile experience of writing those ideas down. Of focussing your full attention on the ideas as you write. Of letting those ideas rest. Of crafting and making by hand something that is an expression of our own thinking.

I liked some of these concepts shared by Henrik too:

Unloading your mental RAM. When you don’t occupy your mind with having to remember every little thing  you become less stressed and it becomes easier to think clearly. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important reasons to write things down.

Clearer thinking. If you want to solve a problem it can be helpful to write down your thoughts, facts and feelings about it. Then you don’t have to use your for mind for remembering, you can instead use it to think more clearly. Having it all written down gives you an overview and makes it easier to find new connections that can help you solve the problem.

Well, I have to admit, I do like notebooks, and nice pens.

Perhaps I’m just reflecting my age – or reflecting the values of an age that we shouldn’t lose just because we love technology!

My kids always wrote journals for their holidays and some of these are the nicest things we have to remember who they were when they were young. While I love to see and hear about the amazing feats of students who excel in virtual worlds, gaming and the like – I personally still stake a lot of value in the slow, deep, and reflective practice of writing.

The trick is to allow our students to have the time to acquire the habit and the skill of writing for pleasure, relaxation, reflection and learning. Sadly, I feel that schooling has slammed the door shut on this most wonderful of capabilities.