I’m ready to be Batman’s Robin

Batman-and-RobinRobin is a fictional character, a superhero in the DC Comics universe. Robin has long been a fixture in the Batman comic books as Batman‘s partner, making the team of Batman and Robin the Dynamic Duo or the Caped Crusaders of Gotham City.  Batman operates in the fictional American Gotham City, assisted by various supporting characters including his crime-fighting partner, Robin.

I WANT to be a caped crusader – really I do! I can imagine donning my cape, and following my leader Batman to save the world from whatever treachery or adventure needs attention. In education too, we all need a Batman to follow, and to lead us – especially when it comes to learning, working online, and building the capacity of future generations of education practitioners.

School libraries are evolving – and in a conference coming up, managing in  a new age in school libraries is the centre-piece of discussion.

Holy strawberries Batman, we’re in a jam!

Forget it! The crisis is averted, and our very own Batman-style leader is back in Australia to the rescue!

I love that Tara Brabazon has returned from the UK and is now Professor of Education and Head of the School of Teacher Education at CSU, and leading the revolution from within. Fantastic! I want to be Robin, and join this wonderful caped crusader in the revolution. Tara IS the Batman for our times!

If you are not familiar with Tara’s work, make sure that you catch up with all that she has to offer.

Any teacher or teacher librarian in Victoria should make sure to catch Tara at the next SLAV conference in Melbourne on the 15th March, where Tara will be presenting the Keynote.

Watch her invitation Note to self: note taking and the control of information. You’ll be sorry if you miss out!

Holy Razor’s Edge Batman what a close shave!

Image: Batman and Robin

Brain Gain and Marc Prensky

I’ve just put down my review copy of Brian Gain by Marc Prensky, after flipping through the pages once again. Reading it has been timely, given the changes that are taking place in our education environment here in Australia ~ national curriculum, NBN (!), laptop programs, iPad rollouts and  Bring Your Own Device initiatives.

There has been a significant shift in the way we think, work, and talk about technology. There has also been a lot of development in the ways that we can adapt and adopt technology to enhance our personal and professional lives. So while we discuss curriculum, we need books that are provocative and force us to run a final launch countdown to be sure that we really are ready to work with technology in a changing world.

The Australian curriculum as presented by ACARA acknowledges the interdisiplinary role of ICT by defining it as a general capability. For those of us grappling with the integration of computing and technologies, the changes and challenges can so easily take us out of our comfort zone and into new spaces for the creation and development of learning and knowledge encounters. As we are exploiting the capabilities of digital technology, we are discovering that digital technology is more than a tool for creativity, communication, information organization and retrieval.

Technology in a networked world is expanding our physical minds and changing our human horizons.

Enter Marc Prensky and Brain Gain – a broad and conversational discussion about the potential of technology to improve, extend, enhance and amplify the human mind. Marc canvasses the expected territory of the social impacts of technology, rejecting the warnings of those who suggest technology is making us stupid, or slowing down the ability of our students to think.

Because of the rapid advances in technology, notions of what is possible and, more importantly, ‘wise’ in many situation  are undergoing profound change.

Our students have to learn differently, and develop their knowledge differently.

Today’s wisdom is that its far better to learn how to acquire new information.

Throughout the book there is much discussion about ‘humanity’ and the needs of a burgeoning knowledge society to think with and through technology. The book is not a scholarly tome – rather it IS a very accessible and engaging read that covers every angle, and entices the reader into a deeper understanding of our future prospects as being interwoven with technology to deepen human knowledge and creativity.

The book is really all about cultivating digital wisdom in a technology amplified world. There are trade offs. There are pointers for professionals who are looking to understand the breadth of potential of technology. There are sweeping statements too.

However, you can’t go past this book for a riveting read, accessible to the most technophobic teachers or administrators. In setting out to read this book I would have liked to think I learned nothing. In fact I learned a lot, as the book moves from the expected to the implications of a  symbiotic combination of the human brain and technology.

I learned that it is important to be excited by ideas. I learned that collaboration is more important than ever. I learned that our technology past is not ‘old’ or irrelevant – but that our new technologies are simply escalating the rate at which we can think and develop.

I learned that technology is providing us with new pathways for thinking never before possible, and that this synergy with technology is considered by some to potentially change humanity in a ‘evolutionary’ way.

Not only does Marc present us with the positive and negative potential of technology (which we must think about daily in our teaching and learning), but he also introduced me to the Countdown to Singularity.

In the last chapter on the coming Singularity, I read about “the moment, not very far off… when our technology will become as powerful, and even more powerful than our human brains.”  This is when humans will transcend biology. Referencing theories from science fiction writers and futurists (including Ray Kurzweil), this ending seems an odd, speculative conclusion in an otherwise reasonable, practical book.

Get your hands on a copy if you can, and decide for yourself where technology and the quest for digital wisdom will take us.

Image: Reprogramming your inner child cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Keoni Cabral

Wolfram Alpha and Facebook Personal Analytics

Wolfram|Alpha, the world’s first and only computational knowledge engine, uses its expert-level knowledge and algorithms to answer questions, generate reports, and do analysis across thousands of domains.

New to Wolfram|Alpha? Take a tour » 

There’s also an offer for K-12 educators and students to try out a WolframAlpha Pro account.  With Wolfram|Alpha Pro, you can compute with your own data. Just input numeric or tabular data right in your browser, and Pro will automatically analyze it—effortlessly handling not just pure numbers, but also dates, places, strings, and more.

But wait – now there’s Facebook!

According to TechCrunch

a new feature today that allows you to quickly get an overview of all your data on Facebook. The new report, says Wolfram CEO Stephen Wolfram, expands Wolfram Alpha’s “powers of analysis to give you all sorts of personal analytics.” The company plans to expand these reports with new features over time, but they already give you a pretty deep look at your Facebook habits.

LifeHacker explains

all you need to do is head to Wolfram Alpha’s home page and type in “Facebook Report”. After connecting it to your Facebook and granting it a rather large number of permissions, Wolfram Alpha will break down everything about your Facebook activity into 60 different sections of charts, graphs, and other analyses—like a cluster map of your friends and relationships, everywhere you’ve checked in, what days you’re most active on the site, a cloud of your most-used words, and even the weather from the day you were born. It’s incredibly interesting, super geeky, and downright scary.

Scary indeed – but not so much. This is not new – it’s just a development.

ThinkUp has allowed analysis of any Facebook account. ThinkUp is a free, open source web application that captures all your activity on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. One of the best ways to learn about ThinkUp is to see it in action.

Your Facebook Report

Your Wolfram|Alpha report will include the more obvious things such as:

  • Which Facebook apps do you use the most?
  • Who comments the most on your posts?

What you first see is only the tip of the iceberg. Change parameters, expands results, and click the More buttons to drill down into deeper layers of computation and analysis.You can even click the name of a friend to run the full page analysis on that friend’s shared Facebook data.

OK. Thanks to the report I now know that Seymour Papert is my oldest ‘friend’, and that many more of my friends lie about their age! Jeff A is 79 and he mostly uploads pictures to his Facebook Account.

Not surprisingly the report also confirms what I knew to be my personal preferences for Facebook  – I use Facebook mainly for sharing!

If all this has convinced you never to touch Facebook – think again!

Whether you like it or not Helmond and Gerlitz (2012) suggest that  the Facebook Like economy is here as part of the reworked fabric of the web  – and the only way to avoid it is never to go online, and never to visit a page with a Facebook link.  That means no more reading the news online, shopping, or browsing websites.Even before we join Facebook, visits to any site with a Facebook icon are being tracked because of the The Open Graph Protocol  introduced in 2009 into Facebook’s infrastructure to code and govern social activities and relations outside the Facebook membership platform.

Meanwhile, through the act of liking Facebook users are validating and linking content on the web, an act previously exclusive to webmasters and establishing what may be considered an emerging Like economy.

To be honest, I am not concerned about this dataflow. It’s here to stay. Refusing to participate is the equivalent of refusing to drive a car to get somewhere –  because it’s mechanical and doesn’t have four legs!

The pervasive nature of the web simply reminds me of the importantance of considering what I do, share and discuss online.  It reminds me that as educators we need (more than ever) to understand this reworked fabric of the 90s web, and understand how best to capitalize on it, learn with it, share with it, and make it possible for our students (young and old) be high calibre participants in their online world.

New visions, past interactions – listserv to social media

The School of Information Studies at Charles Sturt University is a national leader in the design and delivery of a comprehensive suite of courses in library and information studies. We face many challenges, and amongst these the latest one has been to respond to new media environments by expanding the scope of our services to the vitally important information professionals we know as Teacher Librarians.

Time for social networking to hit the scene!

Teacher Librarians represent an important sector in library and information education. Alongside it’s degree program for Teacher Librarians, CSU has also been supporting the Australian Teacher Librarian Network  (OZTL_NET) listserv as a professional service  to the school library sector.  Now we also recognize the growing importance of utilizing web-based and mobile-device-enabled tools for communication, interaction and information dissemination through text, images, or sound. So it really was time to re-work and expand the potential of OZTL_NET.

OZTL_NET was originally created as a discussion list for information professionals working in Australian schools by the teacher librarianship academic staff. Since then it has grown to a community of more than 3,000 teacher librarians and information professionals.

This email-based service, run as a listserv using Mailman,  though quite old in the style of service it represents, is still very much a current tool and sometimes a lifesaver for many.  This service needed to stay for now – albeit at a new URL, and with some improved functionality.  My most  favourite bit of improvement is the fact that I can now look at a digest (a way of receiving all the emails in one bundle) on my ipad or iphone! Another neat new feature is how it handles the inevitable images that automatic signature files insert in a message – they can now get through!  This will save hours in bounced messages, and emails to remind people that a listerv is lean and mean in function :-)

But the obvious thing to do was to evolve the potential of this very stable listserv in a number of social media ways. While I am not sure which of these will be the favourites, the idea looks something like this:

  • share a link on the listserv and store it for easy retrieval any time in the Diigo group!
  • share your library images in Flickr, because we need to collect the ideas from around Australia
  • Like us on Facebook – and include us in your News Feed. Share things you find, and get into the conversation.
  • Perhaps 140 characters on Twitter will be just the thing for you – just another way to stay in touch and build the teacher librarian community.

To make all this possible, and still provide access to the vital information for the OZTL_NET Listserv, we now have a fantastic new web portal at http://oztlnet.com/. The next step is for the many members of the listerv to jump on in and begin to realise the power of the social media tools at their disposal for increasing our information flow between us all at a national level. Don’t just share with people in your suburb, state, or sector. Share with us all!

It’s early days yet – as the new services were only launched recently.  Do join one or other of the services, and connect, communicate and collaborate with each other across Australia. Social media can provide new avenues for thought leadership and innovation. providing a proactive and positive contribution to the strategic futures of school libraries.

Special thanks to Jo Kay, who always manages to work magic with web based products and services,  and who managed to help so many people through the migration from the old to the new (oh yes, it does help to read instructions!). OZTL_NET was lucky to have you!

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by fensterbme

Suit in the clouds

Let’s face it –  the cloud is here!  Does your educational institution or management understand this? Luckily for me I work in a ‘cloud’ environment on a daily basis, whether it is managing my professional data files online, working and communicating in the cloud,  or engaging with students and colleagues in some social media platform or another.

All well and good – but not too innovative if it’s just ‘me, myself and I’!

We need suits in the cloud too – real suits who share information and put a personal face to a media environment. My latest favourite suit is Andrew Vann. Professor Andrew Vann is the new Vice-Chancellor and President of Charles Sturt University (CSU), and unlike the usual new suits, he has already attracted much interest within the ranks. Here is a suit who has moved right into the cloud, and leads the way in adopting social media. Andrew runs a lively update stream at Twitter @drpievann and launched an official blog to engage with the broader CSU community.

 I want to use this blog to facilitate a collegial and hopefully innovative process to establish a clearer sense of where and what we want CSU to be in the future, and later what we need to do to get there.

I suppose there is nothing new about a senior suit launching a blog – but it IS a bit innovative for higher education. If CSU is to live up to being  Australia’s leading online and distance education provider, it strikes me as critical that not only Andrew, but many more of the HE leadership need to hang their suits in the cloud in order to further advance online education and the student experience.  That’s   #justsayin in Twitter-speak!

It’s the same with our subjects and degree programs – they also need to incorporate digital environments not only to improve learning opportunities, but also to make the learning experience relevant to the workplace.

Once again I have found that some of the subjects I have been teaching do connect directly with the student professional experience. These subjects were developed to respond to the digital environment – even allowing some of our students to get their own suits in the cloud :-)

Today, I was offered an amazing job as Social Media Officer where I will spend my days immersed in social networking! My interest in it through study of this social media subject was noticed by those at the top.

This is the kind of outcome we strive for in the degree programs in the School of Information Studies. This is what postgraduate study should be about! As another student said after completing a subject I have been teaching:

This is the first subject where I’ve actually seen direct relevance to my work.

This is the challenge for ‘suits’! Will you be moving into the cloud some time soon?

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by -= Hobo =-

The Librarian has left the building


I woke this morning to a grey sky, and many pieces of writing about teacher librarianship that my students have submitted as their first dip into a new profession. The grey sky seems to symbolise the mental consternation that is expressed by those entering the profession, and by those responding to the extraordinary changes and cutbacks discussed by  Buffy Hamilton and others at her post Do I Really have to Leave the Role of School Librarian to Work as a School Librarian?

Carolyn Foote and Judy O'Connell

I’m just recently back in Australia, after a number of visits in the USA related to libraries now and in the future. I was fortunate to attend the Computers in Libraries conference in Washington (CIL2012 – do access some of the presentations), and during the three days of the conference was delighted to spend time with Buffy Hamilton, Carolyn Foote, Sarah Ludwig, Polly Farrington and others involved in services to school libraries. I was struck by the extraordinary passion, the outstanding work happening every day  – and by common complications (in some schools) caused by the ignorance and lack of vision demonstrated by school leaders when it comes to libraries.

The reality is that teacher librarians  can be the best person to have in your school – but only if they have actually learnt how to fill that role well, and have understood and assimilated the principles of embedded librarianship.That’s what undertaking a Masters degree in Teacher Librarianship is all about! It’s an energising and complex profession that you just can’t learn on the job.

As Buffy rightly argues, we do not need to leave the role of librarian to become a better librarian.  What I sincerely believe is that we need school librarians to be recognised for their significant and vital role in the life of a school, and we need for their position to be better staffed and better supported within the school.

The School Library Journal allowed a provocative piece to inadvertantly lead a discussion that is vital to school library futures.  Linda W. Braun interviewed Sarah Ludwig, whose session I enjoyed at CIL2012,  and in showcasing how Sarah Ludwig left the library, became a tech coordinator, and forged a path to the future implied that perhaps this was a good thing.  It was not!

I believe that Next Year’s Model (term used by the school library journal)  is not the school librarian escapee – any more than the classroom escapee was ever the right person to be a school librarian!

I loved Sarah’s presentation at CIL2012, because she was engaging and clearly enjoys working hard to make a difference.  She is achieving some of what is possible as a teacher librarian.

Sarah Ludwig at CIL2012

So it was  nice – it was not innovative! The model adopted by her school was nice – it was not innovative. I’m guessing that Lorri Carroll
Director of Technology and Information Services Hamden Hall Country Day School is in fact not a qualified teacher librarian, though she certainly recongises what it is that makes Sarah’s work relevant to her school. The fact that Sarah said in the interview piece, and at the conference,  now it’s easier to get people to trust my opinion on technology, which enables me to do more than I could as a librarian is a reflection of the challenges in the teacher librarian profession.

It’s so important to look past technology, and to stay with the model that Buffy and other leading teacher librarians espouse in their work  (under circumstances that almost few Australian teacher librarians need to contend with) and to continue to shape a responce to change in the profession. This theme is not unique to school libraries – it is the same tune throughout the LIS sector.

We have had  better solutions taking shape in many Australian schools. In Hybrid Synergy – the Future of School Libraries you can read about a model that would suit Lorri and Sarah to a tee! Check out St Ignatius College, Riverview here in Sydney. They have realigned their library services to create a new hybrid synergy under the direction of the  Head of Digital Learning and Information Services (who IS a teacher librarian), supported by several  Digital Learning Facilitators who teach a subject as a classroom teacher, work with a faculty, and also support students reading, learning, and research needs in the library.  Of course, with such a commitment to empowering student learning, there are other important roles such as a Library Manager, and library and media technicians.

In other words – poor school, rich school, country or city school – we need a great teacher librarian at the helm to lead learning and innovation with and beyond technology!

Good luck to any teacher librarian of quality who becomes a curriculum leader, technology leader, Principal, or who takes on any number of other significant roles in the education sector.  Education is all the richer for it – but don’t leave for the wrong reasons!

Has the librarian left the building?

Ask yourself ~ Who is better off now? What stupid cutbacks by senior administrators has resulted in a move that will impact future generations of kids?  What is it that needs to change in our understanding of Teacher Librarianship so that we can make more of a difference? In times of economic constraint, why are school libraries under threat?  Are teacher librarians committed to keeping up-to-date? What do we need to change to improve?

The time for libraries is now!  .

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Australian libraries in action – digitisation of content

Australian libraries are embracing the opportunities that 21st century innovations have made possible. Technology has become the means for libraries in all sectors – public, academic, corporate, specialist, schools – to reach out to their community in ways that are innovative, unexpected, and information rich.

These libraries realise that they have a vital role to play in today’s interactive knowledge environment, where asking a question is synonymous with ‘googling’, and where ‘catching up with the news’ can happen in many formats via small and big devices. Print is no longer king, and content is everywhere on screens of many different sizes. By re-imagining and re-branding their spaces, functions and services, Australian libraries are meeting the new challenges.

Libraries in the community

Libraries throughout Australia have been offering access to books, magazines, tapes, DVDs, newspapers, audio books, and more for information and leisure for a long time. But with the increasing flexibility for information sharing that the internet provides, digital media has become a cornerstone of connected 21st century libraries, changing the way they interact with the community, and providing new ways to record history, society and culture.

Our libraries are ‘shape-shifting’ before our very eyes, bringing with them exciting spaces to visit (outfitted with anything from coffee-shops to e-book readers) and providing virtual opening hours around the clock.

Content for all

Colourbox / Used by Permission So what is this all about? The global popularity of the Internet and the ready access to information via web searches has led people to expect access to almost any kind of cultural material via a web browser. This is where digital content from libraries begins to really count. Starting from the top, the National Library of Australia is leading the way, ensuring that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future. A virtual visit to discover Australia’s Digital Collections is very worthwhile providing a surprising range of variety with Trove, Picture Australia, Music Australia, Australia Dancing and Australian Newspapers.

Of course we also have Australia’s web archive, PANDORA , which is a growing collection of Australian online publications, established initially by the National Library of Australia in 1996, and now built in collaboration with nine other Australian libraries and cultural collecting organisations. The name, PANDORA, is an acronym for Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia – showing perfectly how important digitisation of content has become for modern Australian libraries. Another great example is the National film and sound archive, which is also a recognised leader in digitising and preserving our history and culture.

Furthermore, Australian libraries are active in international digital projects such as The Commons on Flickr. Whether it is here, or in various places like Trove’s Australian Newspapers, the magic happens when the community becomes involved. People can not only find, share, research or enjoy resources, but can also contribute to the growing digitised collection of cultural heritage. Do you recognise a person or location in an image? Can you interpret the text? Then go ahead, and participate!

Sharing for all

It is easy to see that the modern library continues to be at the heart of a community because of digitisation.

In addition to providing e-books, digital collections and online resources, libraries are helping keep memories alive. Personal collections and community history projects are all part of digitisation projects around the nation. Libraries are also helping make available images and resources held in government departments, historical societies, museums, galleries, and by individuals. By digitizing them and expanding the collections with resources that have been born digital (originating in digital form) libraries are at the centre of the action.

Colourbox / Used by Permission Our digital memories make our heritage, and our libraries are also helping us care for our personal memories and materials – some of which will eventually be shared as part of our cultural heritage. The services of libraries span from scientific data and born-digital ephemera to video games and web archiving. Whether it’s with help of a Starter Kit for Community Groups or with the help of large organisations like the ABC (which also encompasses archives, libraries and rights managements) digital and digitised content is here to stay.

Making it mobile

Library services are also getting mobile in many unexpected ways. Don’t just think of Twitter, Facebook or Google+ as spaces for teens! Libraries want to capture digital ideas and communicate them quickly.
Colourbox / Used by Permission Libraries are using social media to pass the message around, and make access to resources relevant and up-to-date. After all, access to the photos from events (via Facebook) or receiving a message about what’s on (via Twitter) are all part of the new social media scene. And of course, many libraries make it possible to get great digital e-audio and e-book content for our mobile devices using services like Overdrive and Wheeler’s books.

QR codes are also proving to be a quick digital access point (in libraries and exhibitions) to media of all kinds, and Apps are providing immediate access to digital content anytime, anywhere without needing a computer.

Australian libraries have a bright future in the digital world. Libraries have always been here to help us understand our world and build our communities. Now, they are just doing it better than ever.

This article was commissioned by the Goethe-Institute and first appeared on www.goethe.de  as part of Germany-Australia focus on libraries. This article appeared at the following link http://www.goethe.de/ins/au/lp/kulto/mag/lib/ele/en8855739.htm.

Top image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by DRs Kulturarvsprojekt