Still more free eBooks from the Internet Archive

A group of libraries led by the Internet Archive have announced a new, cooperative 80,000+ eBook lending collection of mostly 20th century books on OpenLibrary.org, a site where it’s already possible to read over 1 million eBooks without restriction.

According to the Internet Archive post/release, any OpenLibrary.org account holder can borrow up to 5 eBooks at a time, for up to 2 weeks. Books can only be borrowed by one person at a time. People can choose to borrow either an in-browser version (viewed using the Internet Archive’s BookReader web application), or a PDF or ePub version, managed by the free Adobe Digital Editions software. This new technology follows the lead of the Google eBookstore (which we don’t yet have in Australia!), which sells books from many publishers to be read using Google’s books-in-browsers technology.

Openlibrary.org is worth a visit, if only to see some of  1,000,000 free ebook titles available.

The World’s classic literature at your fingertips!

How about Down with skool!  A guide to school life for tiny pupils and their parents published in 1953. That’s one I have to check out – should be funny or perhaps frightening, depending on what’s inside!

But really – this sort of development is exciting. While the books are ‘old’ – they also include some quality literature. Lot’s of  good reading to while away the time, or expand the mind.

Six months later how is this magazine fan going?

Funny how quickly you can adapt to a new way of doing things – when it works!  I’m a magazine collector – I like to read magazines to keep up to date, read quietly over a cup of coffee, or take when out and about. One of my favourite things to do is to grab the latest copy of New Scientist before boarding a plane!

But I’ve never enjoyed the stockpile of back issues, and hated making the decision of when to throw them out. I hated this so much, that I even stopped subscribing to magazines as an escape.

Enter my new iPad – and the installation of my Zinio App.  The Zinio Magazines and Book App can be used to browse all my magazines after I’ve  purchased individual issues or bought a subscription. There is an extensive range of magazines from around the world to to make my subscription choices from.

My Zinio library can be synchronised with any of my computing tools,  so my magazines are then available on all of my fixed and portable devices.  Magazines can be viewed in portrait or landscape mode, and hyperlinks can be used to navigate between pages as well as online content.

My paper magazines were never this flexible!

Zinio is not a totally new multimedia experience. It’s been around for years apparently but does seem to have come ‘into its own’ with the iPad.   Zinio simply aims to duplicate the print magazine reading experience in digital format, with zoom and hyperlinks thrown in. For now, I’m happy with that, because that’s what I enjoy. I’m not looking for embedded video files or interactive games. I’m not that interested in the iPad Magazines: Pros and Cons, so much as just wanting to read my magazines, pay less for them, and have them stored digitally. Happy!

When a new issue of a magazine I have subscribed to is ready for pickup – I receive an email. Love getting my Mac World :-)

I don’t bother with reading Zinio on my computer screen, though I might be tempted if I had a Mac Air. However, an additional handy feature is the way that Zinio adapts to the iPhone interface. While you wouldn’t use an iPhone instead of an iPad all the time, the functionality is excellent.

First see the page, then toggle between page view and mobile view with ease. It handles all menu choices, and is as easy as reading newspapers or blogs maximised for use on small devices.

Zinio on iPhone

One of the pleasures of my iPad was re-discovering magazines. Zinio is still developing, even though its been around for a long time. I am sure they will add additional functionality in time, like  sync between devices for latest page read which is common for other e-readers (but not such an issue for a shorted publication like a magazine) and pages being slow to render the first time the magazine is loaded.  I do like that fact that I can delete magazines from the device  too – something like this is not important now, but will be the longer term. Magazines are also backed up in iTunes. The computer interface allows me to search through my magazines, and print pages I want.

But wait – there is more!  I’m amazed that we aren’t talking more about the potential of this tool for our schools and libraries. Education Today from Canada is already available via Zinio. Our professional associations could jump on board.  Thanks to Tammy for highlighting to me “that  Zinio also allows readers to digitally annotate (ink on a tablet) by highlighting and putting notes on text.  Zinio Labs also has their “Digital Classics” library.  There are versions available in Mac and Windows.  There’s also an iPhone version. McGraw-Hill has some textbooks available using Zinio as well.  Here’s an example of the reader window with annotations”.

Kids of Dreams – 2010 marks 21 years!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Sink your iTeeth into Dracula

Prepare to sink you teeth into the most immersive iPad experience with Bram Stoker’s  Dracula – released in time for Halloween! Phil Bradley explains:

I have to say that it’s absolutely tremendous, and I’m really enjoying it. My one gripe is that it’s abridged, which is annoying. However, once you get over that, the way in which the iPad has been used to emphasis the text is fantastic. I’m reading about Harker’s coach trip, and I hear the sounds of the horses hooves and the wheels going over cobbles. I see that he has a letter, and I can flick the envelope onto the screen, open it, and read the handwritten letter. There’s a description of Renfield and his flies, and you hear them, and see their shadows buzzing over the page. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Turning a new page – eBooks and Audiobooks

Congratulations to the fantastic team at Loreto Normanhurst Learning Resources Centre for getting their ebook initiative up and running successfully.

This is just one wonderful example of what can be done in schools to support literacy and reading enjoyment – particularly where the students are keen to use their mobile devices to enjoy the world of books.

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.

Body in the library – a murder mystery of our own!

Last term the Library Team at Joeys excelled themselves in launching an amazing “Body in the Library” investigative program in collaboration with the Science and English faculties. I promised to share this after talking about it at EduBloggerCon 2010 in Denver.  So here are some more of the details!

Boy’s body found in the Resource Centre! Year 8 suspected!

The focus of the project was to facilitate deeper learning in our students by creating an ‘authentic learning’ experience to strengthen writing and literacy skills across the curriculum. In English, students learned about the literary conventions of forensic fiction in their crime novel, Framed,  and how to use them to solve a crime.  In Science, students learned about how use a variety of scientific methods including analysing dental records, fragments and fibres, fingerprinting, shoeprinting and DNA samples in order to solve a crime.

These skills were then put to the test when boys were asked to solve a ‘body in the library’ type crime which the library team spent weeks preparing!

To solve the crime, students viewed the crime scene, looked at photographic evidence, read various ‘official’ forensic and crime  reports, watched video-taped evidence of the crime in action; watched interviews of the suspects; read  testimonies of different suspects; and analysed many forms of written and physical evidence!  Students employed deductive thinking skills, analysed all available evidence and established motives for the suspects in an attempt to determine who committed the crime. Lastly, each student submitted their own police report on the crime and its investigation.

This collaborative activity raised an astounding level of interest from all 150 boys – as well as raising a lot of  interest from boys from many other years.

Here’s  a brief overview of the scenario::

A body is found in the library at the end of Period 4 on Tuesday. It is a Year 9 boy who has been hit on the head with a blunt instrument.  The body is discovered by Mrs O’Connell in the Fiction area. A coroner’s report puts time of death at recess/Period 3.

The murderer is Mrs Smith. In a fit of rage, she has killed the student for not returning an overdue book.  There are two other prime suspects: Mr Smith, the Yr 9 Co-ordinator, who is annoyed by the behaviour of the student, and Jack, the boy’s friend, who had a fight with the victim.

Each boy received a forensic workbook – containing a range of materials for examination such as crime reports, witness statements and a coroners report. In addition the ‘crime scene’ was taped off, with key evidence on display e.g. fingerprints, the location of the body, and places where DNA was found.  Photographic evidence included the injury reports (fake bruising and blood on the victim), video footage of the scene of the crime (staged by students and teachers) and also hard hitting interviews.  The students were able to go into our two discussion rooms (which have a plasma screen for collaborative work) and view the footage and interviews, and take notes about what they saw and heard.

All this analysis led to some fierce competition to solve the crime, and find the murder weapon – which was hidden amongst the library shelves.  You guessed it – a steel bookend (decorated with some fake blood).

If you want to prepare a scenario of your own, here is our  YEAR_8_FORENSIC_SCIENCE framework that set up the string of evidence and clues for our project.

A copy of the coronor’s report below will give you an idea of the level of detailed evidence provided for the students to analyse.

The rest you’ll have to create for yourself! Did I mention I have the best Library Team on the planet?  This was just such a fantastic experience!