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!

It’s Bloomsday!

I remember  being in Dublin on Bloomsday on June 16th  back in 2004. Amazing!

Now I admit that I wouldn’t be expecting too many of my students to dip into and enjoy James Joyce’s book Ulysses in its full glory-  but on the other hand  it’s important to find ways to allow students to dip into good literature. Igniting an interest is important!

Reading ‘Ulysses’ can be hard work.  So here’s an abbreviated form…Ulysses Seen a serialized cartoon App, which is also now available for your iPad, as well as online at http://ulyssesseen.com/

Robert Berry’s comic adaptation of the 1922 edition of James Joyce’s epic novel, ULYSSES is accompanied by a page-by-page reader’s guide, dramatis personae, and pop-up translations of non-English passages. The reader’s guide is enhanced with discussion groups and links to online information sources, photos, videos, and other assorted bric a brac allowing you to dive as deep as you like into the world of Ulysses.

This is just another good way into good literature.

Book bonanza – buy online and save

Lot’s of people still buy books – interesting books! There are so many to choose from, but sometimes our local store/s may not have what we want – or we may just want to shop from home.

My friend Gary Molloy @chemedlinks is always on the lookout for an online bargain. Darcy Moore is also always on the lookout for an interesting read, and his latest purchase according to his FB status  is Tokyo Vice.  I should put those two into the same room!!

Perhaps Darcy  purchased this book for his Kindle.  That’s a whole different ball-game! But anyway – what if you do need to buy a book and want to same a few dollars too?

Gary pointed me to Booko ages ago for price comparisons  – and I have to vouch for the value of this service. http://www.booko.com.au

I rarely need to shop at Amazon any more.  Best service for me so far has been with the Book Depository.  Books arrive quickly, and are often cheaper than Amazon – postage is included in the cost! Gary tells me that the UK and US online stores are the same source, but often better pricing from the US.com site.

You can even visit Book Depository Live – and watch the  stream of books being purchased from countries around the world.

Of course, I still love to shop in a good book-store – that will never change!  I also borrow books from my local library and my school library. But I also enjoy  being able to get the book I want, delivered to my door, is good value.

Check it out next time you’re shopping around for that special book. There are also other good sites, which I have lost track of.   If you have any more to recommend, please share the sites you know  in the comments.

Augmented Reality – it’s literacy!

While I’m really interested in all sorts of technology possibilities, as a person responsible for a huge library facility and resource centre I passionately believe that the first and most important ‘augmented reality’ option for children and youth are found in books, magazine, graphic novels and more.

Good books. Good literature. Good augmented reality!!  Through books you can experience so many possibilities, so many  passions and emotions, so much history, exciting mystery, and more.

This week has been a big one for us on the ‘augmented reality’ front!

As our visiting speaker Paul MacDonald from The Children’s Bookshop said to our Year 7 students: “A good book should leave you slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it”.

Paul challenged the boys for an hour with many exciting ideas, and reasons to get into ‘what’s hot’!  He even got into quiz mode to capture every single boy – the prize?  A Cherub beanie!  You’ve never seen such a sea of hands desperate to answer a question about books and authors!  Heaps of boys charged over to the library after getting out of the dining room at lunch time – and queued to grab or reserve the books that Paul had been enticing them with.

Patrick Ness

We also had a fabulous visit from Patrick Ness, who spoke to Year 9.  Talk about mischievous but exciting! He also sat down for a literary lunch discussion with our Extension English students. Patrick was just fantastic at pitching the literacy message to active adolescents.

Oh, and don’t forget the magic of buying your own signed copy of an author’s book!

For me – the first and best form of augmented reality – guaranteed to impact on every aspect of a students learning future – is reading and more reading.  More important than any other technology tool in the whole world!

The Digital and Literacy World of Young Children

A new report from the Pearson Foundation examines how digital media is affecting early literacy around the globe.

How is digital media changing the way young children learn? Could the way young children learn be evolving to meet a new, dynamic digital media format?

Authors Jay Blanchard, a professor at Arizona State University, and Terry Moore ask these and other questions in their new report: “The Digital World of Young Children: Emergent Literacy” (PDF), out this week from the Pearson Foundation.

The white paper was released at the annual Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) International Symposium.

Blanchard and Moore conclude “developmental milestones are changing as today’s children approach learning and literacy in new ways, not thought possible in the past. “

The paper is worth a read, especially for understanding our current context around the  emergent literacy needs of primary-aged students.

(via Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning)

The Art of (old) Books – publishers’ bindings

Publishers Bindings Online, 1825 – 1930: The Art of Books is a wonderful gallery of decorative bindings with supporting essays.

The aim of this digital collection of decorative bindings, along with a comprehensive glossary and guide to the elements of these objects, is to strengthen the growing interest in and create broader awareness for the “common” object called the book.

The digital galleries of bindings  reflect distinct eras, geographic locations, and single authors and titles. They are useful for learning about aspects of 19th- and early 20th-c. American history, life, and culture.

You may just like to browse the Artistic Movements Galleries. Publishers bindings are an interesting way of exploring the advent of modern art and the impact on the artistic styles of the time on book design.

Also includes historical galleries; literary galleries; teaching tools and lesson plans; research tools and bibliography resources.

Worth a visit!