Write a book in a day!

Today we embarked on our first Write A Book In A Day competition. Five
teams, ten boys in each team, were set the challenge to create a book from scratch – write, illustrate and publish a story of no less than 4000 words.  The parameters of this competition are set by the Katharine Susanna Pritchard Foundation, an organisation that supports writing and writers in Australia. The parameters for each story include 3 characters one male, one female and one non-human, a  setting, an issue and five random words!! The rest is up to the creativity of the students. Write a Book in a Day is a fundraising activity, and the judging is undertaken by an Australian author.

We had an amazing day! thanks to my dynamo teacher librarian, Joan.  She has run this activity at her previous school for two years now, so it was great to have this happen for us at Joeys in 2008.

We’re looking forward to joining the national competition in 2009.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

New literacies – new media – new networks

Two questions from teachers this week set me on a new search for information – which of course included using the power of my professional learning community.

Question 1. Year 8 English is about to embark on an ICT unit where they will explore Youth Culture on the web? Could I help with theme, websites, ethics, nettiquette etc. Could I? I began to think about so many things, and so many ways to work on this that my mind began to spin like a top.

Question 2. Could I help them in Drama to work with Shakespeare in some new ways, using some of the tools I had mentioned at the Subject Co-ordinators meeting? Well, I didn’t actually mention many, but I did alert the group to new possibilities, trying to capture the interest of a few brave souls.

So I asked my professional network for more information. From Twitter came a reply from Laura Nicosia who teaches in these fields, being a professor of English and Director of English Education at Montclair State University in NJ.


Urrgh, I couldn’t believe it! (sounding like a kids story now!). Just that evening I had missed attending the launch of Angela’s book, and having dinner with her and a good group of friends passionate about these topics.

Never mind, let me promote Angela’s blog and her Youth Online book to you. Angela works at Sydney University English Education researching digital cultures, new media literacies, multimodal semiotics and digital narratives. Angela also teaches and conducts auto-ethnographic research in Second Life. Needless to say, Angela (Anya Ixchel) and I (Heyjude Jenns) sometimes get up to mischief in Second Life!

We are very fortunate indeed to have such expertise right here on our doorstep! I’m still waiting for my copy of the book, but I know it will be just what I need to help develop our work with the Year 8 English cohort.

Of course Laura went on to point out another excellent resource. The person launching Angela’s book was literacy expert Colin Lanksheer, who together with Michele Knobel co-authored a new release of New Literacies: Everyday practice and classroom learning. This book will also help us understand the real meaning of ‘new’ in ‘new literacies’. I’ll add this to my shopping list now!

Laura had dinner the night before with Michele – and I was supposed to have dinner with Angela! This six degrees of separation thing really is something!

From Colin and Michele’s blog, Everyday Literacies, I also learnt about the Folger Shakespeare Library, and a fantastic set of resources for enabling students to produce audio plays from Shakespeare’s work. These have been collated into a set of free, online resources titled: “Remixing Shakespeare.”

This set of resources includes an introductory video–and this is a must see! I have yet to observe a group of high school students more engaged in reading Shakespeare than the kids in this video. This introduction is accompanied by samples of students’ audio plays (brilliant!), a how-to set of tutorial guides, and a set of audio and audio editing resources. This is such a nice example of what can be done in schools within existing requirements and with digital technologies in ways that the students no doubt themselves find compelling and useful beyond school.

I grabbed the video and dropped it into my VodPod collection. It is vital that we teachers and teacher librarians take a lead role in showing students how to work effectively, legally and ethically to use materials in new mashups which allow for remix of original materials in creative and compelling ways to create wonderfully original works.

You know, I love my professional network :-) They give me so much knowledge and inspiration.

Oh, and Bec (from school) and myself are attending Angela’s Digital Literacy course. Can’t wait to have fun with machinima.

Digital natives and their reading

The Guardian provides an interesting analysis of the National Endowment for the Arts study, called To Read Or Not To Read, which chronicles in exhaustive statistical detail the waning of literary culture and its dire consequences for American society.

To Read or Not To Read expands the investigation of the NEA’s landmark 2004 report, Reading at Risk. While that report focused mainly on literary reading trends, To Read or Not To Read looks at all varieties of reading, including fiction and nonfiction genres in various formats such as books, magazines, newspapers, and online reading. Whereas the earlier report assessed reading among adults age 18 and older, To Read or Not To Read analyzes reading trends for youth and adults, and readers of various education levels. To Read or Not To Read is unique for its consideration of reading habits alongside other behaviors and related outcomes including academic achievement, employment, and community involvement.

No need to throw our hands up in despair. It seems that Google-gen kids who have grown up spending their leisure time on computers rather than slouched in from of the TV are the least violent, the most politically engaged and the most entrepreneurial since the dawn of the television era.

Actually the whole ‘statistical number-crunching’ about literacy, reading and books is nicely challenged in this Guardian article by writer Steven Johnson (author of Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter and The Ghost Map).

My favourite bit:

And of course we are writing more, and writing in public for strangers: novel readers may have declined by 10%, but the number of bloggers has gone from zero to 25 million. Simply excising screen-based reading from the study altogether is like doing a literacy survey circa 1500 and only counting the amount of time people spent reading scrolls.

Photo: The Guardian, Vaultboy
  • Kindle: Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device

    The slow drip of rumors about the Amazon Kindle e-book reader exploded into a full-blown flood over the weekend. As a result there have been lots of comments flooding the social networks about the newest wireless device from Amazon.com…. it’s the Kindle.

    Amazon’s new wireless reading device lets you read books, magazines, newspapers and blogs anywhere, anytime. Small as a paperback, Kindle will hold lots of goodies for book aficiandos. The screen technology seems to be impressive – but wait till someone tells us more.

    You really must watch the small video about Kindle. I wonder when we will have access to free download?

    A wonderful marketing strategy from Amazon – as well as a clear indication of future directions for teachers and librarians alike. This gadget is a ‘future’ must-have for me!

    View the video here. Get full product descriptions, reviews, and more information here.

    Nice one! I think! Maybe this is still not the ‘ultimate’ device – but with it’s link to Amazon, it sure is a peek into the future.

    However, according to the Sydney Morning Herald (20/7) it is unlikely Kindle will ever see the light of day in Australia.

    But the local book industry has jumped headlong into the digital age with Dymocks chain launch of Dymocks Digital Books online stocking about 120,000 ebooks that can be downloaded and read on a computer, mobile phone or other handheld device. They say that these digital formats are quick and easy to download so there will be no more waiting for shipping – read or listen within minutes. And with a growing list of over 135,000 titles to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

    Those “iBook” options just keep getting better..

    litgo.jpg I’m more and more impressed by the options available to provide good reading and literature options in iPod format.

    Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format. You can:

    • Download the files to your Mp3 player and listen on the go,
    • Listen to the Mp3 files on your computer,
    • Download the files directly into iTunes,
    • View the text on a webpage and read along as you listen,
    • Print out the stories and poems to make your own book.

    Extensive database provided by Florida’s Educational Clearninghouse – and growing all the time.


  • From text to iPod – in one easy step

    Use Text2Go to transfer information from the web to your iPod, so you can listen to it on the go. Sound like a gimmick? Maybe, but just think about the educational implications of such a tool for our students – anyone who needs audio support to access and enjoy text.

    From Melbourne, this software (for a very small cost) could be used to turn free eBooks available at Project Gutenberg into audio books for your library, to loan out on your ipods or mp3 players.

    In fact, anything that might be available in digital format could be converted this way. Are there limitations? I don’t know. The idea is a very good one for schools to look into further.

    From LifeHacker Australian edition.



    Inside a dog….it’s too dark to read!

    Thanks to Andrew and his pointer to another fabulous website that I haven’t taken enough notice of … so perhaps you haven’t either. :-)

    This is a website for young people about books.

    Here you can:

    • read and write reviews
    • meet our online author-in-residence
    • win stuff
    • preview upcoming titles
    • read interviews with authors
    • keep up to date with all the latest bookish news
    • listen to podcasts and audio Chapter Ones
    • talk about books on the forum

    Insideadog is also the home of the Inky Awards – Australia’s first Teenage Choice Book Award. It all starts with the longlist – 10 Australian books and 10 International. Then the panel of 6 judges will whittle it down to a shortlist of 3 Australian and 3 international books.

    Voting opens September 24! See if you can join in!

    This is another great Australian resource!

  • Books and ideas: Mirror of the world

    Thanks to the August edition of Good Reading (magazine for book lovers) I have discovered a new website Mirror of the World: Books and Ideas.

    This website showcases some of the State Library of Victoria’s most precious and historically significant books. It is a rare opportunity to look more closely at fragile medieval manuscripts, turn the pages of exquisitely illustrated picture books, zoom in on the meticulously detailed maps or even hear works narrated.

    There are four main themes to explore. Inspiration traces the development of books and their power to shape our history. Imagination illustrates the many ways in which books transport us into rich, inner worlds. Exploration charts the importance of books in documenting the discoveries of new lands, peoples, flora and fauna. Innovation looks at books as objects of beauty, artistry and agents of change.

    In addition, the Teach & Learn section (look for the link on the bottom bar) contains a series of educational resources for teachers and students. Based around items featured on the Mirror of the World website, the resources are organised into activities for students and accompanying information for teachers.