Thursday 1 December 2011

Community update

Twice a year Heads of Academic Departments in my school publish an article in the HM bulletin to keep the community abreast of developments in their area of expertise. Below is the text of my article published this week.

Academic Focus
The fast-paced changing world of information presents a constant challenge for students and staff alike. Today’s internet giant is quickly bypassed as the latest and newest information tool appears on the scene. Information overload is both the boon and burden of our age. Effective information filters are critical for students to benefit from the richness of resources available.

Regular changes to the Google interface in recent weeks have restricted the power of the search and with the web focussing more on social functions; we need to consider where this leaves our students in their search for authentic academic information.

Whilst one may decry the use of Wikipedia for academic purposes, we understand that many will find this their first port of call for background information. Valuable references can often be found to other more reliable sources of information by referring to the bibliographic listing at the end of each article. This is one of the most basic methods for authenticating information. An analysis of the editing history of any page also highlights the changing nature of the information provided. Such critical consumption of web and media content is an important skill for students to acquire.

Our management of information extends beyond teaching such basic skills in the library during the school day, to providing an extensive website built to cater for the students’ academic needs. Teacher librarians, in consultation with subject specialists, find and filter the best of the web and provide the links to those resources here.

The guides provide information for particular subject areas and focus on topics specific to each grade level. They incorporate a wide variety of media, including video and RSS feeds as well as books, apps and tools. Links back to the intranet site emphasise the importance of using our extensive range of databases to retrieve reliable sources of information for academic purposes. General guides cover books and reading, research skills, and writing. A guide to all things iPad focuses on useful apps and sites for education purposes.

Current announcements and items of interest are promoted through The Arthur Holt Library Facebook page at Visit it regularly to review announcements or ‘Like’ the page to keep abreast of interesting developments in the world of Young Adult literature, writing competitions, book promotions and useful web tools.

This term, library catalogue data has been migrated to a new database. The Destiny interface has proved popular and the added functionality has already improved students’ search retrieval success. Filtered web sites are included in the package and eventually students will be able to use the library database from home to check their borrowings, browse the shelves virtually, place reserves for titles and recommend purchases. When students are provided with school email at the beginning of 2012 through TNet, individual communications about loans and recommendations will be enabled.

Students need to be encouraged in class and at home to use the most appropriate web tools for their information needs. The library site provides direction to the best of the web.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Digital Litter

Where have you been and have you cleared away your rubbish?

As the end of the school year fast approaches for those of us looking forward to summer holidays, a certain amount of frenzy is generated as many endeavour to "clean out" what is no longer useful.

In libraries this may involve, weeding and stocktaking, in offices all over a certain amount of paperwork is re-evaluated and discarded as unnecessary. But what about those digital mountains you have created along the way? Do you have a personal archive policy, do you truly evaluate what is worth keeping for posterity as opposed to what is simply inhabiting server space all over the world? Our digital carbon footprint grows each year as the cost of storage for the personal user disappears, but do we need to retain all these files?

Whilst we focus on teaching students digital literacy and the value of a positive digital  footprint, do we often neglect our own trails of detritus? Do I need bookmarks in 3 online spaces, what about all those cute curation tools I've used to accumulate content over the years? Yes, some of them used to create hotlists for lessons, compile and gather useful URLs, have faded into obscurity. But what about those I dallied with for a year or two but now I rarely revisit?

Time to take responsibility and clear out the litter. How many blog spaces have you played in and how many new tools did you sign up for, visit once or twice then decide it was not suited for your needs? Where is that early video you made that is no longer relevant? As I advise students to clean out their files on the school network, so too am I taking stock of my digital spaces. I'll be deactivating some of those accounts and hopefully clearing out some space both digitally and in my mind.

Sunday 20 November 2011 best use practices

Twitter provides a wealth of education related content and while I like to read and scan this content through the Flipboard app on my iPad, comes to the rescue when I simply do not have time each day to keep up with new posts. collates tweets and RSS feeds specified by the user, then publishes them in a newspaper format. There are front page headlines, sections promising more, and referrals to individual hashtags. This can be published either once daily, or morning and evening, or weekly. The user logs in with their Twitter ID and chooses sections for the paper and publication details. This can be set to be tweeted to followers at regular intervals.

Why is this useful and what is the best way to read all these compilations? collects the tweets I've not had time to see and by setting it to publish at a time of evening when I know I'll have reading time, it provides a great summary of what I have missed during the last 24 hours. I like the way it puts all the media items together so that one can quickly see which are presentations, videos and images. This is particularly useful for finding and viewing those clips and interactives that do not display on the ipad, when I'm back at the computer.
This is the standard display. Instead of the limited 140 characters of Twitter one is now able to see the first paragraph of articles that have been tweeted.

A  more useful display option is the See all articles which then provides options for sorting by source, topic or news spotter. This allows the reader greater control and provides information about the source of articles. Displayed in this manner it is now easier to skip down the page and choose articles for further reading.

The Archives button from the standard display allows me to go back and find earlier material, all those tweets from my PLN are not lost! By the way, it has a useful widget to embed on your blog, seen here in the right hand column.
Each day I look at publications by several folks in my PLN. Three favourites are , Library Grits daily, Professional learning news and The Tania Sheko Daily I get to to see articles I would not otherwise encounter. works well for me so if you have not yet investigated it, here's a concise tutorial to get you started. What strategies do you use to keep up with the relentless twitter feed?

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