Saturday 13 October 2012

Power Searching: course reflections

P Wooden Brick Letter O Foam Stamp Letter W letter e letter R
Foam Stamp Letter S letter E a65 letter R studio g Stamp Set Block Letter C letter H

The course

This week I completed the Power Searching course with Google. After a pre class assessment there were six video classes supported with follow up activities, a mid class and post class assessment. Each class had up to six individual lessons. There were also 3 class hangouts on Google+ The classes were available over a 3 week period so plenty of time was allowed for completion.

The clear explanations and demonstrations of techniques via short succinct video lessons followed by an activity to reinforce learning, worked well for me. I did not make use of the forum but could see many students asking for assistance or additional explanation. Much of the material was not new but Dan's easy presentation style kept me following even the most basic lessons. The class hangouts were very useful as questions were answered with demonstration of possible pathways to search for even the trickiest queries.

What did I learn?

  • After years of teaching Google searches in schools, I can still learn more as Google introduces new features and tools.
  • An effective way to rid results of already known materials; use -site operator. Previously I had only used the site operator in a positive sense but had not thought to use it to exclude results.
  • Date limiters are particularly useful when looking for differences in opinions before and after any particular event.
  • The Search ReSearch blog challenges will help me to hone my newly refreshed skills as I take on Dan Russell's Wednesday search challenges.
  • I will probably undertake any new search courses as Google offers them. To this end I'm now following the online courses page on Google+
  • Retirement provides time to indulge in online learning!
I recommend this course to all. No matter your skill level one can always learn more by looking at search from a different viewpoint, take the time to visit the Search tips and tricks page to see if you can spot something you've not previously used.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Searching everywhere

Tip of the day - 7

Add-ons for quick searching

Google is a useful search engine but there are times when an alternate search tool would serve you better.
Add a range of other Search Providers in IE and now you are one click away from searching the tool you need without having to go to that site first.

  1. IE 8 - Select the down arrow on the far right side of the top tool bar. (IE9 Select the gear icon and choose Tools)
  2. Choose Find More Providers Add your choices and select whether you want to have search suggestions turned on or off. 
  3. Choose Manage Search Providers to put them in your preferred display order.
Now when you click in the search bar, select the tool of your choice before entering your search term.

Inspiration for this post came from Chris Betcher, who tweeted a link to his excellent Searching Everywhere tutorial for Chrome. Thanks again Chris.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Hyperlinking text

Tip of the day - 6

MS Word - 2

It’s time to tidy up those long web addresses you’ve been adding to documents. Are you teaching your students to provide hyperlinked documents? That’s how we are reading nowadays, so let’s teach them to write that way too. A simple way to start is to use a common word processor.

In MS Word simply choose Insert - Hyperlink. Paste the hyperlink in the address field then fill the Text to display box. Add a Screen tip if you want to provide extra information about the link that the user will see when they hover over the hyperlink. If you leave the screen tip blank, it will display the embedded web address. 

This works in the suite of Office products so if you are using PowerPoint for a class task or assignment, have the students learn how to correctly embed links to sites they have used. PowerPoint is not the place for a full scale bibliography.

Use Insert hyperlink to tidy up links in spreadsheets and emails. Tidy up hyperlinks in documents before uploading to your LMS so that the students and parents view a cleanly formatted document.

Use Insert hyperlink to provide quick navigation through a lengthy document or provide a user with an embedded email address. Once a basic understanding is reached, time to venture into the world of online hyperlinked documents. Many students will already be able to do this, but let's be sure all members of our learning community have this basic skill.
You may also like to read Jenny Luca's post on Hyperlinking text - a skill that needs some lovin'
Our library website also provides lots of tips on the ICT guide.

Monday 4 June 2012

Renew and refresh those docs

Tip of the day - 5 

MS Word 1

Do you have old MS Word documents that need renewal? While you are busy editing the content, here’s a quick start method for updating your documents.

1. Open document, use CTRL–A to Select all
2. Choose the diagonal down arrow on the Change Styles icon.
3. Choose Clear Formatting 

4. Choose the File tab and Convert. This will provide access to all the Styles inbuilt in Word 2010.
Now you can go over your document and choose Headers, Subtitles, Strong and Emphasis as needed, using the Toolbar to select each element.

5. Choose a Style from the Change Styles button. You will see the changes displayed as you roll over the choices. 

6. Save as .docx Your file size will be smaller and the built in style elements enable easy building of Tables of Content for longer documents.

Need some MS Word help? Check with your IT folks to see if your school or organisation has an enterprise agreement that provides free access to Microsoft elearning courses. If not, there are plenty of free YouTube tutorials. Check these sites for free lessons too.
GFC Learn free

Friday 1 June 2012

The bottom toolbar - Customise IE

Tip of the day - 4

IE Toolbars 2

The bottom toolbar in IE has a handy tool which reveals all the directories, folders and files on your computer. To see them at a glance, turn on the Desktop Toolbar. Here's how to do it.

Right click in a blank space on the toolbar at the bottom of the screen to reveal this menu. Select Desktop to turn on this useful tool.

Now the word Desktop will appear on the bottom toolbar.
Click on the double arrow to reveal the menu, roll up to My documents or My Computer to see all the directories, folders and files on your computer. Simply move your mouse to the left to reveal files inside folders without having to click open folder after folder.

Thursday 31 May 2012

Stuck with IE? - customise the toolbars

Tip of the day - 3

IE toolbars - 1

Stuck with Internet Explorer as your browser at work? Make its toolbars work for you.
Right click in the blank grey space below the web address (URL) or Choose View - Toolbars

Make sure Lock the Toolbars is turned off i.e. it does not have a tick next to it.
Now you can drag the favicon for any site (the little symbol at the beginning of the URL) on to your toolbar for quick access. Left click and drag to the “grey space.”

Help desk could be useful!

The shortcut to your library is indispensable of course!

Right click on any favicon you now have on your toolbar and rename it to suit your needs.
Now you have instant access to oft visited sites without cluttering your desktop, trawling through your Favorites folders or finding them in your online bookmarks.

Here’s a section of my Toolbar

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Free libraries on demand - Australia

Tip of the Day - 2

This is the second in a series of tips for the staff at school but you will find your local libraries provide similar services. Pop in today and ask your librarian.

The National Library of Australia eResources

The state libraries in each Australian jurisdiction have similar arrangements. If you are a resident of another state find the details here.
State Library of Victoria
State Library of South Australia
State Library of Western Australia
State Library of Tasmania
State Library of Queensland
Northern Territory Library

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Passing on learning

In a few weeks I will be retiring from paid work in school and moving to a quieter life. In a concentrated effort to share some things I've learnt from a variety of places over the years, I'm sending a Tip of the Day to staff at school via email, as it is still the preferred method of communication within many schools. I'll credit ideas where I can find them, but some lessons have been absorbed from many sites, apologies in advance to those not cited.
Here's today's offering.


If you are not using a random password generator here’s a quick tip for generating your own unique password.
  1. Take a phrase unique to you e.g. I’ve worked at Trinity Grammar School for eleven years!
  2. Take first letter of each word, turn one word into numbers, add some capitals and that becomes - IwaTGSf11y!
  3. Now use that with first and last letters of site you are logging in to

for Google - IwaTGSf11y!ge OR gIwaTGSf11y!e OR geIwaTGSf11y!
Repeat one of those patterns: for Facebook - IwaTGSf11y!fk for Twitter - IwaTGSf11y!tr

Easily remembered by you, change the pattern and/or phrase every 6 months – Stay safe online!
Within minutes of sending the email I'd had half a dozen positive acknowledgements. Lesson of the day for me, remember to keep sharing, what you think is obvious may be new information for others.

Useful sites about passwords

Common Craft Secure passwords
The Mozilla Channel How to choose strong passwords
Keepass KeePass Password Safe

Friday 27 April 2012

Wily Widgets

Breaking through the wall with widgets

In many schools IT departments control the software available and the tools that users may add to browsers. An excellent way to point to students to resources that can often otherwise be added as toolbar extras, is to provide them with a range of widgets. Widgets expose both students and staff to tools they may not regularly use, or indeed they be unaware of their existence.

Two categories of widgets that I find particularly useful are Search and Dictionary widgets. Many of these come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. Once you have selected the look you want, simply copy the code and paste into your website.

Database widgets are prolific and depending on which ones your school subscribes to, can also be easily adapted for your needs.


The newest widget in the pack is an Instagrok widget.

Many of these other favourite search tools are also embedded liberally throughout our LibGuides site.

Sweet Search is one of the most useful widgets directing users to sites that are all suitable for students. The widgets are available in a variety of sizes along with the Sweet Search4Me widget suitable for early learners.

The text and colours on the Duck Duck Go search box can be edited to suit your preferences.
DuckDuckGo logo
DuckDuckGo is a search engine that protects privacy and has a wide range of features.

Google Books and Google Scholar search boxes focus attention on specific search functions. By the Terms of Service, the HTML code cannot be altered in these search boxes, but if you use LibGuides you are able to set a default search term in the boxes so that students see the most appropriate search term for the context. An example of such a default search can be seen on our Pyschology guide.

Google Books

Google Scholar

Of course no reference to search boxes would be complete without Wolfram Alpha who provide a wonderful range of customised widgets in addition to basic search boxes.

Blekko also has a range of useful tools including this embeddable searchbox.

Trove searches Australian content


Dictionary widgets are very useful for students working in situations where there are no inbuilt define functions.

This widget provides access to Oxford Dictionaries

If you have a preference for Cambridge there is a Google widget or a HTML version of this widget.

Merriam-Webster have a variety of 13 different search boxes for their dictionaries and thesauri such as the Learner's Dictionary below, suitable for younger students.

These are just a few of the many widgets available that can assist your users. Do you have favourite search and dictionary widgets that I have missed?

Sunday 22 April 2012

100 years of learning

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate my mother's 100th birthday with her and each of my six siblings, their partners and my husband. It was a special family occasion and a tribute to her in so many ways. The 15 of us lunched in a lounge room in the small country hospital in South Australia where she has been resident for the last seven and a half years. 
Here's a woman who left school at the end of primary school as there was no money for her to continue into secondary years so she needed to go out to work. She still had a burning desire to learn and never ceased to do so. She and my father struggled through a tough farm existence but she always valued 'learning' of any sort and encouraged us to always try and do our best.
One of her favourite mottos has been "if a job is worth doing then its worth doing well." This applied equally to her care of family, attitude to tasks and of course, learning.

Thank you Mum for so much, for your positive outlook on life and for the opportunities you provided for me which required great sacrifices made by both you and Dad.

Today many of her 27 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren will call to see her. May they and all of us open our minds to the possibilities and enrichment that continual learning provides.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Lending a hand

photo credit: Meredith_Farmer via photopin cc
It is always a privilege to be asked to present a session for other teachers. Last Thursday I had the opportunity to provide some training and guidance for library staff at another school. Their particular need for LibGuides training played to my expertise and I was delighted to lend a helping hand.
We have been using the LibGuides platform for a library web presence for 12 months now and are most impressed with functionality, flexibility and back end support. The presence of a strong community of librarians from around the world adds to its usefulness as resources are shared freely for others to use.
The statistics clearly show our library site is being well used with our Mathematics guide alone showing more than 1500 viewings this year.

Some guidelines to consider for your library if you are interested in using LibGuides are listed in an earlier post here

Thursday 22 March 2012

How will I note that?

Image: 'Notes'
Note taking

Scenario: A student has located what he/she considers to be a great resource for their research. Faced with many pages of information from a lengthy journal article or website, the student is uncertain how they should take notes.

When asked how to decide what is important information, typical responses from high school students may reveal obvious shortcomings in note taking strategies. Some respond that they need to write down all "the important points" but when questioned about what is important, lack of strategies in determining what may be important, become apparent.

This is a good teaching moment no matter the topic. A quick revision lesson on what to look out for is an important pre-reading and pre-class strategy. It helps students focus and prepare for note taking from the written, aural and visual media. Here's a document I use with classes to remind them of what to capture.

The tools to use for note taking are indeed another topic. With the proliferation of online tools such as the popular Evernote and Diigo we are still doing our students a disservice if we do not teach them how to discriminate between the important and the trivial. In a world awash with information this is a critical skill. A collection of other note taking tools and strategies are collated on this research guide.

Monday 27 February 2012

Swap Days, Parents and Students

This is Week 5 of our 2012 academic year and our Year 7 students are settling well and finding their place in the school. This week we have two Swap Days for them and their parents. Students are taken on excursion whilst a parent/guardian takes the student's place in class and spends the day experiencing the life of a first year high school student.

The task of locating rooms, swapping from subject to subject, having the correct books for lessons and even managing to unlock the student's locker provides quite a challenge. Many parents participate in these days and classes usually end up being about half/half  - students and parents.

What a great opportunity this provides for parents to gain an insight into their child's life and to get to know the teachers. Staff also appreciate the opportunity to meet the parents and gain insight into their new charges. Parental feedback from these days is overwhelmingly positive with some expressing surprise at how much schools have changed, how much is fitted into a day, along with a few laughs about unexpected experiences.

Some parents commented after my session on cyber safety and digital citizenship, that they would check their Facebook privacy settings on returning home. One hopes students take on the same message.

Does your school have any similar programs?

Thursday 23 February 2012

Organising by Genre - The Process

This term we've been working diligently to reorganise our fiction collection into popular genres. My previous post Finding Fiction Fast covers our decision making. The process needs careful consideration before embarking on this labour intensive task. Here's an outline of how we have approached the task and some recommendations for implementation.

  • Choose one genre.
  • Remove from shelves alphabetically to trolleys or alternate shelf space.
  • Do a quick weed of the genre.
  • Scan barcodes to globally alter necessary data in your catalogue. Our Destiny catalogue facilitated the global addition of Categories (in this case used for genres.)
  • Generate new labels and attach to books. Our labels now have the new genre before the Fiction indicator, so Harry Potter in Fantasy is FAN F ROW and The Recruit in Action and Adventure is ACT F MUC. This allows our students to use the wonderful shelf browse feature built into Destiny.
    Visual shelf browse ACT F MUC
    Each genre also has a visual label

  • Reshelve - this may involve moving the rest of your fiction back to create space. We found this to be the most labour intensive part of the whole exercise, and it often required moving books back progressively as we addressed each new genre.
  • Relabel the shelves with signage that indicates what the genre covers and where authors are located. We did this with signs on the end of shelves, authors' names along the shelves and an alphabet indicator at the beginning of each shelf. We also added colour coding within our shelf strips to clearly indicate where one genre ends and another begins. Orange shelves contain Other Worlds, green is Action and Adventure, black is Horror and so on.
  • Provide signage above your OPAC terminals to indicate what the new call numbers mean along with colour coding if you decide to take this path.
  • Offer lots of help to your customers as they search for books using the newly relocated materials.Seek their opinion and feedback, some of our students are delighted others less so. We're still working on ways to improve their experience, but at this stage we are confident our newly reorganised shelves are attractive and provide easier access to popular materials whilst exposing other authors in similar genres who  were previously neglected.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Finding fiction fast!

The National Yearof Reading launch is this week. To celebrate reading and make our fiction more user friendly we are rearranging it into popular genres. We already have an extensive Graphic novel collection which is housed separately and which has proved to be very popular both for casual in house reading and borrowing. It is brightly labelled and easy to find and browse so we decided to extend this idea to the rest of the fiction collection.

We started this process towards the end of last year and after much discussion and definition decided on a range of genres to suit our student population of Year 7 -12 boys.

My colleague Tabatha Paterson researched various definitions of genres and we took advice from June Wall and Dianne Mackenzie both of whom had reorganised their fiction collections.

Our initial focus is on these areas.

  • Other Worlds
  • Fantasy
  • Action and adventure
  • Crime and Mystery
  • Horror
  • Short Stories and 
  • Humour
This leaves a general section which then encompasses 
a. Historical fiction Story with fictional characters and events in a historical setting. Some facts may be true, but story is usually fictionalised.
b. Realism A story which, although untrue, could actually happen. Some events, people, and places may even be real.
c. Classics
d. Literary A story that delves into the human condition in some way. It is character driven and emphasises elegant language.

My next post will cover the logistics of the process and a further explanation of each of the genres.

Happy reading to all!
What are you doing to promote reading this year?

Enjoyed this post? Want to see more?