That’s just magic!


Originally uploaded by tsheko

Here’s a visual search with a difference. Have some fun at

The word you enter in the search box is created visually using books on that theme. Images are continuously generated so it’s a moving thing, but if you click on one of the books, you get information from Amazon about the book.  You can also do it for music. Well, it kept me amused for a while. Let me know what you think.

#15 Is this Second Life?

imagine working at google

Originally uploaded by tsheko

I’ve watched the film Working for Google before and it made me blink in disbelief. Was I watching a science fiction film? Had I ended up in Second Life? Something definitely surreal about this… The fact that a workplace would provide employees things like on-site doctors, dentists, massage and yoga, day care, SHORELINE RUNNING TRAILS!, snacks, stock options, maternity and paternity leave, free lunch!! What’s the catch? Do you have to sell your soul to Google? Actually, if you look at ‘Top 10 reasons to work at Google’ some of the descriptions of the Google workplace could easily be mistaken for that of the school library. I’ve selected and slightly modified 3 points to apply to school libraries and staff:

1. With hundreds of visitors every month, the school library has become an essential part of everyday life – like a good friend – connecting people with the information they need to live great lives.

6.   Innovation is our bloodline. Even the best technology can be improved. We see endless opportunity to create even more relevant, more useful, and better products for our users. The school library is the information and communication technology leader in organizing the world’s information.

9.   Boldly go where no one has gone before. There are hundreds of challenges yet to solve. Your creative ideas matter here and are worth exploring. You’ll have the opportunity to develop innovative new products that millions of people will find useful.

What I’d really like to be able to say is that, like Googlers, library staff ‘range from former neurosurgeons, CEOs, and puzzle champions to alligator wrestlers and former-Marines’. That would be something. Alligator wrestlers in particular would come in handy when our boys come into the library at lunchtimes.

#14 Google book search

Little suck a thumb 2

Originally uploaded by daniel.schenzer

I thought I’d search an old German children’s book to test out Google Book Search. Can’t believe it, not only did I get a result, but also whole page images (which I couldn’t copy), extracts of popular passages and interesting background information. I still can’t believe this book – so violent and politically incorrect. It’s fascinating to see what was important for children of nineteenth century Germany. The author wrote and illustrated it in 1845 as a Christmas present for his 3 year old son. I’m not sure of the psychological damage done to this little boy as he pored over stories with gruesome consequences that befell children who tormented animals, played with matches, sucked their thumbs and refused to eat their soup. As you can see from the picture I’ve included about the boy who sucked his thumb, the illustrations spare no detail. Actually, it reminds me a little of Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons – not the moralising part, just the violence. I’m not sure what I thought of all this when I read it as a young girl. I must have realised that it wasn’t a realistic depiction of what would happen to me if I displayed any of this behaviour. Grimms’ fairy tales were no less gruesome. I think kids like that, actually. Look at older kids watching South Park.

The Google book search gives a synopsis, reviews, other editions, where to buy or borrow from a library, the option to add to your Google library or write a review. You can search genres within fiction and non-fiction.

The elephant and the balloon

I know that many people are kicking against this Web 2.0 learning curve. I’m not saying everyone, but I have spoken to several (more than 3) people who are finding this experience more pain than gain. Well, I just want to say , don’t give up! Once you pass a certain threshold, you suddenly get stuck into it, and you know what, you can’t stop.

Personally, I’m  finding  that I have an opportunity to learn which I feel is always a privilege. As a child I enjoyed learning at school, always something to look forward to. There was a time in my life (quite a prolonged time ) when I didn’t have the opportunity to learn as much as I was used to. I’d say that these were the years when my children were very young. Sure, I had to learn stuff, but you know what I mean, there was no time for me.

This program has given me the opportunity for exploration and creativity. I thrive on that. Without it, I’m not in a good state. As I read others’ blogs, the links in these, look at possibilities offered by Web 2.0 applications, I feel like I could do anything. Lately, I’ve decided I could write a children’s book. Do you ever think that? How hard could it be?  Well, here’s a YouTube video from the British comedy show Black Books that I think illustrates what would happen if I ever tried to write a children’s book.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

#12 Google docs

Some Questions Can’t Be Answered by Google

Originally uploaded by Mykl Roventine

The unmistakable beauty of Google Docs is that they can be saved and accessed on any computer. It seems that all good things are free-floating. We’re no longer anchored to one harbour. That goes for, furl, librarything and others I can’t think of at the moment.
I played with a google doc, created a folder, was able to see ‘all revisions’ made and how long ago, compared different versions of the document. The ‘sharing’ aspect is cool. This is the meat in the Web 2.0 sandwich, the networking aspect. I had the option to invite people either as collaborators or as viewers. I could even give my ‘collaborators’ permission to invite other collaborators. A socialnetworking army! I feel so powerful!
Lastly, you get the option of saving the document in different formats: html, open document (what the…), pdf, rtf (what the…), text, word – have a look for yourself.
Zohowriter was similar, and enabled me to save folders as tags, ensuring easier location and access. Inserting images is apparently easy, and you can post it to your blog. You can also make a draft post. The ‘add comments’ feature is useful for teacher/student interaction.

Class, take out your Facebooks


Originally uploaded by gualtierocatrame

One of the most useful aspects of Facebook is the Groups application. This enables group communication with all the messages visible to the whole group. We could easily incorporate this type of socialnetworking in schools, eg set up the following groups:
Sci-fi; graphic novels; Manga, etc.
Another feature is the promotion of events. A book group, writing group or author visit could be advertised within Facebook.
Relevant YouTube videos supporting events or interests could be uploaded.

a small matter of perspective

Here’s an example of the way Facebook can broaden local perspective.

My older son is currently doing Year 12 IB (International Baccalaureate). He joined an IB related Facebook group (You Know When You’re in IB When …) , and read that northern hemisphere IB students had already finished. Thinking that he could attract some pity, he wrote that his end of the world had 6 months of IB to go.  Here’s his post:

Sasha Sheko (Ivanhoe Grammar School) wroteon May 15, 2008 at 9:29 PM

That’s right… You guys are done but us people in the Southern Hemisphere (i.e. Australia) have six months to go.

The response from an IB student in Lebanon took him by surprise:
(I had to conceal some language)

 Post #3

Omar ‘Boobass’ Boubess (American Community School Beirut) wroteon May 18, 2008 at 9:50 AM

holyy sh* so u guys take the november tests?? goodluck with that…if this could make u feel better there was a civil war here in Lebanon and we still had to make our way thru all the shellings and rpg’s (<< yes f*ing RPG’s) and get to school to take the test.. god bless IB 🙂

Yes, Omar, you win….

Facebook/MySpace? What the…? (#10,11)

Facebook Vs Myspace (Ben Heine)

Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

What’s the difference between Facebook and MySpace? To find out, I asked my son who uses both: 


– more customised in terms of html; the look is more customizable;
– you can stick pictures wherever you want and also YouTube or widgets
– he feels it’s more ‘his space’ and puts effort into making it look nice and individual
– automatic widget from lastfm  plays his cds on autoplay so it comes on for visitors.


– no autoplay, so visitors have to click on to hear his music, and they might not do that
– smoother, when you tag someone it works better – doesn’t open up a new window or take forever 
– photo albums are better, quicker , tagging is better
– better for groups – eg. interests, themes, etc
– he likes to send messages to more than one person at once (like email) and when they reply it goes to everyone in the group selected so it’s good for collaboration

His general comments:

MySpace can look awful (matter of taste)whereas facebook is the same for all
It’s ridiculous that we talk to the same people on MySpace and facebook and msn but we do it

– writing on the wall in facebook is similar to comments on MySpace although with Wall to wall, if there’s a conversation going on b/w two people, it’s easier to keep track of

Participating in these socialnetworking communities, you know more about a person – their taste in movies, music, comedians etc. than you would otherwise – you can’t always work that into a conversation.

My views:
I think that for school, using something similar gives the kids an identity, this is their space, and includes all that they think makes them unique and what they want their friends to know and see about them. Book and film reviews pages could be set out more like this, so that students have an identity and their own space for creativity.

Drupal might be a good option. What do others think?