Ladies and gentlemen – Joyce Valenza!

                                                                          from Things to Think About

Some people have the gift of being able to energize a conference room full of people. Dr Joyce Valenza is one of these people and that’s precisely what she did at yesterday’s SLAV conference: Communicate, collaborate, create: and think critically!  Joyce is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring, creative, passionate and personable teacher librarians to exist. At the end of the day, instead of trudging home wearily after a full day conference, I wanted to start on ten projects simultaneously. And I wasn’t the only one.

Joyce compares the library to a kitchen with the librarian as Masterchef. The kitchen is the hub of the house, the place where people gather to create, to share discussions and enjoy each other’s company. I like this image of the library as a dynamic place for people. Yes, libraries house books but the books are also created by people.

Joyce also adds the analogy of the librarian as a curator. At a critical time when lack of understanding of the times in which we live and the teacher librarians’ role in curating the information deluge threatens the role of teacher librarians and sees them being replaced by non teaching staff precisely when more human intervention is needed,  Seth Godin’s words ring true – “We need librarians  more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper.”

So how do we go about re-educating principals, teachers and everyone else about the crucial role of teacher librarians in education? Joyce talks about the need for parking stations for our lessons and resources. Record, document and share everything you do. Park your stuff in slideshows, wikis, blogs, wherever people can see it. Share everything with everyone and you have provided yourself and other teacher librarians with evidence of what you do and why it is crucial for teaching and learning. This is how we lead, and we don’t need to be in obvious leadership roles. But we don’t hide behind the circulation desk. We go out of the library and we bring the school into our library. We show people how diverse our role is, what connections we have across the school, what skills we bring and what skill sets we teach students and teachers.

Everything you need is housed in this wiki Joyce put together for her downunder visit. That will keep you very busy. The backchannels were busy too so you can find a summary of ideas and resources through the Twitter hashtag #slavconf (click here) and also on Todaysmeet/melbourne. I didn’t take notes; there was no need. I just watched Joyce deliver not just a presentation but her testament to a lifetime as a passionate teacher librarian who is also a change agent. She demonstated our role as something vital to schools, something fun and rewarding. She encouraged us to be fierce (and Joyce, I never did wear any of those holiday sweaters you mention), she passed on to us the confidence and courage to take our rightful position at the centre of learning and teaching.

Thankyou, Joyce, for sharing your wonderful resources – amongst these, your TL Guides, your research tools, your 21st century tools. I was fortunate to be present at last year’s conference too, and I hope we will be able to see you again soon. Thankyou to SLAV for organising this very successful conference.

I go away for 3 weeks and what happens… Still, I’m nonplussed ;)

A little over a week ago, my family and I (husband and two sons) travelled overseas for a very full 3 weeks. My husband and I haven’t been overseas since the early 1980s and neither of my sons have been out of Australia at all. We were probably a little too ambitious to cover so much ground in such a short time, but it’s difficult to decide between staying longer in places and getting to see more. The itinerary included Berlin, Prague, Padova, Verona, Milan, Moscow and Singapore, and when you consider how much of the 3 weeks is taken up travelling, it’s really only a couple of days in each city. If I did it again, I’d definitely go in milder weather – the heat and humidity was taxing – but with a son in Year 11, we didn’t really have any choice. And at the end of the day, we were very lucky that everything went smoothly, and now we have the memories and photos to savour.

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So, I go away for 3 weeks and suddenly everyone has jumped onto a new social networking planet – Google+. Once I’m back, I have every intention of catching up but the effects of jetlag prevent me from comprehending anything. So, after a week of mental obscurity, I finally accept an invitation and go in to have a look around.

Did I expect to forgo the linguistic oddities in this new social network? No. So I come in, and people are huddling, creating circles, doing ‘hangouts’, sparking conversations. It all sounds very social and I’m interested in having a play so I can compare it to what happens on Twitter and Facebook. I’m not sure that Google+ works as a name, what with the ‘+’ symbol at the end which renders any punctuation after that ridiculous. Of course, I’m aware that Google+ is not a new, isolated product, but an extension of Google itself, a social extension so the name does make sense from that perspective.

I like the idea that Google is trying to create a one-stop shop for people already using Google, and the extensions make sense for people like me who already use gmail, Google docs, Google presentations, Google calendar, etc. And I’ve read that Google is trying to make our online connections more like real life.

Creating Circles of people in your life is the first step. I agree with Google that having different circles for friends and colleagues is a plus. Currently on Facebook I’m cutting back on the professional sharing because I’m aware that my non-teaching friends will find my posts annoying if they’re on Facebook to share photos and everyday things. So Circles makes a lot of sense. Also the idea of selective sharing sounds good; I’m not sure how to do that on Facebook except through messages and that doesn’t include the sharing of photos, does it?

 Circles makes it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another, and your boss in a circle by himself, just like real life.

I like the fact you can drag and drop people into circles but I’m already suspecting that I may have created too many categories and will confuse myself. In terms of how many people you have in your circles, the recommendation is to have heaps for breadth, and I do that already with Twitter, so I’m okay with doing the same here. Although I’m not sure whether I’ll end up keeping up Google+ and Twitter AND Facebook – too many networks. I think many people feel the same, and I’ll be giving Google+ a longer trial period before I decide to delete any previous networks.

Sparks is also an interesting concept.

Remember when your Grandpa used to cut articles out of the paper and send them to you? That was nice. That’s kind of what Sparks does: looks for videos and articles it thinks you’ll like, so when you’re free, there’s always something to watch, read, and share. Grandpa would approve.

In fact, my mother still cuts things out of the newspaper for me and my sons, and I don’t have the heart to tell her we can read everything online. Still, the idea of sharing interesting information is a good one. I’ve organised my Facebook groups in a similar way so that organisations I’m interested in send me updates of interest, saving me the trouble of going out and looking for them.

I’ve yet to be involved in a hangout but I imagine if I enjoy webinars I might enjoy the opportunity to come together for an informal chat with friends. Let me know if you’re organising one of those.

Bumping into friends while you’re out and about is one of the best parts of going out and about. With Hangouts, the unplanned meet-up comes to the web for the first time. Let buddies know you’re hanging out and see who drops by for a face-to-face-to-face chat. Until we perfect teleportation, it’s the next best thing.

And the group chat sounds like a fantastic idea so I can’t wait to try out huddle.

Texting is great, but not when you’re trying to get six different people to decide on a movie. Huddle takes care of it by turning all those different conversations into one simple group chat, so everyone gets on the same page long before thumbs get sore.

Instant photo upload I don’t get at all yet. Photos uploading themselves makes me nervous – what does that exactly mean? And the video doesn’t make it any clearer so I’ll have to do a bit of research there.


This post is already too long so I won’t elaborate any longer. If Google+ is a way to manage online your real life and real life friends, then I’d better go back to real life. Bye.

Apps enhance storytelling with animation and interactivity – Morris Lessmore

Creating pictures in your head from text in a book is one way of reading. I’m finding more examples of online reading experiences which combine animation and interactivity and transform the reading experience. Whether you lean towards lamenting the loss of private headspace or not, you must admit that some of the story apps are beautifully crafted, and even you might not be able to keep your hands off them once your start reading.

One such iPad app is the Morris Lessmore story –

Put yourself in Morris’ shoes as you dive into the story of Mr. Lessmore and his flying friends through Moonbot Studios’ first Interactive Storybook. In this reinvention of digital storytelling you can repair books, tumble through a storm, learn the piano and even get “lost in a book,” flying through a magical world of words, giving you a dynamic journey through the story. This iPad App has been touted by Apple as one of the “Top New Apps for the iPad,” and will surely be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Using rich CG animation, innovative interactivity, original composed music, and unique games sprinkled throughout the book, this App will revive a love of story in all.

I’ve included 3 short videos about the making of Morris –

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The Making Of Morris: Part 1 (The Power of Story) from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

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The Making Of Morris: Part 2 (Animation We Cherish) from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

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The Making Of Morris: Part 3 (Thousands Of Books) from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Although the story is obviously suitable for younger students, I think that there is also so much a middle school teacher could do with it, from the perspective of storytelling, illustration and animation. It could be used as a writing prompt or studied for film technique. Students might create their own illustrated story or animation. I love the marriage of art and story! I remember how upset I was when, as a young child, I moved from picture books to pictureless books. Now with graphic novels, animations for all ages and increasing interactive and animated book apps, I’m happy again!