Tag Archives: information

Taking control of our digital lives

In a few weeks our team will be running sessions on digital citizenship with all the year 10 students. In an attempt to make sense of a very dense session I thought I’d throw it into a blog post.  I’m open to suggestions or advice if you’re kind enough to read the post. Thank you.

The leading question is:

In the digital age what are the most important skills we need to develop?

We will explore digital literacies and what it is to be a digital citizen in today’s information age. In particular, how can we take control of our digital lives?

In no set order, and depending on the dynamics of the class and their receptiveness to engage in discussion, we will look at:

  • attention (mindfulness) – thanks to the work of Howard Rheingold
  • online privacy
  • critical evaluation of information
  • your digital profile

With mobile devices and technology ubiquitous in our lives, is it possible that we are not in control of the balance in our lives?

To start discussion about whether we are online too much, I will show students this video.

I hope to talk a little on mindfulness. Mindfulness is something we can practice. It helps us have control over what we give our attention to.

We might do this one-minute meditation exercise or we might ask students to do this in their own time.

Mindfulness during study would be really appreciated by students; it’s so easy to get distracted especially with the ping of social media inviting us to take a ‘quick’ break. We will recommend to students the SelfControl app which allows them to lock themselves out of social media and email for any period of time. Sounds good to me. Students can download this app to their devices for free.

Next we’ll move on to the question: ‘Are we doing everything we can to secure our online privacy?

Then we’ll show students this video about nothing being free online and about how their online activity is stolen for the purpose of data collection.  Hopefully they’ll start to feel a little uncomfortable as they realise how little control they have over what is taken from what they do online . But will this lead to some good discussion?

At this point we’ll introduce our students to Duck Duck Go, an anonymous, encrypted search engine.  We’ll take a look at why Duck Duck Go is better for privacy than other search engines.  We’ll look more closely at how our search results are generally filtered and how we can escape our search engine’s filter bubble.

We’ll watch the following video to discover that our search results are far from objective and that the internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see.

Moving on to our digital identities, we might google each other and see what comes up. When I did this last year there wasn’t much which – as I said to the boys – is good and bad. It’s great if they don’t have inappropriate things on their public profile, but what if somebody wants to find out more about the, for example, when they apply for a job?

Here’s an revealing video about why our Facebook likes say more about us than we think, and why we should care.

At this point I’d like the students to take a look at what others see about them on Facebook by going to their public profile. Since Facebook changes privacy settings constantly and these are never simple, it should be an interesting exercise. Facebook allows a user to view their page as a person they haven’t ‘friended’ and also as a ‘friend’. Then I’ll ask the students to check out the Facebook Help Centre – I don’t think they will have looked at this in detail.

Although I’m not an advocate of the fear tactics used to scare young people off social media, I also want to make them aware of what can and does happen.  What happened to Alec Couros very recently is a sobering story. Alec Couros is Professor of educational technology & media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. Someone stole his online identity and created an internet relationship scam. Read about it here in his very open blog post where he explains how scammers stole his photos to lure women into online romantic relationships to get at their money. Alec lists a long list of things he recommends to fight internet scams. He says that ‘digital literacy is necessary for determining the validity of sources, including the integrity and authenticity of our relationships.’ He recommends that ‘this needs to be a topic in school as part of a required digital citizenship curriculum’. Yes, it does. And so, our one session is not enough, but we are squeezing in at least this one session.

Alec’s final words in this second blog post are:

Likely, what I’ve learned the most throughout this predicament is that we need better systems for identity verification. I don’t actually like proposing this because I’m a strong proponent for rights to anonymity on the web. But, there must be a way to allow for anonymity and to also build mechanisms in place for identity verification where necessary. Ideas, anyone? Maybe my life’s work is in this problem somewhere.

After this frightening real story we are actually going to go back to encouraging our students to cultivate a positive online profile. I know that many of them will ask why. Why do they need to go public online? Doesn’t this go against what we’ve just been discussing – all the negative stuff? While thinking about how I could possibly make this case convincingly with something our students could identify with, I was on Twitter and had asked a question about saving archived webpages from the Wayback Machine. A few seconds later I received an answer from Nick Patsianas (@nickpatsianas) – someone I followed a while ago. He is a year 11 student who lives on the Central Coast in NSW. Nick is an inspirational young man (as you will understand when you read his blog bio) and his blog is an outstanding example of how a student can create a positive digital footprint. I will introduce Nick to my students. Nick is part of an active network on Twitter, as you can see from his Twitter conversations if you follow him.  Nick is part of Oz Minecraft Educators. If I were an employer and were looking for evidence that Nick was an intelligent, literate, responsible, engaged and thoughtful young man, I would have everything I needed in the digital footprint he has created for himself.

To finish the session (if there is time remaining), I will take my cue from Alec Couros when he says

Detection of these scams requires critical thought, a healthy skepticism, and active digital literacy.

We’re going to look at photos and text posted online and try to evaluate their validity. Hopefully this will be a fun exercise, and we might do it together. We will ask our students if the following photos are real or fake, and if the accompanying information is real of fake. We will see how well they can uncover a hoax.

After discussion, I’ll ask the boys to find out here.

What about this?

Find out here.

What about this one?

Find out here.

What about “15-ton prehistoric shark captured off coast of Pakistan”?

Find out here.

And “New York artist creates ‘art’ that is invisible and collectors are paying millions.”

Find out here.

Next we’ll have a look at some fake news websites.

In Australia:

The Shovel

World Daily News Report

See a list of international fake news sites here. 

We’ll look at some of the information taken from the article by Paul S. Piper,Librarian, Western Washington University, Better read that again: web hoaxes and misinformation. These categorise web hoaxes and misinformation, for example, parody and spoof sites, malicious sites, counterfeit, fictitious, questionable and malicious websites, and finally product sites and subject-specific misinformation.

Finally we will ask the students which of the following websites are reputable and which are not? Of those which are not, they are to specify which are counterfeit, parodies, fictitious, questionable, malicious or product sites:

I’ll leave the students with the following sites which are dedicated to tracking internet hoaxes.

Don’t Spread That Hoax


Snopes (Rumour has it)

Vmyths (Rhode Island Soft Systems produces this site designed to counter myths and hoaxes about computer viruses.

The National Fraud Center is a consumer centre for fraud, including internet fraud.

I think that ending with this lengthy activity is a safe way to approach different classes which may delve deeply into a couple of things listed here, and not complete all activities, or they might be less willing to join a discussion, in which case we will whizz through these activities.

So this lesson will be about 45 minutes long. If you are reading, please leave a comment at the end of this post. I would really appreciate it, and there is still time to edit the lesson plan.



Melbourne City Edge Schools Day – librarians’ meetup



Photo source: http://www.pinterest.com/ucylibrary/bookish-humor/

I’ve been thinking lately how my blog writing style has changed over time. Reading post archives while searching for something, I realised how informal, loose and reflective my earlier posts were. Now I feel internal pressure to wait until I have something substantial to write about, and that happens infrequently. I often feel that there is nothing I can say better than those who have written before me. I might have to work through that – after all, a blog post is not supposed to be an academic article. Can anyone else relate to this?

So, today is the first day of second term, and the Melbourne High School staff attended a curriculum day with faculty-related staff from the City Edge schools which included the Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, Melbourne Girls’ College, University High School, Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Albert Park College, Princes Hill Secondary College and us. Library staff (as well as Maths staff) met at University High School. 

It was an enjoyable and valuable day, and I thank the principals for organising this opportunity. It makes so much sense to come together and share stories and ideas, to take time out for ourselves and get to know each other. Our session was relaxed and informative. I loved meeting everyone and taking in the diverse personalities and talents. There were a few short presentations, including mine on my use of Pinterest, one from Melbourne Girls’ College about their recent reading initiative and also from Andrew Finegan who has recently taken up the position as head of library at VCASS. After morning tea we decided not to split up into teams of teacher librarians and technicians, and I thought that worked very well. We fit comfortably into a space which was both open and intimate, and we shared and discussed library-related issues ranging from practical aspects, such as security, to controversial issues, such as the relevance of non-fiction in a contemporary school library and the changing nature of information access. I thought that everyone spoke honestly, and that we felt supported by the larger network which understood shared experiences. We are fortunate to have this opportunity, especially since professional development days are usually packed with guest speakers and intensive sessions with little time to socialise.

Later in the afternoon we were treated to a visit from Mike Shuttleworth, Program Manager at Melbourne Writers Festival, who predictably spoke about the Melbourne Writers Festival program and authors. Not really a talk but more of a conversation. Mike was interested in learning from us how we select authors for school visits, how many of us had attended previous festivals, and our feedback from these events. Again, I was grateful for this informal, interactive session – so much more valuable than formal talks which place us as passive recipients. The afternoon ended with several people sharing books they had recently read and enjoyed. Mike shared with us a book by Carol Ann Duffy called 1914: Poetry remembers

To mark the centenary of the First World War in 2014, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has engaged the most eminent poets of the present to choose the writing from the Great War that touched them most profoundly: their choices are here in this powerful and moving assembly. But this anthology is more than a record of war writing. Carol Ann Duffy has commissioned these same poets of the present to look back across the past and write a poem of their own in response to the war to end all wars. 

We thought that we might organise a poetry competition for students to do something similar.

Oh, and did I mention that it was a very wet and miserable day? What has happened to the beautiful, quiet Autumn sun? And so it’s back to business as usual tomorrow. Never mind – public holiday on Friday for ANZAC Day.

Big thanks to Rob Castles and his team at Uni High for welcoming us into their spaces and organising such a great day.




An introduction to digital citizenship for year 8s – in 20 minutes

Our new Year 9s (still 8s) arrived today for their orientation. Thanks, Nick, for inviting me to do a few sessions as an introduction to their ipads. I’ve shared the slideshow and hope it will make sense without much of the talk behind it.

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30 minutes with the year 10s – what do you teach them?

At the end of the year the library staff do a series of very short sessions with the year 10s to support their transition into year 11. Our team showcases databases and other online resources, talks about learning styles, and the such. My session last year centred on Google Search, with the students doing A Google a Day.  Since last year Google have enhanced this program with a very catchy game which is sure to engage students. This year I thought I’d expand my focus area to include aspects of digital citizenship.

This is how I intend to proceed. I’m starting with a question which I think cuts to the core of learning and teaching in our age:

In the age of Google, what are the most important skills we need to develop?

There’s no doubt that, in order to manage and make sense of information on the internet, we need to be smart online. Students’ online and offline lives merge into one; they are always connected, and so they  need to be netsmart just as they should be ‘life smart’.  There’s enough material here for a year’s program, and while creating libguide resources for Digital Citizenship, I’ve been wondering how I can convince the school of the value of this.
Since I only have one short session with the students, I’m going to briefly talk about 2 aspects of being netsmart –

1. Our Privacy online (We need to be smart and discerning)

2. Critical consumption (or what Howard Rheingold calls ‘crap detection’)

So, first our privacy online. I’ll start by showing the students this video that Jenny Luca has shared in her blog post.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7pYHN9iC9I]

Hopefully the video will engage the students and spark some thinking about how much can be gleaned online about their personal information. Of course there’s so much sensationalised and biased information in the media demonising young people’s online lives but I’m not sure if that doesn’t just make them switch off. I’m hoping that the humorous approach will engage their attention so that the final message will sink in.

Following that I intend to challenge the students to google themselves and each other, making them think about what other people would find out about them if they were googled. I wonder how many would start to be worried about what their digital footprint might look like. Actually, I’m not sure they would find much about themselves online, and this would be a perfect opportunity to discuss the positive aspects of their digital footprint, and how they could create one which would impress a future employer or at least create a transparent, positive identity they would be proud to present to the world. I think the obvious question also needs to be asked: why do they need a digital footprint in the first place?

I’m also keen to discuss, as Jenny did, the difference between http and the secure network communication using https. Jenny said she was surprised that many students didn’t realise the difference and were impressed with the information.

Finally, I’ll be showing the students the Facebook tab in the Digital Citizenship Libguide, and we’ll discuss how privacy works on Facebook, and talk about advanced privacy controls.

Then we’ll move on to the very important aspect of being netsmart which includes critical consumption (crap detection). We’ll read through a summary of Web hoaxes and misinformationand the students will form small groups to ‘evaluate the websites’ in the list on the Libguide to decide which are not reputable, and match them with a category from web evaluation box. They won’t have time to work through the Internet Detective tutorial but I included it because it’s such a useful and specific lesson on the identification of disreputable websites.

There are so many more areas to cover but for now I will settle on the collection of resources in the tabs within the Digital Citizenship guide: cybersafety, digital values, digital footprint, Facebook, copyright, being net smart, Creative Commons, web evaluation, digital literacies and our networked world. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to work with students within these areas next year.

Image source: http://www.veletsianos.com/

Gagging on content, struggling to switch off

[slideshare id=13433007&w=427&h=356&sc=no]

Curation is one of the new popular concepts in the education world, particularly amongst librarians. In the same way as some previously trusted platforms for bookmarking content have become disappointing (Vodpod’s takeover by Lockerz) or slightly altered (Delicious), new forms of collecting, organising and sharing content have emerged. Pinterest, for me, as for many others, has proven useful for  easily capturing and categorizing images and videos, for example. Scoop.it has become very popular and a new way to search for educational content (even moreso than Pinterest which is still mainly used for personal collections eg wedding paraphernalia and crafts).
Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) has created an insightful slide presentation entitled ‘When educators become curators’. I particularly like Joyce’s description of the different types of digital curators – Closed Door, Hoarder, Scrooge, National Inquirer, and the Robot, although I haven’t actually met the ‘closed door’ curators, only ‘closed door’ recipients.
I can definitely relate to the idea of ‘gagging on content’ since, I have to admit, I’m addicted to information. As a teacher librarian this should be a positive thing since I’m in the business of curating and disseminating information for teachers. But an addiction is never a good thing and can get in the way of working efficiently or even living the real life. Sadly I’m often one of those people who can’t switch off, who regularly check for Twitter and Facebook updates while I’m out, whose inclination to share things I see and find could be viewed as compulsive. That’s why I’m reading Howard Rheingold‘s Net Smart: how to thrive online – or trying to.
Gagging on content can be managed by curation tools but balancing your life and curbing your desire to drink from the fire hydrant is just as important. And it’s so difficult to resist the temptation to connect to your networks when the conversation is so rich, when the new discoveries are so constant.
And so, if I can resist the temptation to check my phone so often, I might be able to learn from Howard how to develop attention and focus which will help balance my life by cultivating an internal inquiry into how I want to spend my time. Anyone else?
Still, at least if we’re connected we have an inside understanding of what our students feel like when they have to switch off and listen to one teacher for the whole period.

Scooping means curating

                                                           Photo courtesy of CanadianAEh on Flickr

Time is one of our most precious commodities in a fast paced world. This is particularly true for educators, don’t you think? For teacher librarians, curating information and resources and doing it well is more important than ever. Our information management strategies enable us to control the flood of online information, and to connect with others in order to receive and share information.

Scoop.it (beta), a new way of curating online resources for a topic of choice, has sprung up out of nowhere (somewhere, obviously), and it seems that most of the people in my Twitter, Facebook and other networks are giving it a go. At first I thought – what!? yet another thing to keep up with; do I really need to tie myself down to managing more than my existing blogs and bits? But honestly, Scoop.it is probably one of the most effortless ways not only of curating a topic online. You just create a topic, get the button, then ‘scoop’ websites as you see them. The layout is great, magazine-style page, much easier to skim and select than looking through Diigo or Delicious accounts. Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when all information is enhanced by a visual layout; much more user friendly.

The networking part of Scoop.it works really well. I get email alerts when one of my people creates another topic, and then it’s just a matter of having a look to see if I want to follow it. Looking through someone’s list of followed Scoop.its opens up even more topics, so every day I’m discovering new resources. Since people choose areas of interest, they are often experts in resourcing this topic. Developing a personal learning network has never been so important. Networking is a powerful way of having the best and most relevant resources come to you. You can even suggest resources for somebody else’s Scoop.it topic, and then the creator has the choice of accepting or ignoring this.

There is an option of sharing on Facebook and Twitter, and that is often how I am alerted to new topics and links. Of course, tagging makes locating resources easy.

Today on Facebook Karen Bonanno shared the Library Research Services’ Vimeo Channel featuring videos such as School library characteristics that affect student achievement – an excellent series of videos, quite digestible in video form, and I wanted to share these with my library team so I added a post in my school library blog.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/16517124 w=400&h=225]

Chapter 4: School Library Characteristics that Affect Student Achievement from LRS on Vimeo.

Currently I’ve only created 2 topics:

Apps for learning and What is a teacher librarian – can’t say I’ve put much effort into these. I think you have to get into the mindset of thinking ‘Scoop.it’ as you read and discover things online. However, I have been looking through others’ resources, and I’m happy to say that Scoop.it has turned out to be more than a new gimmick. I suppose you have to give new things a go in order to decide whether they warrant your time and focus.

The Explore tab at the top of Scoop.it takes you to the latest scoops within the topics you follow. Currently I follow 75, and yes, you can’t keep up with everything all the time. Like the fast flowing Twitter stream, you just dip in when you have time or when you’re looking for specific resources.

If you’re using Scoop.it please leave your Scoop.it identity in the comment box. I would love to see what you’ve been curating. It would also be good to discover your favourite topics. Don’t be shy!

Are we Copyright Cops?

I saw this film on Tom Barrett’s blog post. It’s a powerful film about young people’s behaviour on the web and the extreme reaction of the law as they succumb to ‘stealing’ that which is to easy to take.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/23641818]

Not so long ago information wasn’t as accessible and tantalising as it is now. You only had one identity (unless you were a celebrity). Now people, predominantly young people, enjoy and possibly cultivate an online identity which may or may not be identical to their face-to-face identity. They enjoy audience most of the time through mobile technologies. Even when their blog posts claim that they are alone in their despair and will not be heard by anyone, they are generally enjoying the thought of being ‘read’ by their ‘friends’.

It’s an exciting time with the possibility of connecting with so many instantly, the possibility of finding so much information, viewing and copying so many images, so much music. It can be a confusing time, not knowing if something is true (as sometimes occurs with news on Twitter) or if it has been played with.

As educators we should try to understand the online existence from the inside, and from that perspective proceed with instruction and guidance so that young people approach that part of their life as wisely as we would hope they approach any part of their life. We should not overdramatise, not use fear-mongering, not pull them back. There is so much to be enjoyed, so much creativity possible. This needs to be tempered by an informed knowledge of how to use and share information, images and music responsibly and legally. So much is shared through Creative Commons, and it is a very good idea to attribute everything; it’s just manners.

I like the fact that this film is open source, and that it encourages people to remix and take a personal spin on what’s available.

It’s an exciting time. Let’s be open to it, be informed and respectful of each other. As educators let’s support young people in a world that doesn’t stand still, let’s not police them inappropriately.

As the world changes, how do we keep up with it?


Photo from Enokson on Flickr

Books have been a source of information for some time now. But in libraries, the people have been important too. Librarians have been the personal link to information for some time too.

As the world of information has changed from being bound in books to becoming available to all on the net, people have become even more important because of their expertise. In schools, just as we are seeing a movement towards reducing funding to libraries, teacher librarians are skilling up in step with a fast-changing, online world, and are not only supporting the management an overwhelming outpouring of information, but are also able to support new digital skills in a globalised society.

Libraries are no longer prized for their hard-copy content as much as for their intellectual property. Resource centres, stage for events that bring people to ideas, gathering places – libraries have evolved and continue to do so.

If our libraries are recognised in these ways, we will never be redundant – on the contrary, we will be essential.

How do you see the emerging role of libraries and school libraries?

See other retro library posters here.

Reading in a whole new way

Photo courtesy of Darren Kuropatwa on Flickr in the group Great quotes about learning and change

Debates about whether reading and writing are going to suffer in the digital age open up opportunities for reflection and discussion.  I was interested to read the Smithsonian article Reading in a whole new way about the way that reading and writing have changed and how they will continue to change.

Today some 4.5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on computers, phones, laptops, game consoles, televisions, billboards and tablets. Letters are no longer fixed in black ink on paper, but flitter on a glass surface in a rainbow of colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work—regardless of what we do. We are now people of the screen. And of course, these newly ubiquitous screens have changed how we read and write.

What really interests me is the change in the way the mind works with online reading, and I think it’s very well expressed here:

Books were good at developing a contemplative mind. Screens encourage more utilitarian thinking. A new idea or unfamiliar fact will provoke a reflex to do something: to research the term, to query your screen “friends” for their opinions, to find alternative views, to create a bookmark, to interact with or tweet the thing rather than simply contemplate it. Book reading strengthened our analytical skills, encouraging us to pursue an observation all the way down to the footnote. Screen reading encourages rapid pattern-making, associating this idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day. The screen rewards, and nurtures, thinking in real time. We review a movie while we watch it, we come up with an obscure fact in the middle of an argument, we read the owner’s manual of a gadget we spy in a store before we purchase it rather than after we get home and discover that it can’t do what we need it to do.

It’s important to understand the positive changes in the way we read so that we don’t get stuck in lamenting the loss of old ways of reading. Certainly I can identify with the reflex to do something while reading online. Interrupting reading to look up a definition, investigate something for deeper understanding or find others’ opinions may be mistaken for a lack of focus. Is this kind of reading really a lack of concentration or is it actually a new and different way of understanding information?

Some people never read news anywhere but online. When you read news online you can fine-tune your control of what you want to read. Hyperlinks take you straight to the source; tags and keywords make searching and finding easy. But even this kind of reading would be enriched by some form of teaching.

I think that in many ways it’s more demanding than traditional reading, and I also expect that future generations will adapt as people have always adapted to new challenges. I believe that we have the opportunity to become less passive as readers and more discerning, more willing to seek out others’ understandings and views. Again, a great teaching opportunity.

How do we as teachers help students to read fluently, thoughtfully and informatively? I hope to encourage students to use the collaborative annotation facility on Diigo to annotate and share their understandings and questions of texts. What other ways can you think of which push reading into a more connected experience?

Yes, things are changing. We’d better start thinking about the implications and reflect on what’s most important in our role as teachers.

Photo courtesy of Langwitches on Flickr

TLs, expand your field of vision

Everything has changed since information became available to all on the internet. Not so much changed as exploded. When something explodes, it shatters into countless pieces which means the whole we used to know needs to be re-examined.  Why are we still looking at the old ways of teaching, the old focus of our instruction, fellow teacher librarians? Yes, more than ever, our job is to help students learn how to manage this information explosion. Hence, information literacy is still a major focus for our instruction. But let’s expand our vision, let’s analyse that newly reconstructed whole to see what other literacies we need to teach – we need to learn in order to be able to teach. Digital literacy, network literacy.


I found this video on the Fair use and info ethics page on the NECC Library Learning Tools BYOL Smackdown wiki set up by Joyce ValenzaCathy Jo NelsonKaren KliegmanWendy Stephens, and Keisa Williams at the National Educational Computer Conference in Washington, D.C. 2009.

There is a wide range of skills covered in this wiki for teacher librarians, including the traditional information literacy/fluency as well as Digital Citizenship. In a way, digital citizenship is an extension of information literacy. If information literacy is about learning to navigate the whole information package online, then digital citizenship is learning how to behave online, how to responsibly work with and create from what is available online. All educators are responsible for teaching digital citizenship but teacher librarians are certainly well placed since they are already experts in the management of information.

Why stop at research skills when you can equip students to behave responsibly and ethically as they use digital content to view, create and remix?

I recommend you browse the many and varied aspects of this wiki. Fellow teacher librarians, isn’t it exciting to have such a broad and challenging role!