Thursday, November 21, 2013

Literature Circles The DVD!

So, I'm sitting at home on report writing day, having done as much as I could on reports(still things to gather and marking to do anyway) and I'm working on my DVD for Literature Circles - we're going to have a showing for both classes next Friday and I must have it done and burn some copies for those kids who would like to take them home.

It's not easy. I only have one set of actual discussions - every time I tried to film a discussion at least one member of the group would raise her hands over her face and yelp, "Oh, no! Don't film me!" It's not as if I'm putting them on YouTube, I would argue - they're just for us, and for showing to teachers who want some idea of how this works. But it just didn't happen. I had one good discussion being led by Catherine, our integration aide, a multi-talented woman who is an artist and film maker (I have a film she took of the integration students building a model based on the book they had read, The Big Dig, and talking about it. Brilliant!). But for some reason, when I loaded it on to iMovie, it turned upside down, and I still haven't worked out how to right it and the one friend who could help me is in bed with stomach cramps. Even the computer technician at work said, "If you find out, let me know."

So most of the filming is of my voice interviewing the students about the books they were reading at the time and it sort of works, but I really prefer the discussions.

 Some of the students chose to do an author interview and I've arranged these with the authors, though I have only emailed one set of questions, because they really need some editing and I don't want to edit them too much or it won't be the students' questions, it will be mine. One set of questions still needs to be retrieved from our Public Share, where I hope the student who typed them has saved them. Those will go up on The Great Raven when done.

And then there were the book trailers - well, there was one quite good one based on Gillian Rubinstein's Space Demons. I don't think the publishers would use it in YouTube, but it gets the message across and persuades viewers this book might be worth checking out. It was put together smoothly in Powerpoint and saving it to Quicktime gave me no problems. Likewise, the trailer for Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan, which was produced properly by a student who knew how to use Moviemaker and could be converted to Quicktime via HandBrake. That was a good one too, though I wouldn't post it on YouTube, because the images were copyright. The music came from Jamendo, which is Creative Commons.

I had somewhat more trouble with the book trailer for Holes. It worked fine on a PC, but was missing its music when I loaded it on to my Mac. I was told by our info tech teacher that PowerPoint doesn't work with mp3(yet it worked okay with the Space Demons trailer) and he had recommended .wav, which doesn't work on a Mac. However, I found out the music he used, downloaded it as mp3 and recorded it on my computer, on which the PowerPoint opened as Keynote and Keynote does take mp3. Then I was able to save it to Quicktime and upload it to iMovie. Yay!

The one that REALLY gave me a headache was the trailer for Jenny Mounfield's The Icecream Man, a scary thriller for teens. Despite my warnings, the students produced it in Moviemaker, which should never be used by anyone who hasn't the experience and confidence to make it work. The trailer looked fine, but the file I was given by the student who put it together was not properly saved - it was a 66k wlmp file. And the student with the finished product took it with him and went off to Bangladesh for the rest of the school year!

Fortunately, he had left me a folder with the images and even the music. No text, but I got an idea - I would put it together using their images and music, in KeyNote. And they'd done me a storyboard with the planned text.

Unfortunately, I discovered that the text was plagiarised directly from the official book trailer and couldn't allow it to be used. I just couldn't! I don't know if that was the text they actually ended up using - they finished it off on the last day of Lit Circles classes and I was running around like a chicken with its head off, helping other students, asking them to save to Public share, saving files to my USB stick...

The tune was Pop Goes The Weasel - the original trailer had that, but this version was actually better than the one on the trailer, scarier - just imagine Pop Goes The Weasel sounding scary! So I took the images, placed them in order and recorded the music they had chosen. next year, when he returns, I'll ask the travelling student if he still has the original file and as long as he hasn't used the stolen text I will replace this one on the DVD. I don't think most kids understand the concept of plagiarism. They've done their research, they've found the information, what's all the fuss about? Or they tweak a few words and say, "But Miss, I've rewritten it!" (Rolls eyes).

Anyway, it seems to work not too badly, with the combination of images and music and I have placed it on iMovie along with the rest of the files. Time for a quick lunch and then put it together into a film!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2013: Year 8 Fundraising So Far

Again, thus year, our Year 8 students have been throwing themselves into their annual Pathways(homeroom) fundraiser. Who wold have thought when we did an emergency fundraising and packing goods for tsunami relief four years ago that it would expand into this? Really, it is only able to happen now because two of us work very well together to make it happen and the principal supports us, knowing what the kids learn from this is far and away more important than sitting in the classroom using textbooks(though we had to do that too this year, when the senior careers teacher decided it would help to make them ready for his area). We haven't been able to spend the time doing research on various charities before the vote, it had to be cut down to three weeks on the three charities we have already done, because time was taken from a number of subjects, including ours, and given to maths.

But the magic is still there. And three weeks in, the kids have raised about half of last year's amount and are likely to top it.

Yesterday a group of boys led by one who is frighteningly well organised sold iced pop cakes. They also had icy poles, but agreed to put them away for a much warmer day. Even so, they made over $100 in profit! I shut my mouth and let them get on with it, only arranging for them to take tables from my classroom and suggesting the frozen treats be put away for a warmer day. They had it all under control otherwise.

Last week a group ran two events - iced coffee and chocolate and a dodgeball game. There just weren't enough of them to do both and so two girls volunteered to help with the iced coffees. They were needed! There were crowds outside the Foods room awaiting their preordered drinks and others keen to order. It was rush-around-like-headless-chooks time, but suddenly all the preorders were done and we'd accommodated the new orders and the students had made $100 profit and had a pile of leftover ingredients they were happy to donate to whoever needed them because they had done what we told them and spent preorder money on them. There's a group soon doing milkshakes....

This task teaches them to use their imaginations, work in a team, budget and plan(oh, and some maths too)and makes them aware of other people's troubles. And it gives them something to add to their resumes.

As always, I'm so proud of them!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Western Chances Triumph!

My girls, Haley and Karyn, have achieved their scholarships. Yay! I was finally able to tell them last Friday. The official notification hasn't come in, but the lady who has been in contact said we could tell the four girls(two of mine and two in the other Year 8, nominated by my colleague Janis, the other Year 8 teacher). She had been emailing me to ask if we wanted to request anything else.

Janis and I wanted to make a little ceremony of it, calling them into her office to make the announcement, but one of them was absent and in the end, we just told them. It was such a pleasure to watch their faces light up!

It will be a couple of years of work for us all. You can't just assume they will get some more next year. You have to apply each year. They have to write each time about what this scholarship would mean to them in their pursuit of their dreams, and you have to fill in more paperwork, and then you send it off and cross your fingers.

But it's a wonderful scholarship. It's only a few hundred a year towards their study needs, but it can make such a difference. That's one thing they don't have to worry about as they study. Bless you, Terry Bracks! And bless all the folk who work there, making it happen, and all the sponsors.

As for my students, I'm so very proud of them. They deserve it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thank You again, VIT. I Think.

So, yet again I am trying to communicate with my professional association without which I am not allowed to teach in this state - believe me, if there was a choice of associations, I'd be out of this one! They have no competition. At least if I contact my union, who are there for MY benefit, though I don't like what they did with the last agreement, someone would answer the phone and try to find out for me what was going on. Oh, there are a couple of human beings there. I sometimes wonder if the gentleman who has kindly and calmly answered my inquiries, some of them panicked, is currently the only staff member working there. I think I once even got through on the phone, a few years ago. No more. Either you get a busy signal or a message to tell you that all their lines are busy and thank you for your patience, even though patient is NOT how I feel. My principal told me he once waited two hours before giving up. Yet according to the blurb, they av increased their telephone staff and the "hotline" hours are 7.30 am to 5.30 pm. Of course.

I'm trying to do my registration and pay my fees.  BPay isn't available, you have to pay online, but the system isn't letting me in and I can't pay till I have registered and jumped through some hoops and I can't register or pay till I have logged in. I can't even go into the office as I did last year because you have to do it all online! Even if I did go in and ask for help logging in, chances are there would just be the lonely receptionist who wouldn't know how to help me.


This is how I am spending the first quiet day of my well-earned break.

Think I'll shout myself some ice cream or something equally bad for me! Coffee crime brûlée or white chocolate mousse? Hmm...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Suddenly Teaching History...

At the end of last term, my timetable suddenly changed. It was always going to happen, because my students had to change from three periods of Woodwork to three period of Foods and their Foods teacher doesn't work Mondays and neither does their maths or Music teacher (well, she does, but not at our campus), or their science teacher, who is also their Foods teacher, or their history or art teacher. The original plan was that I would do ALL my English classes in one day, plus Pathways (the homeroom subject) and by the way, I would get back my ESL students, who would get no ESL support even though the ESL teacher was willing, because it would mean jiggling her timetable too. I was team teaching on Friday with another English teacher(see my post about Lit Circles) and with my Pathways colleague Jasna, and in the middle of our joint Year 8 project.

So some fiddling around was done and I got back one Friday English and the Pathways class on Wednesday. The ESL students get at least one period of ESL, even if they do have to share with Year 7.

But there was a price to pay. I had to take over one period of history, while the history teacher got landed with a period of Health. Neither of us was happy, but we have had to make the best of it and, in my case, be thankful - it could have been worse, my entire Lit Circles and Pathways projects could have been destroyed.

I am not a history teacher, though I know history in general. While the theme was the Renaissance and the Reformation, I was okay. I supported my colleague with some research periods and some Horrible Histories. Now they're doing Japan. When I ask what I can do, she tells me she doesn't know - she is still working it out herself, never having done this before. Now, it's not that I know nothing about Japan. My friend Nikki White, the Japan Librarian at the National Library, would be very annoyed with me if I didn't know anything after all these years. I just don't know what to do with the kids or what they have done in the last couple of weeks. I showed a video introducing Japan and prepared a research sheet that was also an introduction. But what now? They've had their introduction. I am tempted just to find something bizarre and over the top and make them research it. At least they'd enjoy it. I just don't know what - and their regular teacher is not currently any help. I don't blame her. But I need help and have very little time to get something put together.


Stand by - I will report further next week.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Western Chances And Me

When my last Western Chances scholar, Pepa, was looked after for the last time - next year she will be with the Senior Campus teacher in charge -  I felt tempted to start the process all over again - two students this time, one girl who's in my class now, one who was with me last year. I'm still waiting patiently to hear how they went. Meanwhile, I heard, yesterday, from my first Western Chances Scholar.

In case you don't know what this is, it was founded by Terry Bracks, wife of Premier Steve Bracks, without fanfare, without massive newspaper reporting. And because it's not a government initiative, but depends on sponsors, no one can take it away from our kids except the sponsors and if they lose one, someone else will take over,

The idea is that in the poorer suburbs of Melbourne there are kids who could potentially become professionals in one area or another - engineers, doctors, singers, wherever their talent and passion lead them - but lack of money makes this difficult, sometimes impossible. So for kids like this, you can apply for a bit of money every year, to pay for textbooks, equipment, computer, calculator, singing lessons, whatever.

My first success story emailed me yesterday. She's currently doing Law/Economics at Latrobe university, and doing well. Without a hand from WC, she might still have made it, but this made it easier. A lot easier. When I knew her she was considering Engineering, but hey, she was in Year 8, kids change their minds. ;-)

But hey, one of my babies has made it to uni and will become a lawyer, an economist or both. And her poverty didn't prevent her. It wasn't a huge amount of  money and goodies, just enough to help her help herself.

Terry Bracks, ma'am, you rock!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Occasional Pleasures Of A Job Crossover

I'm a teacher-librarian, part of a dying species since some idiot in the government some years ago decided that school principals should have the power to decide what to do with the school budget and all it gave them was the power to decide where to make cuts.

But sometimes, even now, I get a thrill.

My book clubbers get a chance to provide reader responses to manuscripts for Allen and Unwin. This is something I do wearing my library hat. One manuscript was returned unread by a student for whom it had seemed a good idea at the time, something her friends were doing(they all read theirs). It was the first time this has happened on my watch and I felt bad about it.

However, my class is doing Literature Circles(a sort of Book Club for the classroom) with another class at the moment and one group had finished reading a book by this author. They had LOVED it, though not the ending(Later I may see if I can arrange an interview with this author and they can ask him themselves about the ending).

What to do with them while the rest of the class finishes? I had an idea. As a test run, I printed off copies of the first three chapters of the neglected manuscript for them - I will do more if they want it -  and asked if they'd be interested in reading a book by this author that isn't yet published. Would they? Is the Pope a Catholic?

This week, they not only read some more, they broke out the Literature Circles roles and began to discuss it!

How cool is that, eh? My role as a teacher librarian crossing over with my role as a classroom teacher and a bunch of kids doing something they found exciting.

I nearly cried for joy.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thank You, VIT...I Think

Today I received the following email in my in box:

Dear Susan
The Victorian Institute of Teaching has conducted a customer service review in an effort to improve communication and service delivery. We received responses from more than 1800 teachers and principals.
Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey. We are listening to your feedback and responding by:
  • updating information on our website at to help you with the registration process
  • simplifying the registration process by providing an individualised portal where you can complete your registration tasks (such as renewal of registration and criminal record check) online and make payments quickly and efficiently
  • doubling the customer service team to take your calls
  • extending the Teacher Hotline hours from 7.30 am to 7.00 pm in the peak registration renewal period from August 2013 to February 2014 to cover times when you need to call us
  • introducing a more durable plastic registration card, which can also be used as a Working With Children card.
These changes are part of an Institute-wide effort to provide better systems to support annual registration.
You will receive your annual invoice during August. It will explain what you need to do to complete your registration tasks online and make sure that you are registered to teach in 2014.
We value your feedback and will continue to monitor our systems to provide the best support for you through the registration process.

It was signed by a lady called Melanie, but added a comment that this was an automated email and we shouldn't answer it, but we were welcome to phone.

Thank you, Melanie. The thing is, they're all things that any good organisation should be able to do, let alone our compulsory professional association, and you were already allowing us to do it all online, even do it from home (something that eventually happened after there were enough complaints about only being able to do the compulsory online stuff from work). And extending the hotline hours isn't going to help if no one can get through anyway. I don't know anyone who ever managed to get through to the hotline. It was supposed to be going till 5.30 pm, but as I never managed to get through to anyone during the day, I decided i would hand in my paperwork in person and went to the building in Melbourne at 4.40 pm. I only found one staff member there, a poor little receptionist who had been left all alone, and had no idea what I needed to know, though she took my paperwork to be handed over later. Heaven knows where the hotline folk were! I'm sure there was a good reason for this, but with the lack of communication, I still haven't found out what it was. Maybe the extra staff will help, but I doubt it.

I did, once, by complete chance, get a response from a human being by email, and have asked the poor man all my questions since, because I don't know who else to ask.

Please, VIT - this is compulsory. I can't work in a Victorian school without paying you my fees and jumping through the various hoops you have set up for me. Remember, during the workday we're in class or preparing classes. I get about 20 minutes a day lunch break and a few minutes more for morning tea. And then, after school, we have two meetings a week.

At least make it easy to communicate and give us a few email addresses for when we can't get through by phone. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reading Matters and Class Stuff

The kids thoroughly enjoyed the Reading Matters student day. They got to hear some favourites and discover new ones. They bought books. It was a tension-filled morning when one student arrived fifteen minutes late, nearly causing us to miss our train, then there were those whose Myki cards were empty! And lunchtime in the busy food court! We will go to a fast food joint next time.

At school, both literature circles and Pathways have gone very well and we had plans continuing into next term...and suddenly we've had a major timetable change and my four period day has been moved from Friday to Monday and both programs could collapse if not fixed. It's the part timers and in this case the PE staff who wanted to have time in the gym, which they currently must share.

Aaargh! I try, I really try to do my teaching so that kids can get something out of it, but I am, it seems, at the mercy of the college timetable. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lit Circles The Continuing Adventure(from my other blog)

Yesterday, we started Literature Circles.

This year, I decided the best way to do it was with two classes and made my offer to a Year 7 English teacher who had a double period at the same time as me. We both had to do it anyway and it would save us competing for venue(library) and resources(books) as well as giving our students a wider range of choices.

Before beginning, I asked my own students which of them had done it before(some had done it in primary school) and invited them to tell me what they thought it was.

One of them asked, "Is it like a book club?" Not like MY book club, of course, but definitely like an adult one and I agreed: "Yes, that's exactly what it is! It's book club for the classroom."

Because we have had the same books for the last couple of years and there were going to be a large number of readers, I took a look at my shelves and among the class sets and chose some I thought they might like and that had meat for discussion.

Holes used to be the Year 8 class text, before we went to Lit Circles. It's a wonderful book, and students loved it and last year, several asked for it in the library. I made that available. We had more than enough copies. There's a group of four reading it.

I had taught Stephen Herrick's The Simple Gift to Year 11, who enjoyed it, even those who whined loudly about our other class texts, and it had also been on our Year 10 list. It's a verse novel, not difficult reading, but sophisticated concepts for good readers to discuss. We have a group doing it.

Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta was a Year 10 book at one time, also, but Year 10 teachers got sick of it, so it was out. I offered that too. There was some interest in it, but mostly by students who couldn't handle it. Reluctantly, I had to concede this one won't run this time.

We definitely needed some extra choices, because there's a Year 8(not mine) that did it last year.

So, apart from the above, here's what was chosen: Specky Magee,  Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan, Mao's Last Dancer junior edition, by Li Cunxin, The Ice Cream Man by Jenny Mounfield,  A Ghost In My Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang, Space Demons by Gillian Rubinstein and a short book called The Big Dig by Meg McKinlay. It's kind of nice that all but two of these books are Australian published. It's not that we did the patriotic thing, it just worked out that way. I've read them all except Specky Magee(next project, thank goodness it's short!).

I was sad that some of the wonderful books from the last two years aren't on the list - Burn Bright and Dragonkeeper and Once. It's not that they had no interest, but that some of the interest was from students who couldn't handle them - well, they could handle Once, but we tried to give first choice where possible and work out the groups so that where there was a student who needed support to get through a book, there was at least one good reader with a kind heart who would help them.

Which brings me to the process of choosing groups. We had a mixture of reading levels. There are Year 7 students reading at Year 12 level and Year 8 students reading at Grade 2 and 3 level. The choice of books was wide enough to cater for them all, more or less, as long as we had aides to help the Integration students, but we had one Integration student who would have been highly offended at being placed with that group, so we gave him a mainstream book that was not too hard and the aide sat with the group. We had students who would fight if we put them together and others who would waste time and some who would put aside their own work to help others who would not be grateful, leaving their own work undone. I would have loved to have a group of high-skill readers who could make the most of it, as I have had in previous years, but they made different choices, so we settled for at least two good readers where we could get them.

All this and giving them their choices of book! We did ask them not to choose a book they had read before, as it would bore them and ruin any chance of a good discussion if someone said, "So, what do you think happens next?" and someone else already knew! Or if someone knew already WHY a character did this or that. We did have to allow one student who had seen the movie to read the book, or there wouldn't have been a group, and besides, he might come to appreciate the differences between a book and even a film that was fairly faithful to it.

Even as it was, I panicked a bit when a student told me he'd suddenly realised he had read this book after all. Turned out he hadn't - he was confusing it with something else.

So, yesterday, after a lot of running around and preparation, we got the library set up and the books ready to collect and then... All the year 7 students were gathered at the other end of the library to be yelled at over a lunchtime incident, for about twenty five minutes! That took a large chunk out of our teaching time and made a negative start. I sat with my year 8 students, keeping them occupied while we waited, having to speak softly in order not to disturb the drama on the other side of the library.

Still, we got going, beginning with getting them into their groups and practising with a short story before they began reading. We had already shown them some discussions from a previous year( how glad I am I had the idea of videoing them!) and most had agreed they did have a better idea of what was expected after seeing them.

They only had about half an hour to read after the interruption and delay, but got into it with a good will. There were already discussions going, arguing about word meanings, read alouds, agreement of how much they should read. One student asked to borrow his novel. I had to say no; last year I lent out novels which never came back and we're short as a result, but mainly, you have to trust people to remember to bring the book to class. And if he was anything like me he'd read the book in an evening and twiddle his thumbs while others caught up. You're supposed to discuss it as you go.

Next week I will be at Reading Matters and my colleague will have to explain about roles. Lucky man!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ebook Success!

Alfred has finished his ebook, complete with voiceover, on the Lighthouse iPad. It was wonderful. I think I will have to give his aide, Catherine, a box of chocolates next week, to thank her for the amount of trouble she took getting this done. I am lucky - she is a retired teacher who decided to come back into the school system, but our aides in general are very very good.

It was exactly what I had had in mind when I made up this assignment - the simple pictures and sentences on each page and the young man's voice reading it. He did have to have the occasional gentle whispered prompt from his aide, but in general, he did all the things he needed to do - chose pictures that told the story, put them - mostly - in order and read from them. And the student is rather proud of this, despite all the arguing he did with his aide when he was working on it! He asked me if I would be showing it to the other teachers and I said I would, as soon as I can get it on my own iPad.

I have spoken to the speech therapist who runs Lighthouse and discussed the buying of this particular app, plus a more sophisticated one, for all students, but she was ahead of me in this, and also said she should be able to configure the computer for email. That means Alfred can download it on his own iPad and show his parents, but at this stage only in PDF, which is unlikely to have sound, because he only has the Kindle app, not iBooks. So if we want this project to work, we need to have access to iBooks on the student accounts, plus access to email they can use to send work to their teachers. There WAS a student email set up, but the principal suggested it might not be a good idea, because all the students had the same login, which might lead to anonymous bullying. Back to the drawing board! :-(

I will be showing him what this student has done as soon as I can, so he understands what can be done with an iPad provided we have given the students access to what they need.

Fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

More iPad ramblings or: Making Ebooks!

My integration student has been making an ebook!

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but this morning I actually got to look at it. And his aide was back, so he had one to one attention which I can't give him.

Last Friday I was absent in the afternoon, gone home with a temperature to moan and groan in my bed, but before I left I had a chat with him and asked him to continue gathering photos from Up, the movie he has been studying. He was to put them in order and keep them on the iPad camera roll for when he had time to put them together. He got the Lighthouse iPad in exchange for his and did what I had asked him.

Today, his aide helped him put the photos on the ebook creation app, BookBuilder. BookBuilder is really only good for picture books, with a little bit of text, but for that it's terrific. It isn't finished, but when it is, the integration aides will arrange to have email configured on it so that it can be emailed from the iPad both to him and to me. Then he can take his iPad home and show his achievement to his parents and I can show his achievement to staff looking for ways to use the iPad.

And then we can go through the whole business of trying to get that particular app made available to students who aren't integration students and so on and so forth... And email made available to them all, so they can email their work to their teachers... (They were working on that and it was all set up when a problem was pointed out and they had to start all over again).

But meanwhile, I'm thrilled to bits that this particular experiment seems to be working and very happy with this students and think his aide - who is also excited about this - deserves several bouquets.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Last Book Club Meeting For Term 1

In the end, our final meeting for the term was just a party. I bought goodies for the students to enjoy and oh, they did! Talk about locusts! ;-)

Priyanka didn't turn up because her other passion is soccer and there was a student versus staff game going, but she will be back next term. The others were there, from Year 7 to 9, eating, drinking horribly strong lime cordial and chatting. Rakibur wanted to see what his reward could be from the Allen and Unwin web site, once he finished reading the manuscript, so he went on line and looked at the catalogue, then went out to see the last few minutes of the soccer game.

And the others spread out after they had eaten and drunk enough. I did ask if they wanted anything to read for the holidays, but they reminded me with a smile that they had manuscripts to read. Two of them read them then and there. Emily lay across the comfy chairs, reading Pretty Little Liars and telling me how wonderful it was. Kaitlyn sat at a table with her manuscript. Nusaiba and her friends joined us for the first time; they have taken manuscripts for the first time too. They have taken a new student under their wings and brought her along, though she isn't really a reader, but it's nice to know this girl, who's in my homeroom, is not alone. Perhaps soon I can find some reading matter she'll enjoy.

At the end, some of them helped me tidy up and I gave away the last f the food to those who wanted it, not that there was much left. I gave Kaitlyn the rest of the cordial, which she swears she can drink neat!

Next step is to get permission for the Reading Matters excursion. It's not free, but not expensive and such a nice thing to do.

Did I ever mention I love running Book Club and the kids in it?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reflecting On Term 1

This year, I got some new Book Clubbers and some of the old. Two year 7 students have joined - hopefully, there will be more. I have had inquiries. We're doing a full meeting every second Wednesday (we used to do every Thursday half of lunchtime). So far so good - I hope to take them to the Reading Matters student day next term and perhaps we can discuss that this week. They are picking up this year's Allen and Unwin manuscripts - only four to choose from this time. No one wanted the Catherine Jinks novel, but we have takers for the ones by Sean Williams, Steven Herrick and a writer I hadn't heard of, but whose blurb sounded the most interesting.

We have been monimating books for the YABBA awards, too. That occupied an interesting lunchtime and I bought some new books on request.

The iPads - aargh! My class blog is a success so far and is good for what it is, but it's not enough for my needs. One of my students, who is an integration student, has been borrowing one from the integration unit, Lighthouse, to enable him to use the Book Creator app to make an ebook, but his aide isn't with us this week or the first week back and I found out only this morning that he is only allowed to use it when she is there. And he's been doing an ebook, which is not possible on his own iPad, because he doesn't have the app and can't access it. And right now, his own iPad is in for repair anyway. The system was down for a while, but after a time I managed to get him going on a school laptop and he was actually working! But we will have to find a way to get the photos he downloaded on to the camera roll of the iPad and I'm rather thinking it might work out simpler to get him to put them into a PowerPoint instead of doing the ebook I'd hoped for him to do.

Another student had his iPad confiscated for downloading games (and I want to know how he did that) - they ALL have games! So now the school is taking up all the iPads for reasons I don't know, but I'm betting that it won't be possible to download anything at all when they get them back. They have book apps on the computers, but no way of downloading books. At least, not with the school's approval. They still can't email their work to their teachers.

In fact, pretty much all they can do is type up work that they then can't email or even load on to their Home drives, make KeyNote presentations that they can present in the interactive whiteboard room, but not hand in (see above for the reasons) and look things up online. What's the point of having these computers if the best things about them are blocked?

Time to start finding more ways around this. Maybe it's something I can do on the holidays coming up at the end of the week.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More Reflective Stuff: on Using iPads

Last year, when I heard that our new Year 7 kids were going to be given - or, rather, leased - iPads, I went and bought my own, so I could play around with it and learn lots. Well, I did learn lots and this year, I could hardly wait to get started with my Year 8 class.

But they are still just getting their computers back in dribs and drabs and meanwhile, I have discovered that some of the things I was hoping to do are going to be difficult or impossible because the kids don't have access to the iCloud which would enable them to email me their work. And their ebook app is only Kindle, which means I can't set up the ePub ebooks from the wonderful app I bought, because they can only use Mobi. I'm limited to taking posts off a blog and putting them together in Ebook Glue, which allows you to put together the last 25 posts from your blog. I've set up a special blog, but I've had to do a class blog on Kid Blog and from there I will have to copy and paste their writing into the Blogger blog, from which I can ebook their work. A bit messy and will mean more work for me, but the only way. It doesn't supply you with a proper cover, just the standard thing you get in books you download from Project Gutenberg, and the title will always be the name of your blog. But I can do it.

I do understand why the school has to put some restrictions on, but why so many that the iPads can only be used to look up stuff on the Internet? They have supplied Pages and Keynote (the Mac version of PowerPoint), but you can't email work done on them to the teacher, and I'm not even sure the print utility is working. A student told me that you can email via Messages, and I will have to get him to show me how, but guess what? They have blocked Messages too!

Some kids are missing apps that others have and apparently, this year's Year 7 kids have more apps than the Year 8s and for most of them the App Store is greyed out.

Rolls eyes! Looks like another year of working around restrictions! Oh, well...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Back To School 2013!

Ack. Back to 6.00 am risings. Back to Year 8, a class I will have to get to know and hope I can get on with. Back to trying to run a library on $3000 a year, if they haven't taken off more or decided, over the holidays, that we will have to ask a co-ordinator for money every time we need to buy something.

We began yesterday. I took a pile of donations from my book blogger friend Stephanie Campisi. Today I'm taking some more. A huge bag that should keep the readers going for a while. We spent most of yesterday in meetings. Thank heaven I don't have a class today - they only have Year 7. I will have a little time to prepare, if not for getting the library going, then for class.


The day is over. I was caught up in plenty of first-day stuff and did very little else. I opened the library at lunchtime to see who would come and met some Year 7 boys. Two of them wanted books - lovely!

Tomorrow I 'll have a book club meeting to arrange days and activities. Hopefully there will be more manuscripts to read and maybe some writers. Can't wait to show the younger ones the ebook apps!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Holiday stuff

I'm trying not to think too much about the year to come. The timetable at this stage is scary, with most of my class time with my new home room lumped together on Fridays plus a literacy period, so I won't be in the library much on Fridays. And they have removed a period of Pathways to make room for more maths so I not only have to work out how to get the fundraising unit done in half the time, but I'm "underalloted" so will get pulled out of the library for covering other people's classes more often than I like.

So, no, I'm thinking holidays. Yesterday was the first day of 2013. I washed the floors, cleaned the bathroom and wrote a few hundred words of my novel. Hopefully I will write some more today.

And while I was doing my house cleaning, I had some dough rising. My poor oven has been out of action for quite a while, so today or tomorrow I will be calling a plumber to see if I can get it fixed finally. But meanwhile I've discovered pan-fried bread - flat bread rather like naan, which takes about fifteen minutes to make, counting the time you spend mixing. I got it from the Internet, on

And yesterday I made use of the Greek cookbook my library tech, Lucy, gave me before the holidays, to make pita bread. It uses yeast. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but most of the pitot rose high enough to be rolls - flattish hamburger bun type rolls. And guess what? Delicious! :-) So maybe if I can work out why it happened I will do it on purpose next time. I had one this morning with a delicious soft cheese left over from my Yuletide picnic. Yum! I have no idea how it would toast, but hopefully I will have finished all my pita breads before they get stale.