Are e-books making the old-style book obsolete?

Will e-books eventually make the hardcopy (old-style) books obsolete?

This is a question that starts some interesting discussions. I work in a school that has a number of kindles. The boys have been borrowing them in much larger numbers this year, and so have the staff.

I have some staff members who refuse to entertain the idea of reading an e-book. They love the feel of the pages, the smell the very tactile eel of a book. Others love the ease with which you can carry an e-book reader and that you can have many books available to you on the small device.

One teacher was not keen for the students to read the e-book on the e-reader. We are a notebook/tablet school and she was worried about the boy staring at a screen for too long. We had to show her that the e-book reader was small and easy to hold, especially with its cover on (this makes it very similar to the way you hold the book). We also showed her how e-ink differs from our tablets. She was reassured and decided that it probably was ok for him to read e-books in their reading sessions.

The boys themselves have differing views. Some just want to read the story and it makes no difference to them as to how it is delivered. Some prefer the e-book and others prefer the traditional. The boys have borrowed a Kindle to read one book and when finished have continued to read other books loaded onto the device. Talking to a few boys this has led them to reading books they would not have read otherwise so it has broadened their reading and perhaps they have read not only more widely but just more books!

So for now I think we are quite a long way from seeing the demise of the traditional form of book. I live reading my own kindle and some of the picture books are great on my ASUS tablet but when I am reading to young children nothing beats sitting together and turning the pages together. I love being able to quickly get things on my kindle without having to drive to the bookshop but I also still enjoy visiting a bookshop on the weekends to browse the books on the shelves. I love browsing and looking at covers and flicking through the books they have in stock.

Things are changing but I believe for the moment the traditional book will still be a strong force. I cannot predict however how long this will be the case.

The infographic below is interesting. It indicates that people who own e-book devices say they read more than people who don’t, at a rate of 24 books per year to 15. The reasons for reading are varied but it also shows that reading itself remains a popular pastime but e-readers are rising in popularity so perhaps in the future there may be a world without the traditional paper books. Worldwide e-reader sales rose by nearly 3 million between 2010 and 2011 and buyers are not limited to one age-group. There are quite a few other predictions made as well.

The Rise of eReading: Are Books Going to Become an Endangered Species?
Courtesy of: Schools.com

Some new visual guides for using Twitter

I am amazed at how many of me colleagues still don’t understand Twitter and how it can be used to assist with student learning as well as form part of their own professional learning toolkit.

Lately I have had to explain, in a few forums, why I use twitter myself. I don’t know how I would not use it. My Tweetdeck is always running and I have certain people I follow closely as well a number of hashtags I also follow. I have also found it invaluable in following conferences. If I can’t be there, then at least I can keep up with some of the discussions that are happening. I have been tweeted a lot of great quotes and links over the past few years.

Toady I found 3 more useful Twitter resources. The first two of these are from the wonderful by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolesano (@Langwitches) explaining how Twitter can be useful in helping students learn and gain skills .

The first is an image from a great series of hers  It’s NOT about the Tools. It’s About the Skills and is called simply “Twitter in the Classroom”

The second is a series of images that show how to approach using the social media tool, Twitter in k-8 classrooms. These would be great to have up around a classroom. They explain the essentials of ‘ educational tweeting’ in a very visually pleasing, clearly set out and simply portrayed way. I have embedded the guide below for you to have a look at.

The third reference to Twitter today was a post entitled The complete guide to Twitter’s language and acronyms. How the list could be the “complete” guide may questionable but it was a good attempt to explain how users have tried to fit in as much information as they could into 140 characters.

Tohby Riddle’s Unforgotten

I have always liked Tohby Riddle’s work, especially his picture books or graphic novels. He has created some wonderful picture books over the years and he has developed different styles of illustrations to fit his stories.

I loved his sense of humour and the light comic touch in My Uncle’s Donkey and The Great Escape from City Zoo, which I had to buy and read to my young niece and nephews. His comic illustrations in the WordSpy books were fantastic as well as the collections of cartoons in Pink Freud.

He now has a new picture book just published and it is quite different from those I mentioned above. It is however wonderful with illustrations that evoke all sorts of ideas. As with most Allen and Unwin books there are teacher’s notes prepared already for you but I think that the illustrations will mean many different things to all those who read the book.

The was an article recently in The Age but I enjoyed listening to a broadcast from an ABC (Central Victoria) program. You can listen to the ABC’s children’s literature expert Sarah Cox and presenter Ann Jones talk to Tohby Riddle about his new book Unforgotten. In the interview he discusses the technique he used to illustrate the book and some of his ideas.

The book itself has been very popular with our teachers here. The students have not yet had the chance to have a look at it. I thinks that a few of us will be buying our own copies.

Tohby has also created a book trailer, see below, and my very favourite illustrator, Shaun Tan, has been quoted on that site.

‘Reading this book is like being quietly ushered into another dimension by winged strangers, a place beyond the tread of normal earth-bound language. Ephemeral as a feather, timeless as a rock, and as true as both, Unforgotten is a magical experience.’
– Shaun Tan

There is nothing more I can really say except to quote a well-known media celebrity from Melbourne and say “do yourself a favour, and go out and get/read a copy for youself”

Converting ideas to a MindMap

It is that time of the year here. The end of year exams are looming for our year 12 students and some are looking for good ways to revise. and study. They want to put down what they know, how things connect and they need to be able to explain in their own words. Working with our senior students and trying to gauge what techniques might help them we came across Text 2 Mindmap.

There are many mapping tools but this offered some students a simple visual diagram that could act as a very good summary of ideas and connections.

It is a very straightforward tool and easy to use where you do the work/thinking then create the mind maps by simply typing out your ideas and using the tab key to create the different levels.

All you need to do is simply replace the text that is on the site (months of the year) with your own ideas.

Enter your ideas (3 levels) with :

  1. Main idea at the top,
  2.  Related but subordinate ideas below are indented using tabs
  3. ideas connected to these entered by using tab again.

Click on ‘convert to mind’ map and it is done. Choosing the options, you can change the position, font, colour and lines allows you to personalise the mind map.

You can the save the map, convert it to a PDF  and download it or share the image via Facebook and twitter very easily.

A second tool some students chose to use was Mind42. On this you can add icons, links, notes and other such attachments easily. It is more complex than Text 2 Mindmap and therefore allows you to create more complex maps. It is also a tool you can use as a collaborativel tool. These were good but I like the simplification of ideas in the previous tool. You can download the mind maps as JPEG, PNG, RTF and some other format files.

Another mind mapping tool that some tried and liked was Mindomo. They liked the option that lets you search YouTube videos, add images, videos or audio with the exist URLs, upload attachment, and add a lot of symbols. You can export these mind maps in PDF, Image, RTF and some other format files. You can also use it on ipads and android devices, windows and apple OS. # maps for free and after that there are paid versions.

A video I found useful for students to watch was the 3-minute video below. It also showed how Prezi could be used in a mind mapping presentation.

Education and teaching – Singapore, Finland and Australia

Here in Australia there is an ongoing debate about how to improve our education system as a whole. Australia always looks at the PISA findings and in that latest findings we have fallen behind a number of other countries in some key areas.

With two levels of government there is debate both at a Federal level and at the State levels. Over the years I have been involved in education there have been numerous study groups given the task of investigating the Education System with the latest being The Gonski Report. An overview in the Financial Review summarises the main points and some interesting discussion on the Conversation site.

So to begin with what is PISA and what does it do?

The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings have become very important when people look at the education in a particular country. Politicians and the leaders of various countries look at where their own country is ranked and then they often try to “cherry-pick” the most successful elements to incorporate them into the system in their own country. This does not lead to a well thought-out

The PISA rankings are created from an international set of tests which a statistically valid number of 15-year-old students (from OECD countries) undergo that then allow a comparison between the different educational systems across the world. They measure abilities in reading, maths and science. The tests are taken every three years, beginning in 2000.

The video below explains the PISA research.

The two countries that have been doing well across the board in the PISA results are Singapore and Finland. These systems countries are often quoted by authorities in other OECD countries as benchmarks so what do they do in their schools?

Education in Singapore

Singapore has become one of the top-scoring countries on the PISA tests. Some of the Singapore approach is outlined in the video below.

I recently spent a few days in Singapore school and the teaching and learning strategies in Singapore were very rigorous and intense but there was certainly a very positive energy coming from both teachers and students.

Education in Finland

Finland’s formula for success is very different to Singapore but its approach to education has been very successful for a sustained period of time. In Finland there is an emphasis on early intervention and it is then followed up with sustained individual support for every student. These from the basis to educating the whole child in Finnish schools.

So where are we in Australia? Whilst Australian students’ results were not inherently bad, they are not shown as improving. I agree that we should see the need for improvement as important. Who would not believe that we should always try to improve the learning of our students? What can we do to change our education system to improve student skills? This would then show better results for our students and rate a highly like these two systems outlined above?

Hence the Gonski Report and the recommendations to improve education within Australia. The response to the Gonski Report from the Australian politicians was fairly predictable. The report has been widely regarded as a good plan but too ambitious, too costly. We can do bits of it but not the whole. If we do just some of it, what will be funded? The arguments about who gets the monies they deserve, the private, Catholic/religious or government schools, has been a never-ending one, with each sector claiming it doesn’t have enough and the other sectors should get “less of the pie”. I have always claimed that the education funding pie should be bigger and the different sectors should get together to argue that point of view. That seems to be a major part in the Gonski Report but it is not just about the money but haw you spend it.

The major point that comes across in both the Finnish and Singapore examples is that teachers are highly regarded. They are supported and encouraged in their efforts to continue their own educations.

This week in Victoria the teachers a going on strike. Yes, it is partly about pay, but it is also very much about conditions, professional development and the opportunity to advance in the profession. Teacher should be encouraged by having the time and space to reflect on their own learning as well as the learning of their students. Teachers should be encouraged to work together to improve the learning of our young people as a whole. The Victorian government has offered the teachers in government schools a very different scenario. One that I, and many others, see as being detrimental to a collaborative and harmonious environment. A quality teacher needs, and should be able, to share their learning in a supportive and collaborative environment. What is being put on the table could see more rivalry between teachers as best results for their own classes alone so they can put their case for advancement above others. This means that good practises will not be shared and the reasons for success will be closely guarded. When teachers are well-trained, excited about the learning of their students, have time to reflect on their teaching and learning as well as share their experiences, ideas and worries, their students will reap the benefits. Working in a boy’s school I see just how much the boys respond to positive learning environments. They achieve best when they have a positive learning relationship with their teachers and they feel supported by their fellow students parents and their teachers. Students can identify times when things are not going well and respond accordingly.

So if we want to improve learning in our schools,  in what ever state or territory, we need well-qualified and respected teachers who are excited about learning and working with young people, teachers who support and help each other as well as their students. This is not a lot to ask or expect nor would it cost an extravagant amount of money or infrastructure.

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