Science fiction – a history through Penguin covers

Another great pick-up from Articulate. My feed from the  this blog informed me about the Penguin UK post  –  a wonderful gallery of science fiction book covers.


There is a thematic contents table and an index that allows to easily find titles you maybe looking for. The index also enables you to look up something like Penguin Celebrations: Penguin Classics, Penguin Crime, Penguin Film Classics, Penguin Modern Classics, Penguin Science Fiction, part one, Penguin Science Fiction, part two, Penguin Westerns and Popular Penguins. It might be useful starting point for someone looking to expand their knowledge of titles in fiction themes.


The site allows you to click on the covers for more information and to also search for, and see, covers for different editions of the same book. brave-new-world


There is also some discussion about how the decisions on choosing the cover designs. I must admit I never did like the 1972 cover for A clockwork orange and this was the cover of the book I studied. I really didn’t enjoy the reading of the book all that much either. This worried me as I always remind my students to go beyond the cover but then I did like book, The day of the Triffids and the covers here don’t inspire me either, so I think I am alright! 

This site could be a great way to lead into some visual literacy classes and could also provide some discussion about what the cover changes, over time, say about society.  A really interesting gallery.


Stephen Heppell: Be very afraid

In a recent email, from one of my Diigo groups, I saw the follwing site bookmarked: Be Very AfraidBVA

On the BVA (Be Very Afraid) site “Prof. Stephen Heppell and his team  bring together some of the best examples of Digital Creativity from schools, colleges and Higher Education in the South East (UK).”

You will see that along the top of the page there are links to the various year’s events. BVA1 thru BVA5. I have only looked at about 1/2 the videos available for viewing. There are some very amazing examples of schools  using technology to support student learning. It is worthwhile spending time watching these videos from all the various years.

Each year Dr Stephen Heppell also does a reflective summary at the end. These are on the website, but can also be found on YouTube. Here is the one from 2008

Do have a look at some of the videos, you will be inspired.

Useful Links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Customer service – needing some work

This video, of a Seth Godin presentation, was made in 2006. There have been times recently that some of my friends have had difficulties with corporations and their services, especially in the telecommunications areas. The problems seem to be totally unnecessary and the corporate representatives seem totally inflexible. We, at my school, have had some amazing conversations with the Age this year, just trying to sort out the subscriptions, the forms always seemingly unnecessarily cumbersome but filled out the way that was required. They seemingly found things too difficult and mixed up thye subscriptions and then did not want to correct in any useful way.

This is a very amusing video. He gives a tour of things that are poorly thoughtout or designed, some of the reasons why they are that way, and how to fix them. I think everyone can identify with the things he discusses.

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Thinking about twitter

From Jenny Luca, I had a play with the Twitter mosaic tool (just for fun). It is fascinating to  visual image of who is following you.
Get your twitter mosaic here.


I have been thinking about tools for use by students and of course there was all that attention given to the Twitter race between CNN and Ashton Kutcher. I was offline for most of the Easter holidays so I was not reading much either the rss feeds or even twitter. Unlike Ashton, I have been trying to keep my twitter numbers down, closer to something I can actually manage (just about anyway). I really use my twitter to find out what others, especially those invloved in education, are doing/using. I have also used it to ask for advice/help on items. The power of twitter was reinforced when Insight (SBS) organised a discussion around the Australian Governments internet filter (Blocking the Net). I was watching the program and became very irritated about the direction of the discussion and lack of big picture and all the (wider) implications  and the overall usefullness of such a filter. Those who were watching the program with access to twitter had a much richer and varied discussion. (Have a look at the Twitter discussion and responses here).

Laura Walker had a very thoughtful post  on 9 reasons why educators should be using Twitter. There are a growing number of great ways to use Twitter in the clasroom. I am interested in developing something for the students in our Tertiary Orientation Program (year 10). These are not academic boys and they do not like reading and/or writing to any great extent. Aside from using the audio tools eg podcasting etc, I thought Twitter might provide them with a more inviting writing experience. With the limit to the characters the boys will not be daunted by the amount and with this limit, they will have to be very clear-minded about what it is they are writing.

Some information I found useful was in post from AcademicHack, the wiki “Using Twitter in the classroom” , the post “50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Education” by Carol Cooper-Taylor and from a post on SearchEngineWatch. 

Also worth watching is this video segment on “The Twitter Global Mind” .

Lastly, because it’s the weekend, a little humour from: “SuperNews!” An animated sketch comedy series airing on Current TV. This video decribes one young man’s struggle against the pressure to Twitter his life away.

Shaun Tan on “Illustration and visual narrative”

Shaun-Tan_ReadingsHawthornShaun Tan is one of my favourite illustrators/authors.

The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is particularly true in his case.

I have been lucky enough to listen to him discuss some of his newly published books and he always very eloquently describes his journey with his story.

Shaun has become more widely recognised as he received numerous awards for his picture books, including the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award for The Rabbits, with John Marsden in 1988.

On the international stage, he was named Best Artist at the World Fantasy Awards in 2001 in Montreal and in 2005 his book, The Arrival, which was a universal story about migration, told in a series of wordless images, became an international best-seller.

asaOn 28th March, 2009 in Sydney, Shaun Tan gave the Colin Simpson Memorial Lecture. This is an annual event of the Australian Society of Authors.

Shaun spoke with great insight about using illustration as a narrative device. He commented on a range of other interesting picture books and graphic novels written by others as well as discussing some of his own work. Shaun spoke about starting to seriously think about the play of word and image in his twenties. It was then that he realised that “picture books seemed especially good at presenting a reader with complex questions in a concise way” and that “the best illustrated stories prompt us to think about familiar concepts in an unexpected way, offering up a new and interesting perspective

I enjoyed his description of the family photo album. “Photo albums are actually perfect examples of how illustrated narrative works most effectively, their power is not so much in documenting particulars, but triggering memory and imagination, urging us to fill the empty space around frozen snapshots, to build on fragments and constantly revisit our own storyline, a kind of visual literacy we all understand intuitively.”

 Towards the end of the lecture, Shaun offers up the observation that the key to the success for any illustrated story is the invitation for the reader to interpret the story for themselves. This, he believes, is “the thing most likely to fire up the imagination of both adults and children and should not be underestimated”.

Early in the lecture Shaun also credits teachers and librarians with changing the way illustrated books are regarded. Today they are not considered to belong solely in the world of the young child and he credits this change to the open approach to picture books by teachers and librarians.

The video is well worth watching and you call also get a transcript of his lecture in PDF format. Shaun Tan Delivers Colin Simpson Memorial Lecture 2009 from Australian Society of Authors on Vimeo.

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Learning and technology in schools

Many schools are still banning tools and limiting options by heavy filtering. Once a decision is made, how do you get it changed?

Today I was part of a technology committee discussion about the role of the committee, how it fits into the structure of the school and how it should proceed in the future.  There was discussion about the big picture versus the day-to-day procedures. I, of course, mentioned that schools are (should be!) about student learning and that we (the technology committee) need to be discussing how we can offer  advice on how our school can best use the technologies to improve/aid student learning. We should be leading discussion about the innovations and the ideas of the visionaries and forming opinions on what our school needs based on this. We occasionally need to ask the “what if…” rather than “what we can…due to budget, organizational factors, possible legal issues”.  It is not that the practical should be ignored but that should not be the starting point.

Filtering for instance is a bugbear of mine and I have discussed schools filtering before and why it is limiting to the learning going on in schools, as well as having a good rant about our own government trialling a filter to protect us all.

We need to be creating interesting, creative stimulating learning environments and the technologies are offering us more varied and powerful options to help us do this, not banning various technologies because someone might use them inappropriately. In fact we can be fairly sure that someone will fail the appropriateness test (they always do) but as always the majority will try to do the right thing, when they understand the appropriate procedures. We should always know how to deal with the few and follow up when they make their mistakes

We need to be helping our students to learn how to learn, that learning is not a passive thing but involves many different dynamics. Our students need to be capable of the higher order thinking, to think and make decisions for themselves. They must learn to ask questions and not become pawns for others to manipulate or victims of the dominant. They will have to develop opinions, be able to debate the merit of their beliefs and form ideas based on the best possible facts/information available to them. Our students need to learn to do this now, whilst they are here in our schools. We need to help them understand the wider world and all its tools, not put up impenetrable walls and pretend that “it will all go away in time”. We should not be hoping that, if it doesn’t, someone else will explain it all or that they will be able to work it all out for themselves. We also need to encourage our student to see that valuable learning can happen in many places and at all sorts of unexpected times and they need to value learning. Many students are learning many valuable and interesting things outside the school/classroom walls but they don’t see it as learning. They have been encourged to see it as somehow divorced from school or that it is less valued and therefore it is not shared in classroom discussions, etc, only with other students. The learning in the classrooms is mush less rich and inclusive due to this.

The old adage, “Nothing changes“, is not right because it does but the initial attitude to change, in all eras, seems to be the same/similar.