Useful sites (weekly)

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


More on E-books – 10 options

Today I have been looking at more e-books. The sites I looked at were mostly offering text downloads and many offered free options. This is not a complete or definitive list but they are the ones I like, were easy to access and I especially liked those that could add something extra eg annotating and commentating and some offer more for a reading group discussion/study. Our students all have laptop computers and I would confidently say they also all have a smaller mobile device – most often in the form of  iPods or iPhones. I am not saying they all like to read off their devices but it is becoming a much more common occurrence. There are also  those who are not great readers of hard copy books who do prefer the electronic format. I have recently been given a kindle to use and it is really very easy to read from and a convenient size for carrying around. There is so much becoming available and our school library must look at how best we can connect our students to reading and literature. E-books are one answer.

The Book Glutton video: This video offers a short overview about how BookGlutton works: how to find and read books, how to use the community features and how to set up your own profile. It was updated for 2010

  • BookGlutton Read books online then annotate and/or discuss them with others. You can sign up for an account and make some decisions about what you’d like to read and who you’d like to read it with. You can either choose a book from our public domain collection, or choose a group that’s reading something you like. Then you just jump into the reader.
  • DailyLit This is a free service that brings books (also free) (particularly classic books in the public domain) as excerpts, into your inbox in convenient small messages that can take less than 5 minutes to read. This is not just an option for your computer, it also works perfectly well on whatever PDA you may have. Sometimes there’s a small charge for the e-book (usually a modern book) but there are plenty in the free category.
  • Google Books Google are working on an agreement that will offer access to 3 categories of books. 1. Out-of-copyright books: This agreement doesn’t affect how out-of-copyright book are offered. Book Search users can read, download and print these titles. 2. In-copyright but out-of-print books Out-of-print books aren’t actively being published or sold so it can be hard to find copies held in a library or used bookstore. When this agreement is approved, every out-of-print book that they digitize will become available online for preview and purchase, unless its author or publisher chooses to “turn off” that title. 3. In-copyright and in-print books: In-print books that publishers are still actively selling. This agreement expands the online marketplace for in-print books by letting authors and publishers turn on the “preview” and “purchase” models that make their titles more easily available through Book Search.
  • International Children’s Digital Library The ICDL Foundation’s goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world. Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children’s literature from the world community. The simplest way to use the ICDL is to just read a book. Pick one of the featured books from the home page or search for books using one of the search mechanisms. The reader can then read – for free and anonymously. You can also create an account to keep a bookshelf of books you like and set various personal preferences.
  • Internet Archive Text Archive Download free books and texts. The Internet Archive Text Archive contains a wide range of fiction, popular books, children’s books, historical texts and academic books. This collection is open to the community for the contribution of any type of text, many licensed using Creative Commons licenses.
  • Planet eBook Classic literature in PDF format.. Free eBooks to download
  • Project Gutenberg Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, the founder of P/G, invented eBooks in 1971 and continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today.
  • Project Gutenberg Australia   This site produces books in electronic form and makes them freely available to the public in accordance with Australian copyright law, usually in plain text. Hosts a number of specialised Australian collections, including a Library of Australiana, Australia’s Greatest Books., Australian Explorers & Australian History.
  • Read Easily Uses Project Gutenberg and is aimed at the visually impaired, this web site allows you to change the fonts and colours to make the books more legible.
  • World Public Library Use the eBook Finder to find the PDF eBook you are looking for and download free books and texts. The World Public Library Association Collection shelves more than 750,000 PDF eBooks in more than 100 languages. The mission of the World Public Library’s Acquisition Department is to add new eBooks 24/7 to the shelves. The Internet Archive Text Archive contains a wide range of fiction, popular books, children’s books, historical texts and academic books. This collection is open to the community for the contribution of any type of text, many licensed using Creative Commons licenses.

 World Public Library video

Audio book options

Uploaded from Flickr by Colleen AF Venable

Audio books are becoming more important/useful in many ways. It does not have to be sight-impaired students that benefit from audio books. We have students who have trouble with reading for a variety of reasons but who are perfectly capable of understanding and assimilating the spoken word. Many students enjoy listening to a book being read or there are those who have long journeys to get to school or who have training runs. Many use their portable device (be it iPod or others) already to break up the boredom so why not still listen to a podcast of a book reading.  It is a way of using otherwise “down-time” as reading time.

There was an interesting article in the Age Greenguide last Thursday about Bolinda Audio Books. Entitled “Telling stories to the world” the history of this company was outlined in terms of their development into a thriving audiobook company.

I remember buying a number of the Large Print titles for a vision impaired student from the earlier version of the company. In some respects it does not seem all that long ago but I must admit that I have become a much bigger fan as they have developed the audio book business, especially when I drive out into the country areas and I am faced with 3-6 hour drives.

Bolinda has become a large audio book publisher with a great  line up of authors and titles, especially Australian, and they are also beginning to offer simultaneous releases of audio books. This has been a boon to me as I want to “read” the new titles as I introduce them into our library. I am always trying to keep on top of the current literature and this is a great way for me to “read” a number of titles. I have also tried a few audiobooks for my iPod and it is very easy it is to download/use their MP3CD’s.

I have yet to investigate Bolinda digital which is a fairly recently decided to offer an option that will enable libraries to offer eAudiobooks to its library customers from its Library’s website. This will enable users to download time-limited version of the novel. How and if I can make use of this in a school library is yet to be seen, but I am interested.

There are also options for free books as well. If a teacher decides to study a book that is in the public domain, they can access the text from the site. ManyBooks has public domain books already formatted for various handheld devices.

Another advantage is that if you download a book for an iPod, for instance, Manybooks can provide it in iPod notes format. The text is divided into various files and each file is linked to the file that comes before it and the file that follows it. This is done because there is a limit to the number of characters allowed in one iPod notes file but no limit to the number of “notes” files than can be uploaded to an iPod. The user can then  access the text and audio of a book at the same time from the same device whenever they want to. I do not like reading from small screens but the iPad will change this.

Mp3 files can be downloaded and uploaded to handheld devices just like music is uploaded. If we want free books another option is LibriVox. This site hosts free public domain audiobooks that are read by volunteers. The quality of voice varies but it is still a good option.

From Fiction Focus there comes another audio option – in the form of podcasts. Entitled “Listen Up”, this sounds like an interesting idea and I plan to check it out tonight.

Audiobook Community is a US-based ning. The largest of its groups (104 members) is called Sync: YA Listening. During the months of July and August, the group is offering two free audio downloads each week to support the summer reading programs held by many school and public libraries in the US. Administrator Kirsten Cappy is still fine tuning the list, but here’s a glimpse. She is playing with pairing modern and classic books.

We are fortunate to have many options to enable us to give our students a gateways into literature. The above options only scratch the surface.

Useful sites (weekly)

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

Bring on the Learning Revolution – Sir Ken Robinson (TED)

TED recently released this video of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk from TED in Feb 2010. His latest talk Bring on the Learning Revolution is a follow-up to his very popular TED Talk Schools Kill Creativity given in 2006.

Vodpod videos no longer available.



I have listened to teachers in my school talk about punishing students who do not finish their word documents or powerpoints or the kids who just copy and paste in the answers. It never occures to them to look at the assignments and the work they are setting the students.

What did I learn from this TEDtalk?. We must recognize the need to allowfor  a diversity of talents in education (and in society as a whole) and that education often works best when it is an organic and a real-world , authentic process.

Choosing privacy in a digital world

Recently in the US there was the first-ever Choose Privacy Week.  The focus of the week was to inform Americans about their rights to privacy in a digital age. With Facebook recently in the news because of privacy concerns it was a timely campaign. Below is an interesting video made by American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Although though it has been created with an American context (with the US consitution making a number of things different from the Australian situation) it still offers a powerful message.
It is also interesting to think that we have come to the situation where the concept of keeping at least some things private is something we have to teach, promote and remind people to think about. 

Why would you not choose to keep some things private?  Many people who live online, myself included, can tend to forget just how much of our personal information is very obtainable (by everyone) and how much more can be gleaned and put together the unscrupulous. Considering I blog, am a member of numerous ning and wiki communities and other social and collaborative networks, I have put a fair chunk of my life online. This video certainly should have an impact on the way people think about their online selves. 

In a previous post I wrote about my take as a teacher of young  people. I regard it as part of my duty to help our students understand that privacy is not really part of the on-line world. Everyone must be responsible about their digital identities. So many of the tools on the web today are intuitive in that they take your past history and try to link it to your current search/request. 

There are still three basic aspects about privacy and cyber-safety that I regard as important to discuss with students about their digital profiles.  These are:

  • Always read the terms and conditions you are agreeing to when you are signing up for something, be it Myspace, Facebook, Glogster, Flickr or anything else.
  • Value your personal information. Most social networks really only require the bare minimum for registration. Everything else beyond that is purely voluntary and always be aware of what could be used in the future.
  • Do not ever share anything that you don’t want others to know about yourself. Do not think that because you only invite some people to something that others will not ever be able to access the information or that in the future some “friends” may turn out not to be so friendly. (This very sentiment is re-iterated by the well-known people in the video)

The technologies today offer all of us many wonderful opportunities. We can make the most of them by being “good” or proficient users and by making sure we understand the strengths and the limitations of these tools. 

Vodpod videos no longer available.




more about “Choose Privacy Week Video“, posted with vodpod


The Lost Thing (Shaun Tan) – a new animation

From a post on one of the sites I regularly follow/visit, Fiction Focus (CMIS), comes this heads up about another Shaun Tan experience.

…the short film (15 minutes) of Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing has been completed….it will be screened in competition at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June.

This is more great news from our our multi-award winning author and illustrator.

There was a theatre production (puppets) of The Lost thing in 2004 and this current animation project looks to be just as interesting. There is a great website for The Lost Thing. It contains all sorts of things about the book, the official trailer, a gallery of stills and a very impressive loading graphic   and you can also find teacher’s notes for the work as well

I love the way Shaun Tan encourges/invites all sorts of interaction with his works. The play that was adapted from his book The Arrival was wonderful and he also had a theatrical adaptation of  The Red Tree as well as a musical production with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in July 2008.

He has spoken and written about these collaborative processes in very thoughtful and insightful ways. In Sydney last year Shaun Tan gave the Colin Simpson Memorial Lecture and here is spoke about the using illustration as a narrative device.

Shaun Tan is an amazing illustrator and writer but he is also a very articulate man who is not precious about his writing, in fact he is a very generous storyteller and “ideas” person. I have some young aspiring writers and Shaun Tan is one writer I encourage them to follow.