My Libraries Learning Spaces, “Caves, Campfires and Watering Holes”.

The following photos are some of the Learning spaces I have created or taken advantage of in our Library.

The campfire, is a space where people gather to learn from an expert.  It can be used for teacher to student and more importantly for peer to peer instruction.


I’ve created this in the multipurpose room to the side of the main library.

It is a very versatile room and I encourage teachers to move the furniture around to suit the purpose of their lessons.

The watering hole is a space for shared culture.  It is an informal area, where students can share in collaborative learning experiences.

This is a great space, were the seating is arranged in a semicircle. It lends itself to a watering hole or just as easily a campfire purpose.  It has been used for story time when the teacher or librarian sits in the middle in the ‘Story Chair’ and reads to the group.  We have a mobile white board that can be wheeled out and placed in the mouth of the semicircle for instruction, turning our ‘watering hole’ into a ‘campfire’.  In this photo it is being used as a ‘watering hole’, giving the students the time to discuss their books with each other and the teacher.




Here the multipurpose room has been rearranged into a watering hole set up for a group discussion.



The cave is a private space, where students can find that much needed alone time useful for reflection on their learning or just to recharge.


I’ve used the browsing boxes to create a close in space that acts as a cave.  The children seem to be attracted to it and would rather sit on the cushions than the seating around the sides.


This is the foyer of the library and it is often used by older secondary students.


The bean bag area is my silent reading corner and is located behind the screens in the multipurpose room. Again this area is used by the older students.  During lunchtimes on days when the junior students have the library to themselves they often drag the bean bags out into the main library and create their own spaces.


I have plans to develope a listening post just in front of this ‘cave’ bean bag area.

These last three photos are of the lunchtime crowd on a junior day.  It is not a quiet library during lunch! 🙂   In the next couple of weeks I will be  setting up ‘maker stations’ for some Christmas Craft activities during the lunch breaks.


computer-bank1  library-lunchtime-3 library-lunchtime-5

Handheld digital technology in the classroom


Today, we all seem to own one or two handheld mobile devices.  It is interesting to note that Bull et al (2002), predicted the advent of every student having a mobile handheld wireless device, and not quite 20 years latter, here we are!  Whether you started your handheld habit years ago with a PDA or Berry or have now moved on to the iTouch, iPad, or iPhone, handheld devices have become part of our popular culture and are here to stay in whatever new form they take.  Due to popular demand for extra functionality, the role of the handheld has changed from simply an organiser to a device for communication, social media, image capture, film recording, music, storage, internet access, information gathering and sharing, etc.  With the advent of the “app”, the functionality of the handheld devices continues to grow.  Even an iTouch can be used in the same way as an iPhone so long as you have an internet connection, which an increasing number of places are supplying via WiFi, including libraries, cafes and fast food outlets.  There seems to be a growing number of apps available for just about anything that you can think of.  Given the ubiquitous nature of handheld devices, a large percentage of today’s youth are now regular users of handheld digital devices and their associated apps.  The question must then be asked, if students are using contemporary handheld technology outside of the classroom, can we use their knowledge in this area to further engage them with classroom learning by giving them agency as experts?

A teacher at our school came to me a few weeks ago and was having difficulty with facilitating her students film making efforts.  The problem appeared to be a misunderstanding of the technology, how it worked and how to fully utilise it. This lack of digital literacy on the part of the teacher created difficulties and made the task more complex that it needed to be, resulting in a negative learning experience.  In this case, students were recording on the digital cameras at school (old technology) using tripods, and others at home were using various types of handheld devices.  The disparity of file and technology types and inability to transfer files between devises easily, created a problem.  In attempting to integrate movie making into the curriculum, in order to bring relevance and agency to the students, a lot of time was lost in trying to solve technological issues.  This reduced the time able to be spent teaching the core educational concepts, skills and understandings
(Derby, 2011), resulting in the technology decreasing, rather that increasing, the effectiveness of the task.  While the teacher was attempting to use technology to augment the learning, her lack of familiarity with it prevented this from occurring.  Having just read, “Creativity in my pocket: No ‘i’ puns here”, by Bruce Derby (2011) in the journal, ‘English in Australia’, I shared his findings with her.  We have a budget like all schools, so of course couldn’t spend any money, so I suggested that she look at using the school iPads and down loading a free film editing app. called “Splice”.   This means that the students will be filming using the iPads and using film editing app on the same device without the need to download the film onto another computer.  Hopefully changing the process (for both the teacher and the students) will eliminate the need to waste time figuring out the technology (Derby, 2011).  An added benefit that the iPads can bring, is their mobility and the student’s familiarity with the use of Apple apps associated with the significant number of Apple mobile handheld device users.

Handheld mobile digital technologies have become embedded into today’s students popular culture and as such, their learning is culturally mediated (Jewitt C. 2010), by the devices, as it is translated from outside into the classroom.  In this way, the teacher, through the process of film production using the handheld iPad technology and the ‘Splice’ film editing app can make the content more relevant to the students by connecting with their out of school experience and providing opportunities for more memorable and authentic learning (Price, 2016).  Through the use of these apps we are not only augmenting the learning experience (Derby, 2011) but engage the students with the learning and in this case through film production we can add to the challenge and enjoyment of the students (Willmot et al, 2012) without getting hung up on learning new technologies.

So in working though a technology problem that was impacting on curriculum delivery, have we found a way to give our students agency where they can be the experts and become involved in the teaching process?


Bull, G., Bull, G., Garofalo, J., & Harris, J. 2002. Grand challenges: Preparing for the technological tipping point. Learning and Leading with Technology, 29(8).

Derby, B. (2011). Creativity in my pocket: No ‘i’ puns here. English in Australia. 46(3) p 98-100

Jewitt, Carey.  2010. Technology, Literacy, Learning, a Multimodal Approach. London: Taylor and Francis.  Accessed: October 23, 2016.

Patten, B et al. (2006) Designing collaborative, constructionist and contextual applications for handheld devices. Computers & Education, 46(3) p 294–308 Accessed: October 9, 2016.

Price, S., Jewitt, C., Sake, M. 2016. Embodied experiences of place: a study of history learning with mobile technologies.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32(4). p 325-359.  Accessed: October 23, 2016. DOI: 10.1111/jcal.12137

Willmot, P., Bramhall, M. Radley, K. (2012)  “Using digital video reporting to inspire and engage students.” Research gate, p. 1-7  Accessed: August 29, 2016

New Literacies: Teaching Critical Evaluation Tools for the Validation of Websites

For the majority of students today the internet is the first go to place for information, for both social and research purposes.  It has become an important tool and part of the ‘new literacies’  (Kara-Soteriou, 2007).   As teachers we are no exception.  It has become quite often, my first port of call too, particularly if I am at home or on the move and not in the Library.  In fact the research that went into this blog was the result of one such process.  I was reading an old issue of “Connections” the SCIS news letter, while sitting in a waiting room and using my mobile phone looked up the websites listed in the reference.  I suddenly realised that without even thinking I had automatically chosen to use a digital reference to further my understanding of a particular topic.  The article of interest was “Information and critical literacy on the web”.   On reflection after reading this article, I found that although I had been teaching children to verify a sites authenticity by looking at who published the site and when it was published, I had failed to understand just what that entailed.  My approach was a very superficial one and was based on a limited understanding of how the ‘web’ really worked.  I am not unusual in this, there are a lot of people (including the majority of teachers at my school) who really don’t understand the information contained in a URL or how to verify a site properly.

The other area of concern was the common misconceptions regarding search engines.  It is not just the students who are guilty of doing a ‘google’.  All too often we choose to rely on google to do a search for us.  I have made the assumption that a search using ‘Google’, placed the web sites found in order of relevance.  To my horror I have found that companies engage in ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, that allows them to improve the visibility of a webpage in the search results.  I feel so naive, but after talking to people in schools and other workplaces, it appears that this lack of understanding is not unusual.  More than ever, this illustrates how important Teacher Librarians are in educating the students to be critically literate in this digital arena, so that we can better equip them for life in the wider community where they will be accessing and using information gained via the internet.

The internet is a giant repository of information, it is not peer reviewed, anyone can publish a web page and not all the information is unbiased or accurate.  Therefore, it is essential that teachers and students learn to critically evaluate the information that they find in order to become informed, literate, and self-directed learners (Oddone, 2016).  Critical evaluation of internet information is an important part of critical literacy.  Students must be taught a number of skills in order to achieve this, including not only how to evaluate whether the online information is relevant but also to read and interpret the websites URL (Kara-Soteriou, 2007).  Teaching the students how to breakdown the URL address is a great place to start, because understanding where you are on the web and the source of the information helps to establish the credibility and the accuracy of the website.

Breakdown of a URL (Universal Resource Locator)


Breakdown of an URL, WIA – WEB DEV – Resources by FAB LAB SAN DIEGO.


http: Hyper Text Transfer Protocol – common websites

Domain: The company or organisation that is responsible for the information or is providing computer space where the information is stored.

Domain extension: The type of organisation that created or sponsored the resource.

File path: Includes the directory/folder, file and file type.   This shows where the page is stored.


A useful strategy for students to critically evaluate the validity of a website when researching is the ‘REAL’ test.  It was developed by Alan November, an educational technology consultant.

Alan November

The use of “REAL”  in the following acrostic is very effective in guiding students to evaluate the URL’s that they find.

Read the URL

Examine the site’s content and history

Ask about the author/publisher

Look at the links


How to Evaluate Websites supplied by Kathy Schrock (2016). Critical Evaluation.

The following digital tools were examined by Kay Oddone (2014), and provide some excellent tools to achieve the ‘REAL’ test.

  • To examine the site’s content and history we can use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (
  • Ask about the publisher or the author through easywhois (  Here you can find out who owns a website or who published the information.
  • Looking at the links enables us to find out what websites link to the webpage that is being viewed.  The number of links to a page determines how far up in the search it will appear.  The more links the higher in the search list.  The links to a site tell us a lot about the credibility of a site, who uses it and whether it is valuable enough to share.
  • There are an incredible number of images available on the web and many students copy these to use in their own publications and assignments.  Not withstanding the issue of copyright, there is also the issue of verifying the origin and authenticity of an image.  ‘Tin Eye’ is a reverse image search tool (

A great place to find more information on this, is the blog “LinkingLearning – Connecting contemporary learning from many sources” by Kay Oddone:

Another good site that contains a large list of ready to use resources for teaching students the skills necessary to critically evaluate web addresses and sites is: Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Critical Evaluation. (2016).

We often think that because youth use digital tools regularly, having grown up with them, that they are digitally literate.  They are able to use these tools with ease and familiarity and quickly adapt to new technology, but are they truly literate?   With the changing definition of literacy (as we integrate the digital technologies of the internet) becoming one of New literacies, it is paramount that information literacy skills are taught and students learn to critically evaluate information found on the Web.  There are a lot of resources available to help us to educate and equip today’s students to become truly digitally savvy natives, so how do we as educators integrate this into our teaching strategies and what role will the library and Librarian play in facilitating New literacies?


Oddone. K. (2014). Becoming info savvy: Information and critical literacy in the web world.  LinkingLearning, WordPress.  Accessed 30 / Septermber 2016

Alan November (2013). Web Literacy, IV How to Read a Web Address.  November Learning.   Accessed 30 / September 2016

Kara-Soteriou, J (2007). The Internet as a Resource for Critical Literacy Learning and Applications.  New England Reading Association Journal 2007: 90-96.  Proquest,  Accessed: 12/October 2016

What is the Role of Libraries in the Digital age?

With the advent of digital eBooks and the overwhelming volume of information both scholarly and general, on the internet, what is the role of Libraries moving into the future?  Most school Librarians are only employed part-time and funding cuts mean that Libraries are some of the first places that are looked at for potential savings.  In my own school, I work part-time, three days a week in the Library  and more recently due to the need for teaching staff, it has been reduced to one and a half days of actual Library time with two and a half days in class teaching.  It is increasingly difficult to support the staff and the students, in finding and selecting information to support their learning, not only in the traditional hard print areas of the library but the technological forums of the digital age.  There is little understanding of how important the role of a trained teacher librarian is educating and supporting the students and teachers in this changing environment.   Our role is changing, it is now necessary to be the organisers and evaluators of digital collections and online information.

In Vancouver, Washington the Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) have recognised that their Teacher Librarians play an important role in the digital transformation of school libraries.  As students increasingly use the internet to research outside of the library and as technological tools continue to advance, the need for trained librarians to help students and teachers navigate this technology is paramount.   In response to this, the VPS has been investing in training and support for its Teacher Librarians with a view to improving student outcomes (Digital Promise, 2014).

There is a lot of information out there on the internet and it is essential that we teach the students to be critical researchers in the face of so much information.  How do they navigate their way through?  We need to be able to teach students how to research using these digital tools, to understand complex texts and read for information.  As Librarians we are uniquely situated to be instructors for digital literacy and digital citizenship.  Students often think that they already know about their digital foot print and its impact on their lives, but often this is only a shallow understanding and in this regard it is important that they are taught about their online safety, digital identity and data security and how to be responsible users of digital information (Digital Promise, 2014). We, as Teacher Librarians, can be leaders in the adoption of new technologies to enhance student learning and at the same time support teachers and teach students the necessary skills to be responsible, discerning and critical researchers.  We have to be our own advocates and as such, is it possible that we should take a leaf out of the ‘Vancouver book’ and form collaborative groups of TL’s to work toward the implementation of such programs here?


Digital Promise, Accelerating Innovation in Education (2014) “The New Librarian: Leaders in the Digital Age.”  Accessed:  30, September 2016.

YouTube, YouLearn

This is an extract from Assignment 1, “Harnessing digital technologies to engage students in the learning process.”  This paper focused on ways that educators can take advantage of current digital technologies and the associated participatory culture, with which youth are engaging.  Through the integration  of these digital technologies, it is possible to deliver pedagogical practices that can engage our youth and give them ownership of the learning process.  However, due to the large variety of digital participatory technologies, I focused on only two, YouTube and Edmodo.  In this blog, I have chosen one of the sections on YouTube to share, as I enjoy using YouTube in my classrooms simply because it is entertaining and it makes learning fun.  Learning should be fun, it should capture the students imaginations and fire them to ask questions and seek knowledge.

I use YouTube in the Junior Science classroom (years 6 to 10), and the senior Biology class to demonstrate various scientific concepts.  In this way I am able to engage students during the initial introductory phase of a topic and later to enhance and reinforce content taught.  An example of some useful YouTube clips are: the “Crash Course Videos” by Hank Green; and the series on Human Body Systems, both of which are extremely useful when teaching units in science.  Hank presents his material in a multimodal format that is humorous, informative, educational, accurate, and entertaining.  The students enjoy the presentations because they are being entertained, but at the same time, they are learning and engaging with the content.  Another excellent example of a YouTube video I have used for a Year 6 class studying electricity is the “Brainiac –Electric Fence.”  It was highly engaging for a class of young country children from farming properties, whom have all played with electric fences.  During our follow-up discussions, they shared some hilarious stories and anecdotes with me and their peers.  In this way I was able to draw on a wealth of student prior knowledge and expertise and at the same time discuss the scientific mechanism for the movement of electrons, generation of current and the effect of insulation.  These are only a few examples that I have used in the classroom, but they illustrate how these ‘YouTube attractions’, which present educational content to the student viewers as a ‘cinema of attractions’ (Rizzo, 2008), can engage them in the learning process.  Rizzo states that YouTube has a similarity to the early films of exhibitionist cinema.  They resemble these films in the way that they address the audience directly and are frequently sensational and shocking (Rizzo, 2008).   As result, they are extremely good at appealing to the modern youth in our schools.  In summary, the films from YouTube, can be highly specific and purposeful to the curriculum topics being addressed in the classroom whilst also supporting student learning by engaging the students through the spectacle of attraction.

Many students are already producers of videos, that they are able to up-load, view, rate, share and comment on through YouTube.  In this sense, they are no longer spectators but participators.  In my quest for the educational material to be found on YouTube, I have come across examples of student work that has been clearly produced as part of assessment tasks.  Research by Willmot et al (2012) shows, that incorporating video reporting, such as this, into the curriculum as a learning and assessment tool, helps to develop deeper learning by better inspiring and engaging students. So the potential is there to use YouTube to engage the students in the creation of multimodal texts to address their studies and thereby enabling a deeper understanding of, and engagement with, the curriculum.

Below is a link to the “Brainiac – Electric Fences.” Click on the image.  It is a real cracker, but educational at the same time!  If you have ever played with electric fences as a kid or even just had that unfortunate contact when climbing through, you will know exactly what I mean.  The students certainly did!



Brainiac – Electric Fences


Rizzo, T. (2008) “YouTube: the New Cinema of Attractions” Scan Journal (5)1 Online at:  Accessed:  August 13, 2016

Willmot, P., Bramhall, M. Radley, K. (2012)  “Using digital video reporting to inspire and engage students.” Research gate, p. 1-7  Accessed: August 29, 2016

Campfires, Caves and Watering holes

I have recently read an interesting article, in Learning & Leading with Technology, June/July 2013, titled “Australia’s Campfires, Caves, and Watering holes”, by Ann W. Davis and Kim Kappler-Hewitt.  They recognise that our students want to engage, socialize, communicate and collaborate in ways that are meaningful to them.  It follows that in our libraries and classrooms we need to be aware of the increasingly digital nature of our world, the ways in which our students are engaging with it and work to create learning spaces that reflect the world in which these students live.  They have drawn from the work of David Thornburg in transforming learning spaces.  This involved constructing spaces to support personalized and differentiated instruction.  There are three archetypal learning spaces:

  • The Campfire
  • The Cave
  • The Watering hole

The campfire, is a space where people gather to learn from an expert.  It can be used for teacher to student and more importantly for peer to peer instruction.

Imagine gathering around the campfire, why do we enjoy this activity?  We gather to listen to our stories and learn from our elders.  Through this shared experience we learn and can go on to share this with other people face to face or, today, through technology and social media.

The watering hole is a space for shared culture.  It is an informal area, where students can share in collaborative learning experiences.

Gathering at the waterhole was a relaxed social time where people gathered to exchange news while they collected the water, washed the clothes or went for a swim.  Children of my era would do this not just down the creek but, as stated by Ann Davis, on the walk home after school or phone calls to school mates.  Today the essence or purpose of these interactions has not changed, but the mode of operation has.  Now students communicate online through social media.  The watering hole has just changed position.

The cave is a private space, where students can find that much needed alone time useful for reflection on their learning or just to recharge. (a necessary space for those students with Aspergers).

The cave was one of my favourite places as a young student and I made sure I knew where the caves were in the Library.  They were, and still are, the inviting and essential places necessary for students to reflect on the meaning of their studies.  They enable students the time and space to make meaning of their learning and to set new goals for further learning.  This place has a dual purpose, because it allows students to not only reflect on their learning, but to momentarily have a break from the demands of social engagement (which for children with Aspergers is extremely hard and draining work), enabling the child to return recharged, which leads to them to being able to engage, socialise and collaborate more effectively with their peers and teachers.

It can be challenging for students to reflect by themselves but some technology tools can inspire these students to do so.  Student blogs can become a forum for students to record their personal reflections where their opinions are valued and they are encouraged to engage with the personal reflection process.

Since reading this article I have endeavoured to create some of these zones in my Library.  I have found that the cave zones are always occupied.  Students love them both during lessons for reflection and for recharge/relaxation time during breaks.

I have incorporated campfire spaces in two areas of the library, which the teachers and students have commented positively on.  They are both being regularly utilized for learning and instruction experiences.  One of the campfire spaces is easily converted into a watering hole and is proving to be very useful for whole class collaborative sessions.  During Lunch on Thursday last week, a group of girls used this watering hole to practice a play they were doing for Media Arts. It was very interesting to stand in the background and watch as most of the other children visiting the library that day asked these girls if they could sit and watch the play!  So these students got to practice in front of an impromptu audience (an amazing proof of the attraction of the watering hole).

I found the way in which they incorporated this Australian terminology, evoked a wonderful mental image and the sense of the spaces’ purpose was immediately engaging.  I will continue to use these ideas to shape the leaning spaces within my library.

First blog post

I have just created this blogging page and this is my very first post.  I have no idea what I am doing! So here goes…..The following posts over the next 7 or 8 weeks are to address the Blogging assignment for the unit LCN639, Youth, Popular culture and Texts.  The focus of the blogs will be on topics which relate to the unit of study.  Hopefuly you will find the posts interesting and informative.  I will start to post in earnest in my next blog.