Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Is the Education Revolution Boring?

It was interesting to see a recent news article in the Australian titled "
School designs 'outdated' as rushed Kevin Rudd rebuild a missed opportunity
". In this article "the global head of architecture giant Woods Bagot's educational division has called for a move away from outdated school design templates and towards modern, collaborative learning classrooms, while warning that the Rudd government's schools rebuild is being rushed." Also quoted in the article "is head of the Australian Institute of Architects, David Parken, [who] urged the government to consider environmental sustainability during the primary school rebuilding rollout. Mr Parken said the plan was relying on 10-year-old templates "pulled out of the bottom drawer" and said a vital chance to reduce CO2 emissions was being missed."

I'm a librarian (and I don't work in a school and I don't work for the Victorian Government) so have no agenda or axe to grind in this dispute; and where I recognise that Woods Bagot is indeed one of Australia's leading and most innovative architectural firms, I wonder whether they have seen the Victorian Government school templates. These templates are designed by the architectural firm of Gray Puksand and they appear to be anything but boring. They also seem to support and promote environmental sustainability.

Back to Woods Bagot for a minute, this firm designed the University of South Australia's Future Learning Space. While this space is very corporate looking, and as a result probably not suitable for a school, it did win an interior design award in 2009 and so is worth the look.

You can view a fly through of the Victorian Government design templates at the following URL.

The Victorian Department of Education has not posted them on YouTube because that would make too much sense. Like derr, why would you want to make them readily available to everyone when you can bury them in

Speaking of good library design, the Brisbane City Library by the firm of Denton Corcker Marshall ticks lots of boxes. While this is not a school library there is lots of things you could apply in a school library. They have done some some very interesting with their use of space, their dedicated sports and gaming areas has been very popular, they have a great kids area, and technology is interwoven throughout the design. Check out the following images, or see more at the always popular Free Range Librarian's Flickr album.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Handheld Librarian 2009 Virtual Conference

It is exciting to see that in a week and a half the first ever Handheld Librarian Virtual Conference is being held in the USA. Dedicated to understanding and exploring how mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPhones, and Blackberries, can be used by libraries to deliver services to patrons 24 / 7, no matter where they are, this conference is a great idea.

Also of interest is the fact this is an online conference, so you don't have to travel to New York to participate. BUT, if you live in Australia you need to be prepared to start at 1am in the morning and carry through to 7:30 in the morning! Let's hope they podcast the proceedings so you can learn what is going on and not have to stay up all night. The conference web site does say that "Registration includes access to all three interactive, live online events, as well as the recordings of the sessions after they take place for up to six months."

Building the Education Revolution

As part of the Australian Government's "Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan", 14.7 billion Australian Dollars will be spent over three years as part of the "Building the Education Revolution" program. This includes building quite a few school libraries, as well as gymnasium, and science and language centres.

While this big spending is not without controversy, it is without doubt the biggest single boost to library building across the country. As an aside, use the following two links to see the latest news and blog postings on this government spending programme:

• For the latest news on this education programme click here, and
• For the latest blog posts on this education programme click here.

Still, it is interesting to see what resources are now available online to help schools build 21 century libraries and learning places. In Victoria the State Government has a comprehensive Building the Education Revolution (BER) web site that includes templates and supporting material.

What is particularly encouraging about the Victorian example is the fact that the need for flexible learning spaces, as well as embedded and integrated information and communications technology, is being factored into the plans. From the point of library functionality and future proofing this is good. For more information on all this, there is a overview [PDF document], which unfortunately is buried within the Victorian eduweb site. If you use the link provided in this blog post you should be able to view it. The document outlines:

• Key design principles,
• Primary learning environments,
• 21st century Learning neighbourhoods,
• Teachers as learners,
• Active student centred learning,
• Embedded and integrated information and communications technology, and
• The 21st century library.

There are even a number of tag clouds popping up that group a lot of these school building resources in one spot. For example:

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Library on your iphone - Go AirPac

On Monday last week I blogged in despair that there appeared to be no Australian Libraries putting their portals / catalogues onto a mobile (read iPhone) platform. Well I should have looked at Deakin University Library in Geelong Victoria. While the Deakin iPhone platform does not appear to be as snazzy (Snazzy is a highly technical term describing both technical functionality as well as end-user experience) as the mobile platform used by Orange County Library in Florida USA; good on Deakin for giving it a go. Orange County seems to have the edge over Deakin in that they have already linked in video content as well as a calendar into their Library's mobile platform.

For those interested in the nuts and bolts of it all, Deakin is using the same Airpac platform as that used by Orange county. Airpac in case you don't know is delivered by Innovative Interfaces. Deakin is promoting it's mobile platform via its main library portal so check it out.

Deakin was one of the first Australian Universities to set up a presence on Facebook (I think they were one of the first 10 universities in the world to do this) so it goes to show what you can do if you have great systems staff on deck.

P.S. I have never worked or studied at Deakin so there is no hidden agenda or bias in my comments. I have also never worked for a library using Innovative Interfaces, so while I had heard of AirPac, I missed the news that Innovative was enhancing AirPac so it could be used as a platform for iPhones. I guess you can't be across everything all of the time.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Order of Australia Honours and Libraries

Congratulations to the people on the 2009 Queen's Birthday honour list who received Medals of the Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition for their work with libraries. They are:

Mary Lennie McCall from WA received an OAM for service to the preservation and promotion of history through state and national organisations, and to librarianship.


Margaret Taylor from Tasmania who also received an OAM for service to the development of art libraries in Australia.

... and congratulations to Lionel. There can't be too many families where a brother and sister have each been awarded an OAM.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Twitter Wave and Twitter in the Classroom

The word of this week is shaping up to be Twitter. First there is a very interesting post on ReadWriteWeb titled Anatomy of a Blog Post Well Received, and then after a bit of scouting around I stumbled across Classroom Twitter.

Let's start with ReadWriteWeb. They state that "one month ago Monica Rankin posted a video to YouTube about how she uses Twitter in her classroom at the University of Texas... It's a very good video, so [ReadWriteWeb] wrote a blog post about it that saw an unusually high (12,000) views within 24 hours. [They] decided to pay very close attention to where those readers came from,... and some unexpected trends emerged from the data."

As you can see in the following graph, most of the views came from Twitter. So as ReadWriteWeb ask "Is Twitter becoming a meaningful source of traffic?" For the rest of the findings and comments go to "Anatomy of a Blog Post Well Received".

While the comments on how people are using finding and sharing information is indeed very interesting (especially for a librarian), Monica Rankin's video on using Twitter in the classroom at the University of Texas is also worth checking out.

It is interesting to hear that both the teacher and students see Twitter as a tool that helps democratise the classroom. As an aside, it will be interesting to see if Twitter takes off as a tool to help within distance education programmes.

There seems to be a common thread among the teachers using Twitter that they have been "trying to figure out just how we might use it" (it being Twitter), and people are as a result coming up with different approaches. For example, H Songhai (who's Wordle I am using) has a good post titled Classroom Twitter in which he says he uses Twitter to:

* Students use Twitter to mark themselves present
* Students and teacher use Twitter to send each other direct messages
* Students use twitter to list what they accomplished in class that day

But it is not all a bed of roses for Twitter. The Gartner Group has identified the beginnings of a possible Twitter Backlash which even includes spike in Google Trends for Twitter sucks. What will the future hold for Twitter?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

How To Do Interesting Things With Twitter

In rummaging around Amit Agarwal's excellent blog called Digital Inspiration, I came across a great post from last year titled Twitter Guide: How To Do Interesting Things With Twitter. I first looked at Twitter just over 12 months ago but never got all that excited. You see I am having enough trouble getting the time to do all the things I need and want to do without taking out more time to post a micro blog on Twitter. However, I am coming across more and more ways that people are using Twitter as a business tool and this is interesting. For example, a number of big portals are using twitter to allow staff to post content on the fly in real time irrespective of time and place.

Twitter is also proving to be more and more popular at library / and learning IT conferences. I understand the recent EDUCAUSE Australasia Conference in Perth they were using Twitter back channels. Mind you IT conferences have been using Twitter back channels for some time, but in May ReadWriteWeb noted that ITV (the oldest commercial television network in the UK) announced that it will use Twitter as a backchannel for its coverage of the FA Cup final in 2009. For the full ReadWriteWeb Story go to Twitter and TV: The New Backchannel. So it is safe to say Twitter is getting bigger than Ben Hur even though it only employs 43 people, it is kind of at the cross roads, and is yet to monetize its obvious success.

Earlier in 2009 The Nielsen Company reported that:

"No longer just a platform for friends to stay connected in real time, [Twitter] has evolved into an important component of brand marketing. Unique visitors to Twitter increased 1,382 percent year-over-year, from 475,000 unique visitors in February 2008 to 7 million in February 2009, making it the fastest growing site in the Member Communities category for the month."

There is even a page on Wikipedia titled List of Twitter services and applications.

But the real reason for the massive increase in Twitter traffic in Australia is because it has been taken up with gusto by my sister-in-law Amanda (Just kidding Amanda). This blog post is dedicated to you and your enthusiasm in embracing social networking technology.

Web 3.0 in Plain English

Like a lot of people, I am getting my head around Web 3.0 (a.k.a The Semantic Web) and what this will mean for libraries, their patrons, their collections, and the delivery of information. There are a growing number of commentators out there talking about Web 3.0 but few are as clear and concise as Amit Agarwal. Amit, as it turns out, is one of India's top professional bloggers.

Amit provides a very clear table of ideas (see following) and ties it all together with some very good slide shows from a number of other authors. This blog post by Amit Agarwal is shaping up to being one of the best for 2009 so why miss it. Check out and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

So, for libraries who are starting to get their head around integrating Web 2.0 stuff like, patrons sharing tags and adding comments, or linking in with external social networking platforms; chop chop, there is no time to rest. The Semantic Web will be upon us before we know it (and as the semantic web has the potential to significantly improve the quality of searches through the linking and association of an object's or concept's attributes) this is something librarians really do need to understand.

Put another way, Web 3.0 has the potential to be one very big and mighty Schumpterian wave of creative destruction. So when the surfs up it is better to ride the wave than be crushed by it.

And thanks to Mike for inspiring this post.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Library on your iphone

Ok there have been no posts of late. No I am not dead, just very, very busy. One thing that has kept me occupied is reviewing abstracts for conferences. While some of them have been good (as in very good) I wish, I wish, I wish, someone in Australia was doing what Orange County Library in the USA is doing putting their library onto portable devices such as iphones. Someone (anyone) please tell me I have been asleep at the wheel while you have launched your own Australian Library iPhone app.

But back to Orange County, the Library's regular web site is at, while their mobile platform web site is at This library has not only done a great job putting their services onto a portable device, they have also posted onto YouTube a really, really good little video promoting and explaining the service. See following for details.

You can also click here for update blog posts on the Orange County Public Libraries iPhone app, and then of course there is Gerry McKiernan's very good blog on all things mobile in libraries at

Thanks also to Amanda for inspiring me to write this post.