Change ahead: Designing a new online space – Part 1


Change Ahead

This year we begin yet another change process in the iCentre.  We have always maintained that our digital space, the iCentre website, is as important for our students as our physical space.  The website, enhanced by social media streams such as Facebook and Twitter, resulted from an initial project that aimed to move the digital services offered by the school library out of the static Learning Management System (LMS) used by the college.  This website is now five years old and we’re not planning to just renovate the space, we are about to embark on designing and building a brand new space.  In the five years since we built the first website, we have learned much about digital learning spaces and library 2.0 services.  Simultaneously,  information and digital environments have continued to change.  It is with much excitement and a little trepidation that we embark on this new project and we plan to share the story as the plot unfolds.

At the recent Edutech Conference in Brisbane, both Kate Tormey, CEO of the State Library of Victoria and Dr Ross J. Todd, associate professor at Rutgers University, Department of Library and Information Sciences, stressed to delegates of the Future Libraries stream that if libraries are to thrive, then they must share their story.  We plan to blog and share the story of our journey into designing a new digital learning space as we progress.

An analysis of the first design project that resulted in the existing website found that both good practice points and missed opportunities were evident in the team’s process.  These points need to be carefully considered as we embark on this new journey and will be published over two blog posts.

The good practice points identified in the first design process included:

  •      Pedagogically driven change

The ‘Library to iCentre’ project undertaken to, improve digital literacies, support the inquiry learning framework used by the college, and to create new learning connections, demonstrates a process that is underpinned by pedagogy which is central to informing learning space design (Hunt, Huijser and Sankey, 2012, p.183).

  •      Consciously adopt a beginner’s mindset

The team’s practice of positioning themselves as learners is a useful approach because it engages them in activities to explore, inform and inspire new ideas at the important front-end or ‘fuzzy’ stage of the design process (Sanders & Stapers, 2008, p.6).

  •      Learning from others

The enthusiasm by the team to gather ideas from others by exploring exemplary spaces both within and beyond educational examples is useful (Oblinger, 2005, p.16) and shows a capacity for divergent thinking (Brown, 2009, p.111).  As digitized school library services become more mainstream, the pool of examples on which to draw a variety of ideas will grow.

  •      Practice of storytelling

The capacity of the Teacher-Librarians to share their story both within the college and beyond, with networks, conferences, and online environments has valuable outcomes.  It communicates the vision for change to the college leadership and community, invites collaboration and enhances the value of the change (Brown, 2009, p.22).

  •      Reflect institutional values

The cohesion between the vision of this project and the institution’s strategic plan is important as these connections ensure change is valued and supported by the college’s leadership (Hunter, 2006, p.64).

  •      Continued ‘entrepreneurial’ championing of the product

The Teacher-Librarians leading this project continue to champion the new virtual space within and beyond the college.  This proactive publicizing of the idea provides the perseverance that is necessary throughout a project in order to see the vision through to reality (Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Horsby, 2012, p.111).

  •      Iterative design and continuous improvement

The team’s view that new learning space is only the beginning of an ever-changing process and that iCentre v20 is fast approaching demonstrates a successful mindset for design which values the ongoing assessment of learning spaces, resulting in iterative design, and continuous improvement (Oblinger, 2005, p.18).

  •      Concentrate on holistic rather than technology centred approaches

The new spaces designed in this project were not only about incorporating technology, but also about creating new patterns of social and intellectual interaction.  This is an important philosophy that assists in maintaining learner-centred and education-centred change (Istance & Kools, 2013, p.47).

As we work on our new design project, we will need to ensure that these good practice points are repeated.


Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking creates new alternatives for business and society. New York: Collins Business.

Hunt, L., Huijser, H., & Sankey, M. (2012). Learning spaces for the digital age: Blending space with pedagogy. In M. Keppell (Author), Physical and virtual learning spaces in higher education: Concepts for the modern learning environment (pp. 182-197). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

Hunter, B. (2006). The eSpaces study: Designing, developing and managing learning spaces for effective learning. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 12(2), 61-81. doi: 10.1080/13614530701330398

Istance, D., & Kools, M. (2013). OECD work on technology and education: Innovative learning environments as an integrating framework. European Journal of Education, 48(1), 43-57. doi: 10.1111/ejed.12017

Kuratko, D. F., Goldsby, M. G., & Hornsby, J. S. (2012). The design thinking process. In Innovation acceleration: Transforming organizational thinking (pp. 103-123). Boston: Pearson.

Oblinger, D. (2005). Leading the transition from classrooms to learning spaces. Educause Quarterly, 1, 14-18. Retrieved September 27, 2014, from

Sanders, E. B., & Stappers, P. J. (2008). Co-creation and the new landscapes of design. CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts, 4(1), 5-18. doi: 10.1080/15710880701875068


School libraries supporting literacy

For anyone wondering about the value of school libraries – you should read this great article about the ways that school libraries support literacy by our friend Steph Ellis. Thanks for sharing Steph!

A Thoughtful Spot to Rest

Boy readingImage shared on Pixabay with a Creative Commons public domain licence

In these times of rapidly changing technology, with increasing amounts of information (which can vary drastically in quality), and trying to keep up with new trends in school librarianship, it is sometimes handy to be reminded that the core business of a school library is literacy. This is exactly what happened at the National Library of New Zealand facilitated School Library Network meeting held in Hawke’s Bay this March.

Participants at the network meeting were asked to share an activity or strategy they have used in their schools to promote literacy. This exercise enabled us to be exposed to a number of new ideas, with the challenge to implement at least one of them before we meet again next term.

Here are some of the strategies that were discussed:

  • Book of the week – highlighting a favourite book can be done using the library…

View original post 885 more words

Book Review: It’s about love by Steven Camden

It's about love (1)

I have to say that based on the title and the cover,  I would have never read this book.  However, the girls in my student book club convinced me to read it and I really have to thank them – it’s great.  This book oozes menace and tension and from the beginning, the reader is gripped by the fear of what has happened in the past and what that will bring to play in the present.

This is a coming of age story that is difficult to label.  The reader is warned about this complexity of plot and theme in chapter 1 when, Luke the protagonist of the novel, debates the central premise of his favourite movie with a girl in his film class.

“It’s a love story, you know …..

No it’s not”

“Course it is,” she says, “Not a conventional one, but it’s a story about love.”

The fact that she’s even seen it make me like her, but it’s not a love story.

It’s about revenge,” I say. (p.11)

The characterisation of Luke, the protagonist, is a strength of the novel.  As a reader, you really like him but are often puzzled and devastated by his inability to articulate his feelings and his poor reactions to people and situations.  Steven Camden has mastered the ability to bring the gritty reality of the tough neighborhoods of Bearwood, Birmingham where Luke lives into focus. Luke is a “fish out of water” when he starts at film school on the other side of town.  At home, the return of his brother from prison is the catalyst for family and neighborhood tensions that will climax on the night of Luke’s 17th birthday.The author also uses an interesting structural device in this novel by interspersing the story with fragments of hand-written notes describing snippets of memories, thoughts and dreams.  Additionally, he also uses small inserts that read like film directions or play scripts. Together with countless references to modern films, this structural device compliments the central motif of film study.

The author also uses an interesting structural device in this novel by interspersing the story with fragments of hand-written notes describing snippets of memories, thoughts and dreams.  Additionally, he also uses small inserts that read like film directions or play scripts. Together with countless references to modern films, this structural device compliments the central motif of film study.

I highly recommend this book for YA readers who love gritty reality, love stories, character books and movies.

One last thing …. This book is full of great quotes, here are three of my favourites:

“Because nobody’s one thing, Lukey.  You make a person one thing and you’ll miss out on everything else that they are.  That they could be. And they’ll always let you down.”


“I repeat the words in my head. Whoever’s writing this script is giving all the best lines to everyone else.”


“You are what people think you are.  You make a reputation, then it makes you.”


Book review: One life: My mother’s story by Kate Grenville

One Life: My Mother's StoryOne Life: My Mother’s Story by Kate Grenville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written from fragments of memoir and some recorded interviews, Kate Grenville’s book outlines the event’s of her mother, Nance Russell’s life. It follows Nance from her birth in 1912 through childhood days growing up days, across the space of two world wars and the Great Depression and into the new millennium when she passed away in 2002.

This book is an intimate portrait of the life of Nance who was typical of her time in many ways and ahead of her time in others. Like many women, family came first for Nance. She craved her family through her childhood and early adult life as she made her way through an education and training that took her away from home. Unlike many women of the time, Nance earned a qualification as a pharmacist and became an independent career woman. This too would take her from her young family at times when she herself had children. This is a terrific story of a woman that many of us can identify with despite the different times and life opportunities because we feel that dual pull of family and career, the particular joys and turmoils of relationships and the balance between looking after others yet sticking up for yourself at the same time. This is articulated in Nance’s wonderings:

“Yes, she wanted to meet someone, get married, have children. She wanted to be happy. But she knew now that she
wanted something else as well.”

I found the book to be a beautifully told story that read like a novel. I was completely caught up in Nance’s story and particularly the struggles she felt within relationships. I would highly recommend this book to any working woman in Australia.

View all my reviews

10 amazing female characters for #IWD2016


Happy International Women’s Day!  Reading about #IWD2016 in Twitter got me thinking about the amazing women I have had in my life – family, friends, work colleagues, teachers and students.  Of course, my next thought was about all the amazing women I have met in books.  Then, I just had to write a list of some of my favourite YA female characters.  In no particular order, here they are ….

Eleanor Douglas

from Eleanor & Park

by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor and park Johanna Morrigan

in How to Build a Girl

by Caitlin Moran

how to build a girl Ree Dolly

in Winter’s Bone

by Daniel Woodrell

the book thief Liesal Meminger

from The Book Thief

by Marcus Zusak

looking for alibrandi Josephine Alibrandi

in Looking for Alibrandi

by Melina Marchetta

winter's bone
Susan (Stargirl) Caraway

in Star Girl

by Jerry Spinelli

stargirl Katniss Everdeen

in The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

hunger games Judy Woolcot

from Seven Little Australians

by Ethel Turner

matilda Matilda Wormwood

in Matilda

by Roald Dahl

counting by 7s Willow Chance

in Counting by 7s

by Holly Goldberg Sloan

seven little australians

Professional learning in the Australian Outback – the power of collaboration

Last week, I travelled to Longreach to help facilitate professional learning workshops for home tutors from the Longreach School of Distance Education (LSODE).  This was the result of an amazing project that crowd sourced funds to provide practical assistance to some Australian families and teachers who deliver a first rate education to their kids despite the tyranny of distance, isolation and drought.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 7.30.54 PM

The Vision

This project was the result of the vision and hard work of Vanessa Miller, an educator currently undertaking her Doctoral studies in Education.  Vanessa’s connection with the Outback goes back to when she worked at LSODE as a young teacher.  Keenly aware of the catastrophic impacts of drought on families in the west, Vanessa personally raised funds to make a difference to the lives of these people.  After much discussion with Rowena Arthur, the Principal of the school, it was identified that there was a great need for training to increase the digital literacy of home tutors who have had little, if any, opportunity to attend professional learning with a technology focus.  In order to provide this opportunity, Vanessa planned to take three teachers, myself, Jen Graham and Nyree Buchanan, to Longreach to facilitate a series of introductory iPad workshops.


The School

“Imagine a classroom more than twice the size of Victoria, where the playground is as vast as the outback and the partnership between home and school is legendary.” (LSODE, 2016)

The LSODE is a P-12 school catering for children who live in Central Western Queensland. Learning via Distance Education is a very different way of schooling to the classrooms most of us are used to.  A Distance Education teacher only sees her students face-to-face a couple of times each year and delivers his/her curriculum using a combination of the post, telephone and internet.

The teacher conducts a daily lesson from a studio in town and students partake in the lesson from their school rooms out on the family property.  The student is helped by a home tutor, who is mostly a parent or occasionally, a governess.  During our time at LSODE, we discovered that a governess is affectionately termed the “govie”.

The ‘Longreach School of Distance Education’ (Formerly the Longreach School of the Air or School of the Air) is one of sixteen schools in the country; and only one of seven in the state.

teacher at LSODE

The Project

As explained by Vanessa, “it was identified that technology training for the home tutors was a priority because the use of computers and associated Information and Communication Technology is integral to the delivery of Distance Education programs through physical and virtual learning spaces.

As a result of the long running drought which is having catastrophic impacts on the students who attend the school, a digital divide exists due to the resultant technical and financial barriers. Through drought relief funding, all students received an iPad by the end of 2015. The central goal of the school’s 1:1 iPad program is to enable students to remain connected with their educational program as they travel with their families around their properties carting water and checking food for what stock remains.

The primary aim of the two-day professional learning program was to assist the school achieve this goal by equipping home tutors of students enrolled in the school with the digital skills necessary to integrate iPads into their teaching and learning program.”


Collaboration in action

Up to seventy-five home tutors travelled long distances to attend the workshops held on Tuesday, 23rd February and Wednesday 24th February.  The interaction and learning over the two days was extraordinary and everyone engaged in the sessions with much enthusiasm and energy.  The learning was certainly a two-way process, and as a facilitator, I learned just as much as I taught.

The program included an introductory address that highlighted the skills and mindsets needed to be a learner in the digital age.  This was followed by an overview of the functions and accessibility of the iPad.  The program went on to include a number of breakout sessions that looked at audio tools, brainstorming apps, and using the Prezie, iMovie and Keynote Apps for creating, learning, and presenting.  Participants were also given the opportunity to explore a range of learning Apps in an “Experimedia” session.

On the second day of workshops, three of the home tutors shared how they use the iPad at home.  These were very informative and the conversations generated during this session provided much insight into the challenges of life and teaching in remote areas.

It was an absolute privilege to be invited to take part in this project and I return home with a new appreciation for the challenges of learning in the Australian Outback.  The connections made with the teachers and home tutors from the LSODE and the shared learning that resulted will also find its way into my practice as a teacher-librarian.  A huge thank you to Vanessa Miller, whose passion for learning and generosity has resulted in benefits for both city kids and country kids.

home tutors