Future Careers – what will they look like?

For a number of years I’ve agreed with the idea that we are preparing students for careers that don’t yet exist. However, I’ve not given those careers a lot of thought, apart from assuming there will be an increase in environment and health-related occupations, and careers in managing and deleting online content.

This presentation on SlideShare caught my attention this week and I must admit it made me stop and think, not only about what these jobs will entail, but also how necessary they will become.  Lots of others obviously thought the same way, and the comments make interesting reading!

Millenials – The Next Normal

Why do current teenagers and school leavers think the way they do?  What is their view of the world? What factors shape the way they see the future for themselves? What are the main things they would like to change about the world? How do they see themselves? What makes them happy?

Kirsty Bloore, Research Director at Viacom International Media Networks: Australia & NZ, presented the findings of The Next Normal, at the University of Sydney’s Career Advisers and Teachers’ Conference in March 2013. This was a global survey of ‘millennials’ (those born between 1982 and 2004), including factors affecting this generation and how millennials see the world and relationships.

Millennials are different to other generations, in that they are the first generation to have never know life without  technology and being socially connected online. This research shows that the defining characteristic of millennials is that they are happy – happiness outweighs stress, and being successful makes them happy. Being part of a loving family is also important and happiness includes spending time with their families.

They have a love-hate relationship with Facebook – they recognise they are addicted to it but can’t live without it. It is important to them to be heard – they like to have a voice on the internet.

National pride is growing, and while they think maintaining local traditions is important, they also think it’s important to be open to people from other countries. tolerant, accepting and embracing the world.  87% consider themselves to be tolerant. They are curious about the world, enjoy sharing and connecting, and the ability to change. A defining characteristic is that they are more WE than ME.



2013 K-12 Horizon Report

Earlier this week the 2013 NMC K-12 Horizon Report was released. This is the fifth edition of this report, which predicts emerging global technology trends and their impact on teaching, learning and creative inquiry.

The report details each horizon and technology and gives examples of how teachers and educators are already adopting these in their classrooms.

The length of time before each of these technologies is predicted to become mainstream is:

Near-term (less than 12 months)

  • cloud computing
  • mobile learning

Mid-term (2-3 years)

  •  learning analytics
  •  open content

Far-term (4-5 years)

  • 3-D printing
  • virtual and remote laboratories

Follow the discussion on Twitter at #NMChz or download the report at go.nmc.org/2013-k12

Literacy in the 21st Century and Reading from the Screen

I attended a Library Network meeting not long ago where a point of discussion was the fact that the Headmaster at a well-known private Gold Coast school had culled all books from the Senior Library which had not been read for two years, given the remainder of the books to the Junior Library, and declared the Senior Library a digital resource space only. While I dearly love the internet and couldn’t imagine life without it, there are definite inherent problems with student focus, comprehension and deep thinking when reading text from the internet in contrast to text from print sources.  We are very fortunate at Brisbane Grammar School to have such an extensive collection of quality print books for our boys to access, in addition to all the online resources which we provide.

The following two screenshots come from this presentation by Barbara Combes, Lecturer at Edith Cowan University in WA: http://www.slideshare.net/IASLonline/literacy-skills-challenged



In a similar vein is a book which many of you may have read:

The Shallows – What the Internet is doing to our brains

“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply? (http://books.google.com.au/books/about/The_Shallows.html?id=9-8jnjgYrgYC&redir_esc=y)

Both the presentation and the book reinforce the idea that digital literacy is certainly an issue which warrants constant review.

Developing a Whole-School Digital Citizenship Program

A couple of weeks ago Judy O’Connell shared this clever but confronting video showing how easy it is for anyone to access personal details that we share online.  It is such a good video that we have incorporated it into a Year 9 unit about using the internet in responsible and ethical ways.

I have been very interested in digital citizenship for a number of years now, ever since I heard Vicki Davis speak about it at an ISTE conference a few years ago.  Since then I have collected a lot of useful links and information for students, organised into the 9 categories originally proposed by Mike Ribble, creator of the term ‘digital citizenship.’  I have also presented at a couple of seminars on how to develop a digital citizenship program in your school.

Towards the end of last year I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar on cyber safety presented by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, leading Australian psychologist and avid proponent for the emotional well-being of children and teens. His presentation opened my eyes to the overall scope of activities that need to be implemented in schools.  Essentially, he said:

  • Cyber bullying is a problem in every school (as is traditional bullying).
  • In susceptible individuals, cyber bullying can lead to self-harm and suicide.
  • Parents are an essential link in helping to prevent this.
  • Schools have a duty of care to show visible evidence that they have educated parents and students about the potential problems and possible solutions.
  • Schools need to push information out to parents, via newsletters, emails and websites.
  • Schools need to have an active cyber citizenship program in place for students.
  • Schools need to involve students in the drafting of policies.
  • Families are now starting to sue schools/education departments in Australia as a result of persistent bullying (and win).
  • Schools need to show they have an overarching ethos – eg QSAFE Declaration, Kandersteg Declaration, National Safe Schools Framework and they need to be able to show regularly updated policies for dealing with cyber safety issues.

Matthew Jorgensen, eLearning Manager at Coomera Anglican College, is well on the way towards achieving these goals at his school. On his website,  The Cybersafety Net, he has organised resources into year level themes, and made these freely available for anyone to use. His blog also shows how the school has been regularly sending cybersafety information out to parents, and the initiatives they have been involved in to make students responsible and ethical internet users.

For all of us, it’s a challenging journey, but also an exciting opportunity to guide students towards digital leadership and harnessing the power of the internet for good.

Thinking Outside the Box – a Revolutionary Robotic Wheelchair

A 16 year old student from Hobart, Yaya Lu, has amazed some of the most advanced medical thinkers in the world with her concept of a robotic wheelchair, designed to respond to speech commands. Although this is not a new idea, the concept that really sets her wheelchair apart is its ability to respond to non-language-specific voice sounds – a combination of  the long and short sounds dah and dit – a concept which will give some independence back to complete paraplegics of any nationality.

Image courtesy of The Mercury Newspaper, front page, 28 July 2008.

Recently, after winning a CSIRO Science Award for her project, she was invited to present a research paper to the 5th Biomedical Engineering International Conference in Bangkok, a conference which normally only accepts papers from post-graduate students and university lecturers. (See Australian schoolgirl a science sensation)

While her wheelchair will benefit countless people in the future, Laya has been designing and playing with robots for a long time, all of which she has documented on her web pages since 2006: http://www.yayalu.net/Yaya-Lu-2012/Yaya-Lu-2012.htm

This is a great example of someone who has created a positive online presence that will prove to prospective employers her ongoing passion for robotics and her commitment to innovation and creativity.


Goodnight Moon/ Goodnight iPad

The book Goodnight Moon is an old but classic children’s picture book about a bunny saying goodnight to all the objects in his bedroom. As the story progresses, children can pick out changes that are happening on each of the pages. In a 2012 survey, it was placed at #4 on the School Library Journal’s list of the “Top 100 Picture Books,” a testament to its popularity over time, despite being published in 1947.

In a delightful parody of the book, Penguin USA have created a modern YouTube version of the story to appeal to “the gadget-crazy kid in all of us.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ouOwpYQqic&feature=player_embedded) This version shows the plethora of electronic devices available to children these days, and how it’s a very good idea for them to say goodnight to each of these devices as they get ready to sleep.

Improve Your Digital Footprint

I came across this excellent SlideShare presentation this morning from a colleague at Mt Alvernia College Library, Brisbane. It was a link which came through in a Diigo teacher-librarian list, shared by Anne Weaver, another colleague here in Brisbane.

For a number of years now I have been very interested in teaching students to behave ethically and responsibly online, not only to limit and/or delete the inappropriate information they post/have posted online, but also to begin to create a positive online presence which they can confidently show to future employers. This year, across the school, we will be looking at what we already have in place and developing a structured and cohesive Digital Citizenship program.

I have put together on our Library website a collection of resources that I have found:  Digital Footprint and Change the World for Good. If you find other good examples of boys in particular who are using social media and an online presence to change the world for good, please let me know.

Spring Hill Young Writers Workshop 2011 / 2012


In 2011, four Brisbane teacher-librarians (two from boys’ schools and two from girls’ schools) put their heads together to explore the idea that shared writing is more enjoyable for students than writing on their own. From our initial discussions the Spring Hill Young Writers Workshop was developed – a writing experience made up of four events over four days, where groups of four students would create a shared storyline, setting and four characters. Each group member would then write a complete story from the perspective of one of the characters. The final group stories would be published as a book for each student to keep.

Why a collaborative story? 


– aids in problem finding as well as problem solving.
– aids in learning abstractions.
– aids in transfer and assimilation; it fosters interdisciplinary thinking.
– leads not only to sharper, more critical thinking (students must explain, defend, adapt), but to a deeper understanding of others.
– leads to higher achievement in general. . . .
– promotes excellence. In this regard, I am fond of quoting Hannah Arendt: ‘For excellence, the presence of others [collaboration] is always required.‘
– engages the whole student and encourages active learning; it combines reading, talking, writing, thinking; it provides practice in both synthetic and analytic skills.”

(Andrea Lunsford, “Collaboration, Control, and the Idea of a Writing Center.”  The Writing Center Journal, 1991 http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/Collaborative-Writing.htm)

The tagline for our workshops was ‘Pushing the Boundaries,’ a fitting mantra because not only did we want the students to step out of their comfort zones, but the road that connects the four schools is also called Boundary Street.

Who participated?

We decided to target enthusiastic Year 8 writers, with each school selecting eight of their best narrative writers. This was done either by the student submitting a written application, or by the English teachers selecting the students to participate. (Year 8 was chosen because in Australia Years 7 and 9 are involved in preparation for the NAPLAN tests.)  Each group was made up of two girls and two boys, with one student from each school in each group, and author Brian Falkner was asked to work with the students over the four days. The initial three days occurred at the end of the term, and this gave the students time to complete their stories over the holiday break. The final session was held in the second week of the following term. Each event was held at a different school.

A shared wiki was set up using Wikispaces initially (replaced by PBWorks in 2012) where each group had a home page to develop their story, timeline and characters, but each student also had an individual page. Each person could read what the others in his/her group were writing; they could offer suggestions as well as ensuring they were including the correct events in the correct sequence. The teacher-librarians and author could also read each story as it progressed. Most students responded well to the chance the wiki gave them to communicate with others in their groups, and they posted comments on each others pages about different elements of their stories as they were writing them.

Format of the workshop

Event 1  – An introductory night for students and their parents, where the students met each other and the author, Brian Falkner. He talked about his own writing experiences, as well as the expected outcomes for the workshop. His relaxed manner and sense of humour put the group at ease and they went home keen to start writing.

Event 2 – A full day, made up of three sessions of brainstorming and writing, where the students learned about story structure and opening sentences, as well as developing their story-lines, settings and four characters.

Event 3 – A second full day where the students learned how to include dialogue, how to write descriptively using all their senses and how to write good conclusions. By the end of this day, many of the students had written a significant portion of their stories.

Event 4 – A final Presentation Night where parents were invited to share what their sons and daughters had written. Awards were presented for the best group story, the best individual story, the best opening line, the best conclusion, the funniest line etc. On the final night both the students and the parents were asked to complete a questionnaire, and their feedback was used to improve the workshop the following year. An Animoto video, created from photos of the first three events, was also shown on the night.

Brian was an outstanding author to work with, and the students responded incredibly well to his friendly manner and professional advice. Before the Presentation Night he read through each of the stories on the wiki and selected three qualifiers for each award. These were all put up on the night and then the winner of each category was announced.

In our initial year, not all groups ‘pushed the boundaries’, the students wrote very lengthy stories, the teacher librarians were sleep-deprived in their efforts to edit the stories, and some aspects of the Wikispaces wiki did not suit our needs – hence our change to PBWorks in 2012.  All of these aspects were addressed, and in 2012 the students produced some exciting group writing where all their stories matched, but were told from different characters’ perspectives.

Three additional changes we will implement in 2013 are:

1)  An extra after-school session one afternoon before the Presentation Night to give the students another face-to-face opportunity to meet and refine their group story details.

2)  Students will be involved in the publishing of their group books, rather than the teacher-librarians doing this. This will enable them to own their whole creative experience.  (The reason we made the books this year was because it was too hard to get the students back together again.)

3)  The e-learning teacher from one of the schools is keen to be involved and work with us next year, so with her help we may explore different ways we could incorporate ICTs into this collaborative learning experience.


Student feedback

The students found it challenging at first to work with complete strangers, and to learn to compromise on their ideas, however their comments showed that they thought the workshop had definitely improved their writing skills. They also gained from the collaborative experience.


  • “It was great working with the other writers. We share the same passion and I could really connect with them. I gained more knowledge from them.”
  • “I now know that there really are others like me, who enjoy writing as much as I do and who can write stories where I can go – That’s brilliant, why didn’t I think of that?”
  • “For the first time, writing has reached  the heights of a team sport for me, and compromise and negotiation can be both good and bad.”

2012 comments in response to the question: In your opinion, what was the best aspect of the workshop?

  • “In my opinion there were two good aspects. The first was being able to write a story free of stimulus and with support from both a group and a renowned author in relation to storyline ideas, how your story was going and if there were any changes. This provided a far more supportive environment than if you had to write it yourself.  The second was being able to meet other people from different schools that you most likely wouldn’t ever meet in your life. Overall this workshop improved my skills dramatically and helped me improve my writing from what it was before. ” (Tom)
  • “It was just being told “Go write a story”. Not “Go write a story about x and y”, but just being told to go and make something up, then write about it. Essentially, the freedom we were given. The most gratifying thing about writing with other students my age who enjoyed writing, was actually finding out that they existed.  Before this, I had never really met any other student who actually enjoyed writing.  Working with an experienced author taught me that, while running is good, you have to learn to walk first.  There’s a lot of planning involved, and you can’t just jump in and start writing.” (Josh)
  • “Working with an accomplished writer was very helpful as Brian taught us things such as structure and developing the story line, through the means of humorous stories.  I learnt that this opportunity is very rare because not many people would bring together four schools for the sake of a couple of days of writing, and I appreciate the effort the schools made and thoroughly enjoyed the workshop.  The best aspect of the workshop was meeting and working with an author and also working in a group to build a story.” (Jacob)
  • “The best aspect would definitely be the information that only an experienced author such as Brian could pass on. That type of information will definitely aid us in our school endeavours.  It was an interesting experience collaborating with other students who enjoyed writing as much as we did, as usually other students do not enjoy writing.  Working with them taught me some tricks and they were helpful during the editing stage.  Above all, it was a fun experience working with others and meeting some new people.” (Nipun)

The students unanimously agreed that it was a fabulous experience which they would definitely recommend to future participants.

Author feedback

“This would have been the best multi-day workshop with students that I have ever done. I felt it was a great success.” (Brian Falkner)

Links to documents used

The documents we used for the workshops can be found here:


Our 2011Animoto video can be found here:


The 2012 winning group’s published book:

Middle School Reading Olympics 2012


The combination of the National Year of Reading with the London Olympics  provided a golden opportunity for us to run a Reading Olympics competition for all our Middle School boys.  The boys were challenged to see who could read the most in the 8 weeks leading up to and during the London Olympics, and this was a perfect way to not only link reading with sport but to also reward a non-sporting achievement.

The 16 Middle School classes divided neatly into 4 sporting teams and 4 countries, and each boy was given a score-sheet based on his country and team.  Each 10 pages read represented one point, and medals were awarded according to how many points were earned – 2000, 3000 and 4000 for Years 6 and 7, and 3000, 4000 and 5000 for Year 8. The boys whole-heartedly rose to the challenge and we ended up awarding 111 individual medals – 55 gold, 23 silver and 33 bronze – while the overall winners of each sporting team and country received trophies. The most successful team was the Athletics team with 49 medals, the Australian team came second with 34 medals and the Cycling team placed third with 31 medals.

Individually, the winning students read 19137 pages, 13961 pages, 12813 pages, 12385 pages and 12008 pages.

During the 8 weeks of the competition, 1344 books were recorded as read; in reality this number would have been much higher because boys who were not in the competition were also reading. In all, it was a very enjoyable and highly successful competition promoting books, reading and literacy.

See our team lists and score sheets here: