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:



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? (

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

LibGuides for Libraries

Library Home PageI first heard about LibGuides on a blog post from Camilla Elliot, where she used the Victorian State Library’s Bushfire LibGuide as an example. In the months that followed I heard about other libraries using LibGuides, and finally requested a trial myself.  Once I started uploading content and creating the guides I was hooked!

LibGuides are an incredibly easy way to create a professional-looking library web page, and at BGS we have used LibGuides to create our Library homepage. We have then linked to other guides from that page, as well as to our Library blog (The Pulse) and our Reading blog (The Gathering). There are multiple options for customizing pages, as you can see if you go to the LibGuides Community site and look at how other schools and universities have set up their pages. Gulf Oil Spill Information Centre, by University of South Florida Libraries, is a good example to start with to see the amount of information that can be included in a guide.

LibGuides are made up of a number of boxes or ‘widgets’ on a page into which you can put specific types of content, depending on which style of box you choose – eg text and images, RSS feeds, books from your catalogue, video clips, lists of websites. The size of the columns on a page can be easily altered, and you can rearrange boxes on a page or move them to a different page. You can also copy an existing box onto another page or copy an existing page into another guide.

Once a guide has been set up, you can add pages which sit along the top as tabs, or you can add subpages to any of those pages. We have set up our Assignment Help guides as a separate guide for each year level and subject, and under those a page for each unit or topic. Within each topic we can then add subpages according to the requirements of each assignment.

It is very easy to set up other people as editors or guide creators, which means that other staff and teachers can also be creating guides and adding content to existing guides. We pay for an extra module which allows us to upload our own images and this has been a good choice, as we can make our guides much more visual.

If you would like to trial LibGuides, email the very helpful staff at Springshare.

Diigo Links – Deep Web

Deep Web Technologies Blog: Brain Food – Are You Eating Healthy?

What is the difference between Surface web search and deep web search – MagicMethod Phone Sourcing

deep web invisible_web surface web research strategy

Invisible Web: What it is, Why it exists, How to find it, and Its inherent ambiguity

invisibleweb deepweb research searching resources tutorial information literacy

” Total quality content of the Deep Web is at least 1,000 to 5,000 times greater than that of the Surface Web”

deep web invisible_web search engines search brightplanet information literacy

Digital Storytelling and Copyright

Delhi from a Rickshaw Russian Military Honour Guard

This term all of our Year 9 students are creating either digital book trailers or digital stories  – a fabulous unit developed by one of our teacher-librarians and our assistant Head of English (if you’d like to know more, they will be  presenting a session on Digital Narratives at the joint SLAQ/IASL Conference in Brisbane in September)  This unit  has also provided us with an excellent opportunity to talk to the boys about copyright legalities, Creative Commons licencing, and public domain or royalty-free links.

With instant access to millions of images and sound tracks on the internet, it is always tempting for students just to copy anything which suits what they are looking for, without them actually reading the copyright information or terms and agreements associated with those images or sounds. While many of these are free for personal use (just themselves and their immediate families), or for in-school educational use, they are not allowed to be re-published on YouTube or Facebook or elsewhere on the internet, unless special permission has been granted by the owner, either directly or under a Creative Commons licence, or because they are in the Public Domain.

Public Domain means that music and images are free to use without having to ask permission for use from the owner. They automatically go into the public domain either 70 years after they were first published, or 70 years after the owner has died. The owner may also choose to waive his/her right to copyright.  This means that a lot of images in the public domain are older images – it’s a good source of historical and war images. Use the Digital Copyright Slider to find when a work will be available for public domain use.

Creative Commons is a way for people to licence their work so that it can be used by others, but only in the way they specify. Each of the symbols used has a meaning – to find out what these are visit the Creative Commons website. Images and music published under a Creative Commons licence can be used without infringing copyright, so long as it is used exactly the way the owner speciified. Students can publish their own work (if it’s legally their own) under one of the Creative Commons licences, and this then gives others the opportunity to use it without infriging copyright.

A reverse search engine called TinEye is now able to ‘read’ the features of an image, then search the web to find where it has been used. By using TinEye, copyright owners can now track down most instances of where their images have been used illegally. The widget at the link above (and on the RHS of this blog) displays 97 different versions of the Mona Lisa, and shows how TinEye can even recognise parts of an image – meaning it can still track an image, even if it has been modified in some way.

Fast musical notes on a music sheetCreative Commons Logo Creative Commons Symbols

Fortunately, there are very generous people who have created copyright-friendly music for anyone to use and re-mix, and others who allow their images and photographs to be used or altered without restrictions.  Many of these can be found by doing an advanced search in Google, and selecting ‘Free to use or share / Free to use, share or modify’ under Usage Rights.

Using Google to  find CC images:

  • Go to Google Images, and click on Advanced Image Search.
  • Next to ‘Usage Rights’ click the drop down arrow.
  • Select: Labelled for reuse OR Labelled for reuse with modification.
  • The images you find will be fine to use, but you still need to acknowledge who created them and where you got them from.

Another way to find copyright-friendly images and music is to search the websites listed on the Creative Commons website,  remembering at the same time to check the terms of use. Many images which are free to use are mediocre in quality, or there are not enough good quality ones at each site, and this is where Creative Commons is good – it allows you to search a number of different websites in one search. is a good image search link to start with, because it shows 36 thumbnails at a time, which makes selection easier. With any image used, the owner must always be given credit.

Many sites offer images and music under a Royalty-Free agreement. This means that the images or music need to be purchased, but only one payment is ever made – after that you can use it as many times as you need to without having to pay more royalties. One of the best sites I have found for music is Incompetech. The site says it offers royalty-free music, but this is not enforced. A donation is suggested, but not enforced, and the students are able to use a huge range of music, based on genre or on feelings.  A good site for free sounds is A1 Free Sound Effects , which has free sound effects for weapons, sirens, vehicles, sport, weather, household, people and animal. I have contacted the owners, and all sounds are free to use and re-publish.

For a list of hundreds of websites offering free images, clipart, sounds and music, I have been making a Copyright Libguide using sites that many other students and teachers have come across or added to wikis: – click on Copyright & Creative Commons: Ethical Use of Resources

Finding good quality free images is a much slower process than searching through Google Images, but if our students want to re-publish their work, they either need to use free images and music, or contact owners for permission.  This is just part of learning to be an ethical and responsible digital citizen.

Delhi from a rickshaw image from Will Hybrid’s Flickr photostream
Russian military guard from  Wikimedia Commons 2009 Picture of the Year Competition
Music image from H Varian’s Flickr photostream
Creative Commons image from  M Porter’s Flickr photos

Wikipedia – Yes or No?

See this and more information about Wikipedia at our BGS Online Reference Centre LibGuide.

There is a difference of opinion amongst educators these days as to whether or not Wikipedia is a valid source of information for student research. Some argue that lots of people contributing to the sum of what is known and understood about a topic makes it more valid.  It is also a useful source of information for breaking news stories (as the image here indicates).  However, the constantly changing nature of Wikipedia – one of its strengths – is also a weakness when it comes to research, as students may not realise at which point in time the information presented is accurate and reliable.

As teacher librarians, we advise students to refer to Wikipedia, if they wish to, for a general overview of a topic, but to actually source their information from other more reliable sources – such as our academic databases and online encyclopedia.

Many students still seem to think that Wikipedia is a reliable and credible source of information – despite the fact that they have probably added information to it themselves!  Below are some thought-provoking reasons from Mark Moran of findingDulcinea as to why they should not use Wikipedia for their assignments.

10 good reasons why you should never trust Wikipedia as an accurate source of information:

10. You must never fully rely on any one source for important information

9. You especially can’t rely on something when you don’t even know who wrote it

8.  The contributor with an agenda often prevails

7. Individuals with agendas sometimes have significant editing authority

6. Sometimes “vandals” create malicious entries that go uncorrected for month

5. There is little diversity among editors

4. The number of active Wikipedia editors has flat-lined

3. It has become harder for casual participants to contribute

2. Accurate contributors can be silenced

And the number one reason:

1. It says so on Wikipedia

“Wikipedia says, “We do not expect you to trust us.” It adds that it is “not a primary source” and that “because some articles may contain errors,” you should “not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions.”

Furthermore, Wikipedia notes in its “About” section, “Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start: they may contain false or debatable information.”

Read more details about each of these reasons, including good examples, at: