Archive for the ‘Sources for TLs’ Category

Book translation and History Society talk

February 11, 2016

This is my 500th blog post! Thanks to all my followers and readers.

In the post this morning, I received a copy of the translation of my last academic book (before I retired) into Japanese. This is the 2nd book I’ve had translated into Japanese, the previous one being Teaching Information Skills in Schools. The new translation is of Improving Students’ Web Use and Information Literacy. The book is for teachers and school librarians and has been used in schools and universities in many different countries around the world. It aims to provide school staff with both theory and practical advice – with many case studies of schools – on how to ensure that their students/pupils are effective users of the Web. My own research showed that students were often poor web users i.e. they could find lots of information but struggled to find relevant information for their school work. Developing students as information literacy practitioners implies that students identify a purpose for, find, analyse and effectively use information from a range of sources. It also implies that they will reflect upon and transfer these practices.

Scan book

English version of the book


Japanese version of the book

Yesterday evening I was the guest speaker at the Dunbar and District History Society. My current research is on my home town of Dunbar in the early 1950s and this talk was on New Housing and Entertainment. The first topic related to the building of new council houses in Dunbar from 1949-1953. I’m using oral history interviews to record people’s memories of moving to these new houses, situated in what was (and is) called the Tree Scheme, as all the streets were given names of trees e.g. I grew up in Cedar Street. The interviews revealed a phenomenon identified across the UK after the 2nd World War – overcrowding. The postwar baby boom was not accompanied by a housing boom, due to shortages of materials and men, and the poor state of the British economy. As a result, many young families stayed with their parents, usually the wife’s parents. Two of my interviewees lived in small flats with shared toilets, with the parents sleeping in the living room and two or more children in a bedroom. Another interviewee moved from a rented house with only gas light.

Tree scheme photo

Pine Street Dunbar in 1950

On the whole, young families were delighted with the new houses as they at last had a home of their own, with front and back gardens, inside toilet and bath (as opposed to outside toilet and tin bath), spacious rooms and (by 1950 standards) modern kitchens. My interviewees are mainly children and young adults who moved to these houses. When I interviewed males, the reaction was totally positive. My female interviewees expressed delight for themselves with their new homes, but noted that their mothers’ experiences were not totally positive. For women, who often had several children, the new houses did not provide a release from the drudgery of washing clothes using 2 sinks and a hand wringer and cooking for large numbers. They had much more space but no longer had their mother on hand to help with these onerous tasks. They had to spend long periods in the kitchen. One feature of these houses was that they were heated by coal fires with back boilers in the living room but the coal was not kept in an external bunker, it was stored in a large cupboard in the kitchen. The plan below is not very clear but you can see the word FUEL in the top left hand corner. As you came in the back door, there was a larder, a second storage cupboard and then what was called the coal cellar. For women, this meant that once a fortnight, when coal was delivered, the coal men came in the back door and deposited the coal and created a coal dust storm which filled the kitchen – and had to be cleaned. I asked the female section of my audience whether they thought these kitchens were designed by a man or a woman. You know the response. There was thus a gendered and a class aspect to the design of these houses. The architects – presumably middle class men – were designing kitchens for working class women, so their view of the expectations of the women were, it’s clear, much less than the women’s own expectations. Even in 1950, you would not have chosen to have a coal cellar/space in your kitchen.

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Plan of ground floor in the Tree Scheme

My second topic was entertainment and although I have recorded interviewees’ memories of listening to the wireless (later called the radio) in these pre-television days and going to local dances, I only covered their memories of the two picture houses (as they were called then) in Dunbar in 1950. The old cinema, The Empire, was a large hall built on a slope, with a narrow entrance. It had been built in the 1920s and was, according to one person ” a pretty dingy place” but it was cheaper. The local paper advertised the films and an example follows. At the talk, I played part of the YouTube trailer for the Marx Brothers film.

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Empire Cinema Dunbar advert in 1950

The newer cinema was The Playhouse, opened in 1937 and a much grander affair altogether. It held over 1000 people. One of my interviewees – now a sprightly 90 years old – told me that there was a story that the cinema designers had visited Dunbar in the summer time, when the population swelled because of the seaside visitors and based demand on this and not the normal population – thus the large cinema in a small town. The inside of the Playhouse was decorated in the art deco style shown in the photo below.

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Inside the Playhouse in Dunbar in 1950

The Playhouse was much more luxurious than the Empire, with a proper balcony section, as opposed to the rope divider in the old cinema. It also had a café. The Playhouse showed 3 lots of films in one week, plus a Saturday matinée for children, as this advert shows.

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Playhouse cinema advert 1950

I played part of the Challenge to Lassie film. It’s Lassie as you never imagined and the accents are awful. My audience enjoyed it as well as the memories of my interviewees who recalled going to the Playhouse on a regular basis. In the advert above, you will see that, at each showing, there was the Gaumont British News. This was the only way that people could see the news in 1950 as television did not come to Scotland until 1952.


Icelandic sagas, new bike (maybe) and dramatic sky

May 20, 2013

While out cycling last week, I listened to an In Our Time podcast about Icelandic Sagas and it proved to be a very interesting and educational programme. The panel discussed the various types of sagas, including family sagas and adventure sagas. the sagas  cover events in Iceland in the 10th and 11th centuries and were written in the 13th and 14th centuries. It’s probable – but there’s no definitive proof, that the written sagas were based on stories handed down in the oral tradition. If you want to read some of the sagas, then the Icelandic Saga Database is an excellent source. An added interest for me is that my former colleague at Charles Sturt University John Kennedy is an expert on the sagas. His book on translating the sagas is recognised as an authoritative work.

My existing bike – a 10 year old Giant OCR and while it is still a comfortable ride, it needs a new back wheel at some point. As I was walking to Belhaven Bikes my local bikeshop in Dunbar to collect my bike after another repair, I started thinking “New wheel? Mmm – how about new bike?”. I now have some catalogues for new bikes and I am particularly interested in the Forme Longcliffe 1.0 which has been very well reviewed. Now, given that I am a pretty average cyclist, it probably doesn’t matter whether I choose this bike or a similar one, but I’ve been doing my homework online and the Forme is very well reviewed. One aspect of reading reviews of bikes is that the reviews can often get very technical and pass my understanding of bike technology but I can usually get enough pertinent information. Watch this space.

May has been mainly cold, windy and sunless in this part of the world so far, so it was encouraging to have one sunny day on Friday, when we took our son, daughter in law and two grandchildren, who are visiting from Dubai, to Belhaven beach. There followed a dramatic and colourful sky in the evening. So I went out to the back of the house and took the photos below. The tide was going out and the sky was reflected in the sea at some points. I particularly like the mix of blues, pinks and reds.

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour


Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour


Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

Evening sky looking towards Dunbar harbour

Digital maps, horse at the beach and The Library Bar

August 31, 2012

An interesting article in today’s Guardian about digital maps. The article not only reviews how people increasingly use digital maps – for directions or to find a restaurant, pub or shop in a particular area, but also looks at how digital mapping has developed very rapidly in the fast few years. We all know about Google Earth but Google have plans to extend the coverage of the world’s cities as well as “hiking trails, narrow alleyways or the forest floor”. Not to be outdone, Apple are planning to replace Google Maps on IPads and IPhones with what they claim will be a superior technology. The article also raises the question of whether advanced mapping systems are not only helping us find our way about, but may actually be tracking us i.e. recording where and when we use a digital map. The pros and cons of this are debated well in the article, with a range of expertise quoted.

Going for a walk at Belhaven Beach recently, just as the sun was going down, I came across a man on a horse, just about to cross the stream that runs under the bridge. The picture below was taken on my mobile phone, so not as good quality as my Canon 1000D which I normally use, but still captures the moment. For once, there was no wind on the beach, just a calm sunset. The 2nd photo was taken by me on a day out in Edinburgh and a nostalgic walk round part of Edinburgh University where I was an undergraduate history student from 1967 to 1971 (still find it hard to believe how many years ago that is). The photo is taken at the University Union. The interesting part about this photo is that the part of the building which is now the Library Bar, used to be the Library – a place where students could study in quiet. There was of course, a large bar downstairs. This poses a question: if a library becomes a bar, is this progress or regress?

Horse at Belhaven beach

The Library Bar

Digital human, Shardlake and Dubai

May 27, 2012

Out on my bike last week, I listened to a new BBC Radio series The Digital Human – a title which should engender discussion on its own. Is there such a thing as a digital human? Many of us now lead lives which involves using digital media for different parts of our lives e.g. education, research, music, fiction, sport and online buying. So, a catchy but inherently meaningless title. The content however, may be of interest. I listened to Episode 3 which was about threats to privacy and what counts as privacy in different cultures. I found most of it interesting although some of the people interviewed were very much involved in the web as a source of employment/income, so not your ordinary web users. It’s worth a listen although it may not be to everyone’s taste. It’s probably worth alerting older students in schools to the programme – which is available around the world on the BBC IPlayer, whereas BBC TV is not available outside the UK – as it may well interest them.

I’ve started to read another of C J Samson’s series, set in England at the time of Henry VIII and featuring the lawyer Shardlake and his assistant Barak. The new novel is Heartstone in which Shardlake is asked to investigate a case for the Queen. Sansom’s books are full of intricate historical detail and you do get a feel for London at this time. He also provides a background of politics e.g. Henry’s abortive invasion of France, and the rivalries between different court factions. There’s also a good plot in all the books with some murder and mayhem thrown in. The books are easy to read and while they are not just holiday reads, they are not likely to be on the Booker Prize list.

Back in Dubai for just under a week to see our son, daughter in law and twin granddaughters. It is hot! The temperature guage at the back door today has a reading of 41 degrees. Walking round the lake this morning at 36 degrees was tolerable but when it gets to 40 degrees, it just gets intolerable. When I lived in Wagga Wagga, the temperature did get into the 40s at times during the summer but only for short periods. Here in Dubai, you are literally in the middle of the desert, so temperatures will go even higher over the next two months. The photos below are from a previous visit and show a bird’s eye view from the 126th floor of the Burj Khalifa. This was on a clear day. Yesterday, there was sand in the air you would not have seen very much at all.

View from Burj Khalifa

View from Burj Khalifa



Start the Week, cycling and 20 mile run

May 10, 2012

Out on my bike (see below), I like to listen to downloaded podcasts from BBC Radio. I do this safely i.e. I have the volume set so that I can hear the podcasts, but not too loud as I need to hear traffic coming up behind me. One of my favourite listens is Start the Week in which Andrew Marr discusses topics with 4 guests. This week it was digital futures and the panel discussed how technology might change our lives even further in the future e.g. how games may be seen as more acceptable by a wider range of people, and not be seen just as an opportunity to kill people on screen. One particular issue discussed was augmented reality which has been around for a few years but may be taking new directions. One of the guests was Anab Jain who talked about designing augmented reality tools which might enable some blind people to have some vision, as well as other concepts. I remember teaching a course on IT and Society in the early 1990s and talking with students about the possibility of watching a play or a football (soccer) match on your coffee table. It appears that this may not be that far away.

So, back on the bike and up the hills. The only way to do hills more easily is to do hills more often. Hills are the cyclist’s challenges and, while there is obviously a physical effort and fitness aspect to hills, much is psychological. Yesterday, I did well to get up a very steep climb in the Lammermuir Hills at Elmscleugh where there’s a 174 metre rise to the top. At certain points, I thought that I had done well and should maybe just turn around and enjoy the thrill of the downhill. At times like these, you need to switch off your head and let your legs take over.

The 20 mile run – not me of course but my older son and 180 others, including some from Dunbar Running Club ran from Edinburgh to the seaside town of North Berwick, which is about 12 miles (19.3k) from my home. The photos below show firstly, my son Jonathan finishing at the edge of the beach, and secondly, the view along the beach towards the harbour. This being Scotland, it wasn’t as warm as it looks.

20 mile race finish at North Berwick

North Berwick Beach

Collaboration, Redemption Falls and primroses

March 7, 2012

Since retiring, I have unsubscribed to most of the listservs and educational sites which emailed me regularly but, for some reason, I haven’t stopped getting eSchoolNews. This week, a headline caught my eye about ‘Teacher collaboration with digital tools’ – I guess because collaboration has been a hot topic of debate and research amongst teacher/school librarians for the past 40 years, and because I have written about this topic and had my students debate aspects of collaboration on forums. This feature has a series of links to reports, research and tools which it may be useful to dip into, and selectively distribute within your school, or to TL/SL colleagues.

On the fiction front, I have just finished reading Joseph O’Connor’s ‘Redemption Falls’. The Guardian reviewer calls it ‘a huge dishevelled monster of a book’ because it contains not only a striking narrative, but also folk ballads, songs, documents and transcripts. So, your straightforward novel it is not. It is also very detailed and descriptive in places. While not all of the voices in the book are completely convincing, this tale of post civil war America, and of the American Irish involvement in both the war and its aftermath, is nevertheless an outstanding read. You need a fairly strong stomach when reading parts of it e.g. the atrocities of the war witnessed by a drummer boy, and the savage treatment of his sister who crossed the states to find him. The protagonist O’Keefe is loved by some and hated by many. If you like your fiction strong, with a forceful narrative and a range of intriguing (in some cases weird) characters, then this book is for you.

 Now that Spring is well on its way, the primrose/polyanthus plants in my garden are in full flower. The two flowers are different although the terms are used interchangeably. The one in the photo below is (I think) a polyanthus. It is one of these flowers that are very much plain Janes or Johns when not in flower, but are radically changed when the flowers appear and you get this dash of colours in your Spring garden. They also flower more than once a year, so are very thrift plants also.


No Wikipedia for a day and harbour walk

January 19, 2012

Reading today’s Guardian with my breakfast cup of tea, I find an intriguing story about how  Wikipedia is planning to shut down for 24 hours in protest at a proposed bill in the USA, which Wikipedia claim will lead to a form of censorship on new media outlets such as itself, Google and Twitter. I’ve just tried to access Wikipedia and instead of being able to search, there’s a black screen with Imagine a world without free knowledge as the headline, and accuses the US Congress of ‘considering legislation that could damage the free and open Internet’. The article goes on to cite the views of both new media and ‘old’ media such as a newspaper proprietor. The bills which are being proposed, appear to be trying to stop illegal streaming, but Wikipedia and others think that this could be the thin edge of censorship.

One of the pleasures of living in a seaside town such as Dunbar, is that you can enjoy a walk to, or around, the harbour at all times of the year. Normally, in January, the bridge connecting the new (i.e. 1890s built) harbour and the old harbour, is up, so that boats can go to the old harbour for shelter from the winter storms. However, it’s been unseasonably mild and calm this winter, so on Sunday, the bridge was down and my wife and I walked across to the harbour wall side. The picture below shows a view towards Dunbar Castle  with a set of creels roughly stacked, in the foreground. There are a few boats in the harbour which use creels to catch crabs and lobsters, and you can see a creel boat in action off the Fife coast (visible from Dunbar) on YouTube.

Creels on Dunbar Harbour

Stannard tools and The Bow Bar

January 12, 2012

I recently came across Russell Stannard’s site whilst looking for something else. The main focus of the site is related to – as the name suggests – using video as part of personal development technology training for teachers. However, there is much to interest TLs and SLs, so this site is worth bo0kmarking and dipping into from time to time. Stannard’s set of videos on technology applications e.g. MailVu and Jing are presented in a refreshingly open and friendly way. For example, he’s not afraid to make mistakes and correct them on his videos, and this lack of slickness is reassuring. Stannard doesn’t just tell you what the tools can do e.g. Jing allows you make a video while capturing screen shots, but he discusses applications for teaching and learning. Some of the content of the site will be familiar to many of you e.g. Glogster.

One of the things that you absolutely must do when you are in Edinburgh, Scotland’s enchanting capital city (and that’s not my biased opinion but is based on many comments of visitors to the city I have talked to around the world), is to visit some of its many pubs. Of course, you do not have to partake of the alcoholic drinks on offer, but if you like the occasional pint of beer or a wee dram (glass of whisky), then Edinburgh’s real ale pubs are for you. I stress the real ale pubs as not all pubs serve what I would consider as proper beer. An excellent example is The Bow Bar with its impressive range of beers and 150 different malt whiskies. On a recent visit I had Moorcock Ale from Yorkshire. Now, you will not go into the Bow Bar in order to sit in a leather armchair, get table service and be charged a fortune for your drinks. This is a quintessential pub  – clean and comfortable, where you enjoy the beer. Check out the website to see the interior and one of its key features is the range of framed posters and old adverts on the walls. A great wee place to go.


Gooru and national libraries

January 6, 2012

Firstly, a very Good New Year to you all.There’s a new e-learning platform doing the rounds. It’s called Gooru and is designed to, in the words of the Gooru video, allow “teachers to search and teach, and students to search and study”. Teachers, and of course TLs and SLs although the video doesn’t say this, can put together classbooks which are sets of online resources, and be integrated into class plans. There are tutorials on the site and a video. For a fuller review of Gooru, try the Edudemic site, which is worth bookmarking and looking at from time to time. I have not studied Gooru in detail. However, it was designed by a Google employee – and yes, I know that not everyone will see that as a positive. It is certainly worth checking out and discussing with interested colleagues in your school.

I recently rejoined the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh, as a member. It is  … years(I’ll let you guess the exact number) since I was a member of the library as a 4th year honours student at Edinburgh University. The NLS is a wonderful place in which to study – although I have to say you must like almost total silence in the reading room where people do research. There was and still is, an eclectic mix of young students and (like me now) more mature researchers. As you walk into the Reading Room, some eyes will lift briefly before going back to books, pamphlets, journals. Each seat is numbered and if you order a book – there is only very limited open access to reference materials – or other material, it will be brought to your seat. Yes – a haven of civilisation. Once change since my youth is that you can now take your laptop into the Reading Room – no Skypeing of course! When I was in Australia recently, I made a brief visit to the Australian National Library in Canberra, another fascinating centre of learning and culture. In the photo below, the NLA is in the background, with a very pleasant walk to it, passing some very interesting sculpture.

Towards the National Library of Australia


eSchool News items and Tauranga sunset

December 14, 2011
From this week’s edition of eSchool News (which is worth joining for free), some interesting items. The first is a list of apps which can be downloaded for free or cheaply. Some look interesting enough for TLs to pass on to interested teachers, although some are fairly basic and assessment orientated. There’s also a useful guide to starting a virtual learning programme. It lists 7 questions which schools should ask. Now these questions will be familiar to any of you who have been involved in any kind of school ICT projects e.g. “What challenge are we trying to address?” but such questions are fundamental to successful ICT projects, as you can see from unsuccessful ones which have been designed by techies who rarely ask the actual users why this project might go ahead. TLs should be involved at the heart of the design of virtual learning environments in schools, so having questions such as these is a good start. There are also features on Facebook, Twitter and texting – so very much worth a look.

I’m back in Scotland now after 7 weeks away – in temperatures from 19-36 degrees. Back to 3-4 degrees might seem hard but when it’s a sunny day like today and you “rug up” (Australian term) in winter coat and gloves, it’s a great experience. One stop on my travels was at my sister and brother in law’s house in Tauranga, New Zealand. When the wind blows down the estuary, it can be a bit “coorse” as we say in Scotland. However, on nights like those in the photo below, when the sun is setting over the estuary and the tide is coming in, and you have food on the decking, and a bottle of Morton Estate (not far from Tauranga) Pinot Noir, life is pretty good.

Sunset in Tauranga