Popular culture texts- a comparison.

I recently took the opportunity to compare the popular culture texts offered in the small, local public library to those accessible in my own primary school library. Even though I avail myself of the library’s adult fiction and magazines, I had never ventured into the very small spaces catering for children and young adult readers. These two spaces are side by side, separated by a small divider with scatter cushions available for younger children to sit on and a large, circular ottoman for seating in the young adult section.

My own library has three distinct fiction sections characteristic of most primary school settings: – Junior Fiction, Easy Fiction and Fiction. Within both the Easy Fiction and Fiction sections I have individual book boxes populated with popular series titles. Popular choices in the Easy Fiction section are Geronimo Stilton, Boy v Beast, Rainbow Magic, Zac Powers and Scooby Doo whilst the Fiction section houses offerings such as Goosebumps, Captain Underpants, Percy Jackson, Beast Quest, The 39 Clues and EJ12. The Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden series’ are keenly read by a niche market of predominately Year 5 and 6 girls, although the boys tend to choose more contemporary titles over Hardy Boys.

Many of these series’ were evident in the public library however the selection of titles within each series was very limited. As part of the Brisbane City Council library service, children can request titles from other libraries but there is a small administration fee of 80c per book. Each series was shelved according to author so accessibility wasn’t as straightforward as going to a series box and series’ with multiple authors such as Aussie Nibbles were even more difficult to locate. There was no delineation between Easy Fiction and Fiction.

The Young Adult selection included titles that are evident in the fiction section of the school library including The Princess Diaries and Horowitz’s ‘Alex Rider’ series. Other titles ranged from The Vampire Diaries (and a plethora of Gothic offerings) and the Young Samurai series to novels by John Grisham and James Patterson, none of which are part of the school collection.

Contained in each section of the public library was a small collection of magazines, comics, DVDs, audio books and console games. It was interesting to note that there was a comparatively extensive section of Manga and superhero texts in the Young Adult section compared to other offerings such as Dolly and Girlfriend magazines. Disney magazines populated the younger reader’s area. Although DVDs and audio books are available from the school library, a deficit of the collection is the unavailability of magazines which needs to be addressed.

Steam what???

Mark (pseudonym) is a 12 year old boy, an avid reader and a highly gifted student. I chose to interview Mark as he spends a substantial amount of recess time in the school library and we have developed an easy rapport. It was a joy to explore the texts Mark engages with and I certainly learned something new from the experience.

Mark clearly stated from the onset that his preferred reading genres were fantasy fiction and science fiction. He immediately started elaborating on his favourite author at the moment, David Eddings. Mark described Eddings writing as “in the style of ‘Lord of the Rings’ but even better. He’s gone all out!” Mark has read the series “Belgariad” and the sequel series “Malloreon” and some of the author’s ‘stand alone’ novels. 

Explaining his fascination with Eddings work, Mark commented that in the two series’ Eddings had created a new world with new religions, gods and people. When I asked him to elaborate, Mark described a race called ‘Sendars’, people reflective of ‘elemental Englishmen’- practical, polite and with a high moral code”. Although he enjoys ‘high fantasy’, Mark also appreciated that he could connect Eddings work to the real world through the development of characters representative of a class of people he could identify with. Fascinating insight from a 12 year old boy! In the past Mark has also enjoyed reading The 39 Clues, Artemis Fowl, Alex Rider and Percy Jackson series’. 

I ventured on to ask Mark about movies he has enjoyed. At first he hesitated as he couldn’t remember the last movie he had seen. However, very shortly he started describing the movie “Hugo”. “I really like ‘steampunk’”, he explained. Steam what???  Mark described ‘steampunk’ as texts that reflect Victorian London- mechanical elements rather than computerised, automatons, lots of pipes, steam and brass. Eccleshare (2012) clarifies ‘steampunk’ as “rejoicing in steam-driven automata, coal-fired dirigibles, leather flying helmets and goggles, clockwork, and anything made of brass, including hair and prostheses. Steampunk loves brass. There are computational machines, but they are by Charles Babbage, not Steve Jobs, and are powered by (brass) rods and pistons which occasionally trap limbs and rip them off”. Mark furthered this part of the discussion by telling me about a ‘cool’ shop in the city called “Pulp Fiction”. “It’s good for sci fi, fantasy, crime and ‘steampunk’. Wow, was I enjoying this interview!

Lastly I asked Mark about gaming. His enjoys Minecraft, Terraria and FTL Faster Than Light, a new game he is playing that satisfies his preference for “old style graphics and rogue-like permanent death- no respawning. It adds to the element of excitement and danger and makes it really hard to get to higher levels”. It was interesting to note that Mark’s parents restrict his time gaming to 1 hour on each Friday and Saturday but they do not put such limits on his reading.

I found the interview with Mark both highly enjoyable and extraordinarily enlightening. It was a truly rewarding experience.

Eccleshare, J. (2012). What’s steampunk?. United Kingdom: The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/childrens-books-site/2012/aug/28/book-doctor-whats-steampunk

The Hunger Games in review

The popularity of The Hunger Games Trilogy written by Suzanne Collins resulted in students coming to the library and requesting the books. I had previously had discussions with other teacher librarians, some of whom had decided to add the popular culture trilogy to their collections, whilst others were firmly against making it available to primary school students. After having read the first book I decided that, with parental permission, students could access the books through the school library. Subsequently, students from Year 5-7 have borrowed the books and they are constantly in demand.

The Hunger Games is set in the country of Panem, made up of twelve carefully controlled districts. The protagonist in the story, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, the harshest of the districts. To ensure the people of Panem do not rebel against the ruling class, who live an opulent lifestyle in the Capitol, each year two children from every district are selected to compete in the ‘Hunger Games’. These so called ‘tributes’ fight for their lives in a purpose built arena, the spectacle televised throughout the country. The last child alive reaps significant rewards both for themselves and their family.

Katniss finds herself as one of the tributes after her younger sister’s name is drawn from the ballot and she volunteers herself as a substitute. After her father died, Katniss hunted unlawfully to ensure there was enough food for her mother and sister to survive and these skills, particularly her prowess with a bow and arrow, ultimately work in her favour as the contest begins.

Peeta, the baker’s son joins Katniss as the other tribute representing District 12, declaring in a pre-games interview that he has a crush on Katniss. The reader is left to question whether this is a shrewd strategy to gain support from the audience and sponsors of the games or a heartfelt declaration. Doubt around his intent is further intensified after Peeta apparently sides with the ‘Career Tributes’ in the initial stages of the games.

The dystopian nature of the story and the violence inflicted by and against the children creates a powerful scenario for the story and it is just these elements that have created concern about the appropriateness of the novel for primary school students. To date, I haven’t seen the film adaptation of the novel but although the violence in the book is intense, the author does not rely on graphic descriptions ‘a la horror movies’ but affects a more subtle but no less compelling account of the carnage. I would like to hope the producers of the film were as equally adept.

Not all upper primary school students are ‘ready’ for The Hunger Games and many have either chosen not to read it or had their parents make that decision for them. However, children know about violence and after reading the book, I am comfortable with my decision as teacher librarian to make it available in the school library, albeit with conditions.


Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. London: Scholastic.

The Spaces Within

According to Freeman (in Kresh, 2007), the library is a centralised location that can combine new information technologies with traditional sources of knowledge in a student focussed, service rich environment that supports 21st century teaching and learning. As part of the BER initiative and completed in 2010, the ‘new’ library at my current school was integrated into a two storey building with a large hall, canteen and storage space on the ground floor and three classrooms, a computer lab and the library accommodated on the second floor. Due to regulations around the provision of facilities for the disabled, the inclusion of a lift and toilet meant that area allocated to the “resource centre” was compromised. Subsequently two, smaller spaces were created and these function as separate entities, making it difficult to provide flexible spaces within each environment.

Although small, the library is bright and welcoming. Furnishings help define spaces to accommodate various activities. A large, colourful mat near the puzzles, games and construction resources help distinguish a play area for younger students. Ottomans, lounge chairs and bean bags can be moved around to create more intimate zones for reading or conversation. Shelving delineates an area at the far end of the library, where an interactive whiteboard is utilised and small, mobile tables can be reconfigured as required by students, staff and the wider school community. This space is used primarily for lessons, meetings, small group and individual work and recreational drawing by younger students both before school and in recess time.

Use of the computer lab is timetabled and access to the facility highly sort by classroom teachers. Subsequently, use of computers by the teacher librarian is very limited. Students can access the computer lab independently during second break, three lunch hours a week but this is on a first to arrive basis and the time appears to be spent mainly on recreational activities. Teachers oversee this time as part of rostered duties.

Access to mobile, digitised devices would create virtual spaces within the library and further extend the flexible use of the environment. The library is wireless connected but, partly due to my owninexperience; such devices have yet to be introduced. I have started generating professional discussions around the provision of tablets and e-readers and believe that a whole school approach and plan to integrate these devices is required to ensure the school is meeting the demands of our 21st century learners.


 Freeman, G. (2007). Reinventing the Library. In Kresh, D. The whole digital library. (p.370-373). Chicago: American Library Association.

Never Lose Sight of the Pedagogy

The current generation of students was born into a highly technological world with a proliferation of digital devices and web platforms within which they can engage (MCEETYA, 2005). The Internet has become not only a place to access information but a place that challenges us with a plethora of platforms for social interaction and collaboration (Johnson, 2005). In fact, the “participatory nature” of the online, digital world now “privileges” interaction over information” (Davies and Merchant, 2009, p9). Furthermore, popular culture texts have positioned themselves seamlessly into this virtual environment (Beach and O’Brien, 2008).

Popular culture texts constructed, linked and disseminated through online, digital technologies within informal contexts, play a powerful role in how and what students choose to learn and how they perceive themselves as learners (Beach and O’Brien, 2008). This creates a strong argument for acknowledging and building upon this learning within the formal setting. Unfortunately, often schools perpetuate traditional models of literacy (Beach et al, 2008), teaching and learning that perpetuate out dated practices, creating a divide between students’ meaningful, real life learning and that which is delivered in the classroom, making school irrelevant and disengaging students. Twenty first century learning requires new spaces, both physical and virtual, that connect school, home and the global community, increase flexibility and support creative and productive learning beyond the classroom (MCEETYA, 2008).

However online, neither digital technologies alone, nor the integration of popular culture texts into the learning environment in themselves deliver a learner focussed curriculum. The use of information and communication technologies can only enhance teaching and learning that is based upon best pedagogical approaches (MCEETYA, 2005). So too, educators need to incorporate popular culture texts in ways that are creative, dynamic and meaningful to further extend literacy teaching and learning( Davies et al, 2009) whilst not abandoning print based literacies altogether (Beach et al, 2008).

Over the last decade, the Productive Pedagogies Framework has provided common guidelines for professional development and practices that support effective teaching and learning whilst recognising the individual needs of all students (Department of Education, Training and Employment, 2002). These include:

Intellectual quality including higher order thinking and problem solving involving the transformation of information and ideas

Supportive classroom environment where learning is student-centred and directed leading to a high level of engagement

Recognition and valuing of difference where the diversity of students’ backgrounds, experiences and abilities are positively acknowledged

 Connectedness where learning experiences have a relevance and application to the wider community in which students live and participate

These pedagogies, although not specific to the integration of digital technologies and popular culture texts and within the classroom setting, are reflected in strategies which underpin the effective integration of these elements. 

 Pedagogies that integrate information and communication technologies can engage students in ways not previously possible, enhance achievement, create new learning possibilities and extend interactions with local and global communities” (MCEETYA, 2005, p.2). Today’s students need to be connected and are harnessing technologies to develop new kinds of learning communities that cross different social and cultural contexts and involves meaningful interaction to create, share and react to content (Davies et al, 2009).

Correspondingly, learning to use applications that facilitate online social interaction creates significant opportunities to engage in higher order thinking and problem solving (Johnson, 2005). This generation of youth have demonstrated the ability to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously in online, digitised environments (Buckingham, 2007). Increasingly, this requires students to interact with multimodal texts and educators need to recognise their role in empowering students to analyse, synthesise and reflect upon the impact of images, sounds and text and how these can be adapted and distributed in ways that are meaningful and responsive to their needs (Beach et al, 2008).

Similarly, effectively incorporating popular culture texts into teaching and learning builds on children’s enjoyment of these texts to develop proficiency across a wide range of skills and further promote higher order thinking. Applying knowledge of popular culture texts to curriculum contexts is a natural progression for students and teachers need to equip students with the tools and strategies to critically analyse the underlying intentions operating in popular culture texts (Beach et al, 2008).  Identifying the biases and ideologies associated with the representation of people and events in popular culture texts necessitates a high level of analytical thinking and moves students beyond the role of passive consumers of popular culture texts.  

The challenge for educators when integrating popular culture texts and Web 2.0 technologies that facilitate social, collaborative learning is to move beyond the role of “expert” in a teacher directed learning environment to that of facilitator of learning. Teachers need to cast a critical eye over online applications and popular culture texts and identify how students interact and use these in order to understand the implications for teaching and learning. Undoubtedly there are issues around cyber bullying, misinformation, copyright infringement and censorship that concern educators and need to be addressed (Davies et al, 2009) but teaching and learning in the 21st century necessitates planning for learning that is meaningful and relevant for students, collaborative in nature and builds on their own real life experiences.


Beach, R. and O’Brien, D. (2008). Chapter 27: Teaching Popular-Culture Texts In The Classroom. In Leu, D., Coiro, J., Knobel, C. and Lankshear, C. (Eds). Handbook of research on new literacies (pp.775-804). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Buckingham, D. (2007). Digital Childhoods? In Buckingham, D. Beyond technology (pp.75-98). Cambridge UK: Polity Press.

Davies, J. and Merchant, G. (2009). Web 2.0 for schools: learning and participation, New York: Peter Lang.

Department of Education, Training and Employment. (2002). Productive Pedagogies. Retrieved from http://education.qld.gov.au/public_media/reports/curriculum-framework/productive-pedagogies/html/manual.html

Johnson, Steven. (2005). The Internet. In Johnson, Steven, Everything bad is good for you. (pp.116-124). New York: Riverhead Books.

MCEETYA. (2005).Pedagogy strategy: learning in an online world. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (Australia and New Zealand). Melbourne: Curriculum Corporation.

MCEETYA. (2008).Learning spaces framework: learning in an online world. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (Australia and New Zealand). Melbourne: Curriculum Corporation.


‘Binocular Fish” by markldn available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/maniax/3883917/ under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

Reflective blog for clinical placement – a plan for future practice

As I reflect on the topics that have been covered in this unit (Youth, Popular Culture and Texts) I have come to realise their potential within the nursing education context, adding value to the existing pedagogies that are currently used.  The Internet and its emerging Web 2.0 applications (such as blogs and wikis) have been embraced by society, changing the way information is received and used. They have moved away from static, one-way communication, to a more interactive and participatory experience, where learning occurs through discovery, exploration and the exchange of views and ideas between learners, clinicians and teachers (Feiertag & Berge, 2008; Rogerson, Martindale & Waltz, 2009).

While these technologies have become established in everyday life and have offered wider opportunities to education systems, their adoption within the education context has been limited (Crook, 2012). This is also true within nursing education, which has only begun to see the introduction of these Web 2.0 technologies. This is evident in my own nursing education experiences, where information technology is only used to support the provision of course content. This occurs through the use of a learning management system that principally provides students’ access to lecture notes, but is also used for some online self-directed learning modules. This approach isolates the learner and does not encourage or support interactive collaboration between students, which is more indicative of the Web 2.0 technologies. Nor does it fully prepare nursing students for the increasingly complex, collaborative clinical environment, where health professionals have an increasing need to be proficient with all forms of information technology so as to mitigate error and ensure patient safety (Murray & Hansen, 2006). The challenge for nurse educators is to therefore harness the potential of the Web 2.0 technologies, carefully considering how best they can be incorporated to support the traditional didactic and clinical methods of education and enhance the students’ learning experience, whilst also ensuring these are sustainable in terms of faculty resources (people and time) (Weiner, 2008). As nursing leaders, educators have a responsibility to lead by example and demonstrate the possibilities of these emerging technologies in both work and personal life and to develop students’ digital literacy skills that come from their experiences outside the classroom (O’Sullivan, 2012).

Retrieved from http://www.nurseuncut.com.au/nurse-uncuts-nurse-blogroll/

The experience of creating this blog has opened my eyes to the application of this particular Web 2.0 technology into my current teaching practice, complimenting existing pedagogies and further developing skills essential to the nursing profession. I also feel it is achievable for student nurses and educators who are less technologically savvy and who can be reluctant to explore these new technologies independently (Weiner, 2008). While blog technology is widely known and used in other contexts (Merchant, 2009) it has not been well established in nursing education, although its potential has begun to be explored in the literature (Maag, 2005). Blogs are web-based writing tools facilitating the distribution of information through public journaling, which allows for public response (Maag, 2005; Murray & Hansen, 2006). O’Sullivan (2012, p. 193) describes blogs as providing youth with  “an open space to voice their views, to describe their activities and to share their interests”, allowing an opportunity for “self-reflection, experimentation and self-expression”. These qualities as well as the collaboration, reading, writing and information gathering skills that are involved with blogging, support its use within nursing contexts (Maag, 2005; Murray & Hansen, 2006).

Reflective journaling is currently used in nursing education to support students’ experiential learning experiences within the simulated and clinical practice environments. Most often this is submitted as an assessment piece at the end of the clinical placement period and would only be read by the student and teacher. I propose that a reflective blog be used instead, providing students with the opportunity to reflect about and make sense of their practical experiences on a more regular basis. This would encourage them to actively learn from their peers as well as their teachers by reading and commenting on each others blog posts. For students this has the added advantage of creating a sense of community, one that involves social engagement and collaboration (Halic, Lee, Paulus & Spence, 2010; Murray & Hansen, 2006), ultimately preparing them to work within the collaborative, multidisciplinary health care team. For educators reflective blogs can also provide more insight into the student’s clinical placement experiences and demonstrate how their knowledge and understanding are applied in the clinical environment, thus ensuring the work readiness of future nursing graduates (Maag, 2005).

While O’Sullivan (2012) acknowledges blogs popularity stems in part to their ease of construction and operation, guidelines for students and educators will be required to support the effective use of reflective blogs in the learning environment and remove the apprehension that can be associated with the introduction of new technology. This has relevance for all student groups, including the “digital natives”, as research has found that the majority of higher education students are not sophisticated users of technology (Kennedy, Judd, Dalgarnot, & Waycott, 2010). Guidelines will also support students as they transition from a more passive recipient to a more active learner, giving them the skills to use these tools independently and to realise their potential outside the education arena. Educators have an important role in facilitating learning in this reflective blog environment, reinforcing key nursing concepts and digital literacy skills (for example an awareness of privacy and safety protocols), and therefore must also be given the knowledge and skills to navigate and manage this web-based platform.

Preparing students and educators to appropriately use this Web 2.0 technology in their teaching and learning activities will be a critical precursor to its actual ongoing use within both the education and clinical environments and will hopefully encourage the future adoption and use of other emerging technologies within nursing education.



Crook, C. (2012). The ‘digital native’ in context: tensions associated with importing Web 2.0 practices into the school setting. Oxford Review of Education, 38(1), 63 – 80. Doi: 10.1080/03054985.2011.577946

Feiertag, J. & Berge, Z.L. (2008). Training Generation N: how educators should approach the Net Generation. Education + Training, 50(6), 457 – 464. DOI: 10.1108/00400910810901782

Halic, O., Lee, D., Paulus, T. & Spence, M. (2010). To blog or not to blog: Student perceptions of blog effectiveness for learning in a college-level course. Internet & Higher Education, 13, 206 – 213. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2010.04.001

Kennedy, G., Judd, T., Dalgarnot, B. & Waycott, J. (2010). Beyond natives and immigrants: exploring types of net generation students. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26, 332 – 343. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00371.x

Maag, M. (2005). The Potential Use of “Blogs” in Nursing Education. CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 23(1), 16-24. Retrieved from Wolters Kluwer Health.

Merchant, G.H. (2009). Web 2.0, new literacies, and the idea of learning through participation. English teaching: practice and critique, 8(3), 8-20.  Retrieved from ProQuest database.

Murray, P.J. & Hansen, M.M. (2006). Towards Health Informatics 2.0: Blogs, Podcasts and Web 2.0 Applications in Nursing and Health Informatics Education and Professional Collaboration.  Nursing and Health Professional Faculty Research, 5. Retrieved http://repository.usfca.edu/nursing_fac/5

O’Sullivan, K. (2012). Books and Blogs: Promoting Reading Achievement in Digital Contexts. In Manuel, J. &Brindley, S. (Eds). Teenagers and reading: literacy heritage, cultural contexts and contemporary reading practices (pp. 191 – 209).  Kent Town SA: Wakefield Press / AATE.

Rogerson, E., Martindale, L. & Waltz, C. (2009). Using Information Technology in Nursing Education. In Staudinger, B., HoB, V. & Ostermann, H. (Eds).  Nursing & Clinical Informatics: Socio Technical Approaches (Ebook). DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60565-234-3

Weiner, E. (2008). Supporting the Integration of Technology into Contemporary Nursing Education. Nursing Clinics of North America, 43, 497-506. Doi: 10.1016/j.cnur.2008.06.002


1960s TV revisited


Star Trek: the Original Series


To boldly go where no man has gone before” and “Beam me up Scotty” are two of my favourite phrases from the Star Trek television series from the 1960s. As a baby boomer I was privileged to be able to view many television programs that revealed the issues and community or societal values of the 1960s era such as racial equality, tolerance and escapism from the Vietnam War. I did not realise how much television I had watched as a youngster until I researched this era and the memories came back. Bewitched, the Saint, the Avengers, Man from Uncle and Flipper, all either of British or American origin were some of my favourites from the 1960s but the first I thought of was the Australian production, Skippy, with its catchy tune.

Skippy is based on the story of an extraordinary orphaned kangaroo that was rescued from the wild, as a joey, by the Hammond family after its mother was killed. The father, a park ranger and his two sons, aged sixteen and nine, raise Skippy as their own. Skippy possesses amazing feats such as being able to open mail boxes, play the drums, open doors and bet on the races as well as rescue bushwalkers. The underlying theme of each episode is the preservation of wildlife. Justice must prevail. No real violence happens compared to programs on television now. Skippy leaves one with the ‘feel good’ factor with fun and family values as Skippy triumphs over evil and ‘saves the day’. However the merchandising that accompanies present day films such as Twilight, also occurred in the 1960s with Skippy Tshirts, pyjamas, comics, puzzles, towels, icecream, annuals, money boxes and records (LPs and EPs). The reason I really liked the programme was the way it highlighted the unique aspects of the Australian bush, its wildlife, scenery and the feel good factor.

Similarly Bewitched, an American television series about a witch who marries an advertising executive, lends itself to escapism from the troubles of the 1960s and the civil rights movement. Sam, the witch, promises not to use magic when she marries her husband however cannot avoid doing so to save situations so the central theme is the tension between the two of them. However this is lightened by humour with frequent puns such as ‘guilt complex’ when anything Sam touches turns to gold. Other themes are tolerance of diversity, loyalty and devotion to one’s husband (reflecting the sexist chauvanistic attitudes of the 1960s), humility and respect for others. I particularly liked the supernatural powers and ‘other worldly’ dimensions when magic was used.

Star Trek’s utopian society, set in the 23rd Century, is ‘other worldly’ with its sophisticated morality. Good again triumphs over evil as the starship ‘Enterprise’, in its five year voyages, seeks to find strange new worlds and citizens. It tried to make women equal to men by placing them in positions of authority in the series however the 1960s traditional role of women as subservient to men was reaffirmed as the producers were not allowed to do so. Because of the race to get the first man on the Moon, between the USSR and the USA, I found the Star Trek series fascinating because I believed at the time, that what happened in the series could possibly happen in the future so did have a link to reality for me.

Star Trek remains part of popular culture with its various themes such as the special Klingon language used by the Klingons. Its references to peace and militarism are pertinent today with the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. People, including myself, can identify with the the moral values that arise in the series. Star Trek is part of my past and future. Bewitched and Skippy I remember fondly as part of my childhood.




Copyright and Creative Commons

Teenagers, in the process of forming their identities, usually express their thoughts in personal diaries (O’Sullivan, 2012, p. 193).  Within the digital world that diary has become the social blog.  In their enthusiasm to share images of themselves and their favourite things in these blogs as they create their profiles (Dowdall, 2009, p. 43), teenagers need to be aware of the serious consequences of copyright infringements of Intellectual Property Rights.  Another way, that I was only vaguely aware of, exists whereby students can use images, legally.  This is through Creative Commons which is a set of copyright licensing tools created in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson and Eric Eldred from Harvard University with help from the Centre for the Public Domain (Forsythe & Kemp, 2009, p. 368).  As teacher librarians, especially in the digital age, we need to be aware of copyright law, how it pertains to every item in the library, be it print text, music, images or students’ own creations, the reasons why it was created and the background behind the creation of the Creative Commons licence along with suggestions for use within the classroom.


Traditional copyright law was created in order ‘to protect literary, artistic, musical and computer-generated works for a limited period of time’ (Vaidhyanathan, 2001, p. 20). However the 1976 revision of it that was intended to encourage creativity, has had the opposite effect.  As Kapitze (2009) asserts, this copyright law is outdated and stifles the collective creativity of young people when collaborating online during social networking where ideas are shared instantly while blogging (p. 99).  As Gordon-Murnane (2010) adds, (http://www.thepublicdomain.org/) , when quoting Boyle, ‘most of the culture of the 20th and 21st century is now ‘lost culture’ (2010, para. 8) due to these stringent copyright laws.  The new act not only retrospectively placed all material produced since 1923 into copyright, whether the author could or could not be traced, it also meant any work now produced would automatically be subject to copyright whether the author requested it or not (Vaidhyanathan, 2001, p. 20).  Thus Creative Commons was created as a copyright licence that was positioned between the strict ‘all rights reserved’ official copyright and the ‘no rights reserved’ freedom to copy anything in the public domain (Gordon-Murnane, 2010, para. 1).

Copyright and the digital age

Creative Commons licensing tools were also created in response to the ease with which material could be downloaded in the same quality as the original, online.  When copyright was originally enacted, hyper-linking, forwarding in an email, sharing a blog or twitter conversation, did not occur (Vaidhyanathan, 2001, p. 152) as material had to be physically copied.   Now it is the ‘expression’, ‘words’  and ‘tune’ within a song, that is protected, but not the actual concept or idea (Vaidhyanathan, 2001, p. 25).   Similarly ‘information’ as in ‘data’, is not protected, only the original authorship (Vaidhyanathan, 2001, p. 25).  Thus it is incumbent on teacher librarians to ensure students are aware of these restrictions and the potential libel (Kapitze, 2009, p. 96).

Access and censorship

These restrictions, as detailed in the 2006 revision to the copyright act, are that the owner has ‘six exclusive rights:

1)      to reproduce the work;

2)      to prepare derivative works, compilations, and collective works;

3)      to distribute copies;

4)      to perform the work in public;

5)      to display the work in public; and

6)      to digitally transmit sound recordings’ (Forsythe, 2009, p. 347).

These rights belong solely to the copyright owner.  As all work created, from the moment it is produced, is now subject to copyright, in order to access it, the onus is on the person who wants to copy, to find the author or use the piece illegally (Forsythe, 2009, p. 347).

The implications for students in classrooms undertaking research, is daunting.   They cannot legally use any image or text unless they have sourced authorship. However, the process is facilitated by the Creative Commons licensing system whereby authors indicate under which category they will allow their work to be copied, be it attributed to say, Joe Blogg, for non-commercial purposes and share alike (BY-NC-SA) or attribution only (BY).  These are listed in the table.

Licence Abbreviation Licence buttons
Attribution BY  
Attribution-Share Alike BY-SA  
Attribution-No Derivative Works BY-ND  
Attribution-Noncommercial BY-NC  
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike BY-NC-SA  
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works BY-NC-ND  

Students can thus use work produced by another person but must be aware of ‘fair use’ restrictions.

Fair use

‘Fair use’ of copyrighted material was codified into the Copyright Act in 1976 for the specific purposes of research, teaching in classrooms, news reporting and critiques (Vaidhyanathan, 2001, p. 27).  For example, parodying of political figures for entertainment value was considered ‘fair use’. The courts also take a lenient view of private taping of television shows and broadcasts if these are solely for non-commercial use as would be the case in classrooms.  Notwithstanding this, given the Net Generation’s enthusiasm for remixing YouTube videos and parodying well known figures, the Courts may now be much stricter about copyright hence the need to use Creative Commons in the classroom.

Remixing, copyright and production

One specific problem with the United States’ copyright system is the difficulty of obtaining a license to legally use materials.  When a composer uses a few bars of another piece of music in his own original composition, it is termed remixing.  He would need to ascertain if it was copyrighted, locate the owner and request their permission to use it.  As Kapitze (2009) notes, ‘remix and mashup text’ have blurred the idea of ‘a single original author’ (p. 96).  Moreover, when Creative Commons licenses are used, due to the nature of the license, work produced is irrevocable.  As Gordon-Murnane  (2010) asserts, once a person’s work has been licensed and circulated under a Creative Commons licence, they cannot stop anyone from using it however they can stop any further distribution by anyone who uses their product (para. 14) by changing the type of attribution.  Another issue is that Creative Commons licenses are non-commercial.  These both have implications for the school library regarding sponsorship, negative marketing and unintended usage of materials (Sauers, 2012).


As portrayed in the slide show by Jane Park (2011),  while Creative Commons licenses allow the general public to have access to products that would normally be restricted by copyright, it also means that the producers or authors are allowing people to freely use their work such as the video by Mark Woolley on ‘Creative Commons in our Schools’ (2008).    Teacher librarians however must ensure that students and teachers are aware of the strict copyright laws pertaining to all material used, with seminars or lessons that specifically detail each step in the acknowledgement of copyright for every image, note, video or word.  If using Creative Commons, they must adhere to the attribution for each image such as non-commercial, share alike and non-derivative which means no further distribution.  As the Creative Commons site itself directs, when using another author’s material, the student should:  credit the creator; provide the title of the work; provide the URL where the work is hosted by another site; and indicate the type of licence used along with a link to that specific licence.


Creative Commons.  http://creativecommons.org.au/learn-more/fact-sheets/attribution

Park, J. (2011).  Creative Commons and OERGeneral overview of Creative Commons licenses and Open Educational Resources (OER).  Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/janeatcc/creative-commons-and-oer

Dowdall, C. (2009).  Chapter 3:  Masters and critics : Children as producers of online digital texts.  In Carrington, V. and Robinson, M., Digital literacies:  social learning and classroom practices, Los Angeles: SAGE, pp.43-61.  Retrieved October 10, 2012 from https://cmd.library.qut.edu.au/CLN647/CLN647_BK_355689.pdf

Forsythe, L. M. & Kemp, D. J. (2009).   Creative commons:  for the common good? University of La Verne Law Review, 30(2), 346-369.  Retrieved from  http://heinonline.org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/jjuvl30&collection=journals&page=346

Gordon-Murnane, L. (2010). Creative Commons:  Copyright tools for the 21st century. Online, 34(1), 18-21. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/

James Boyle  @ the public domain:  http://twitter.com/thepublicdomain

Kapitzke, C. (2009). Rethinking copyrights for the library through creative commons licensing. Library Trends, 58(1), 95-108. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/220452338?accountid=13380

O’Sullivan, K. (2012). Chapter 12 : Books and Blogs : Promoting Reading Achievement in Digital Contexts.  In Manuel, J. and Brindley, S., Teenagers and reading : literary heritages, cultural contexts and contemporary reading practices, Kent Town, SA: Wakefield Press/ AATE, pp.191-209.  Retrieved October 12, 2012 from https://cmd.library.qut.edu.au/CLN647/CLN647_BK_355327.pdf

Sauers, M. (2009).  The Travelin’ Librarian.  Technology Innovation Librarian, Nebraska Library Commission.  Retrieved October 20, 2012 from http://travelinlibrarian.info/

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2001).  Copyrights and copywrongs:  The rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity.  New York:  New York University Press.  Retrieved  from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/qut/docDetail.action?docID=10032481



PhotoPuppet HD – just one in a whole world of apps

At the end of last semester I rewarded my efforts at studying once again with the purchase of an iPad.  Truthfully I was horrified at the huge amounts of paper I was going through printing readings for portability and annotating. Once I brought my new purchase home it took only minutes to fall in love with it! Not only could I download my readings all to one handy device and annotate them using the Adobe Reader app, I could get them off the internet without even turning on my computer! I quickly discovered the ease of internet access, and find myself constantly checking out stuff online that before I would have left until I was using the computer (and then probably forgotten about!).

Not long after my big purchase my school began investigating the introduction of iPads to our classrooms. We visited a couple of schools that had iPad programs up and running and began to gather lists of useful apps for classroom use. The list is endless! As such, it is easy to see how teachers might become overwhelmed with the variety of apps available, and not know where to start.

As part of the TPACK Project Dr Jenny Lane (2012) has suggested a criteria that could be useful when selecting apps:

  1. Why do you need to use an app?
  2. How does it link to the curriculum?
  3. What is the purpose and function?
  4. Does it encourage deep learning or skill reinforcement?
  5. Is the learning transferrable?
  6. How easy is it to export the contents?
  7. Can you keep track of students’ progress?
  8. Do you need WiFi access to use it?

(Lane, 2012)

I have been looking at the app PhotoPuppet HD as a starting point for evaluating some of the recommended apps because of its potential use for creating multimodal texts. On the iTunes App Store it is described as ‘The easiest and fastest way to make cartoons on your iPad. Cut anything out of your photos and move it on the screen. The app will record everything you do.’(iTunes_App_Store, 2012) In PhotoPuppet HD you can use backgrounds and puppets already in the app or you can import your own from your camera roll or another device. The idea of the app is that you manipulate the puppets like characters on a stage, recording their movements whilst you do the voice over. I found it to be an engaging app and really easy to use. It has a Help button that takes you to a manual explaining how to do the basics. For children it would be easy to use for creating their own stories and digital texts. It encourages students to be creative, manipulate their photos and animate their puppets with moving parts. This app could be a great start for telling stories digitally before moving onto more complex tasks such as filming and editing using an app like iMovie. PhotoPuppet HD has a built in function for sharing your puppet show video via email or by posting it in YouTube. WiFi access is required for exporting your videos but not while actually working on a project, meaning multiple students can be working on the task in a classroom without streaming or WiFi issues.

The Australian Curriculum describes a range of capabilities that all students should develop through their education including Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) capability. Students learn this capability ‘as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school, and in their lives beyond school.’ (ACARA, 2012) Students need to be involved in adapting to new ways of doing things and using evolving  technologies. Using mobile devices and creative apps like PhotoPuppet HD starts our students on the journey towards developing this capability and actively engages them in 21st century literacy learning.

A screenshot of my first PhotoPuppet HD cartoon. I used a pupppet and background from the apps’ selection as well as a photo that I imported from my camera roll and cut out.


ACARA. (2012). Australian Curriculum v3.0: General Capabilities – Information and Communcation Technology (ICT) capability: ACARA.

Cooke, M. (2011-2012). PhotoPuppet HD

iTunes_App_Store. (2012). PhotoPuppet HD  Retrieved 23/10/2012, 2012, from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photopuppet-hd/id421738553

Lane, J. (2012, June 6). Tips 2012 Professional Learning #14: What is a good App?  Retrieved from http://tips2012.edublogs.org/category/apps-for-students/


Library spaces – a different perspective

After reading a number of blog posts about school library spaces I thought I would explore my own school library and examine the current spaces that are available to the students I teach. I should begin by explaining that my context is a little different to these posts. I will not be examining a primary or secondary school library but instead a library situated within large tertiary hospital that is connected to a higher education facility. The library provides services to hospital staff but also to medical, nursing and allied health students completing clinical placement at the hospital. This includes the Diploma of Nursing students whom I am responsible for.

When exploring this library I realised that there were two significant spaces available to its users – the physical and the virtual. The library is housed in a heritage-listed building, which has provided some space restrictions, but it has managed to make the most of what is available. The library has a number of spaces and these promote both collaborative and individual learning. Upon entering the library there is an open planned space, furnished with casual lounge seating and tables that can be used to read resources individually or to work with others. From this area library users can access an outside deck with live vegetation and outdoor furniture. It provides a social, interactive atmosphere where users can eat and drink while still studying using library resources. This also provides a pleasant, relaxing outlook for those who choose to remain in the library and makes up for the starkness of other parts of the library. There is not the colour and vibrancy that has been evident in some school libraries – see Group M blog –Places for young people at my school library Cath & Jeanette.

One view of library space

Moving further into the library users reach the shelves that house the books and journals, although the journal collection has reduced significantly because of the increasing availability of online versions. Interspersed throughout these areas are individual study stations, some with desktop computers and others without. Off to one side there are also two small study spaces, providing computer access and flat screen television display. These give library users the opportunity to work on group projects in private, without disturbing others, although in general this library is a quiet space, even at its most busy times.

Throughout the library there are approximately thirty Apple desktop computers. Twelve of these are found within an E-zone and can be used either by individual students or booked as a training room for small groups. The remaining computers are spread out around the library for individual study. Currently mobile technology options are not available to library users but have been introduced for librarians to support library users. Users can however bring their own mobile devices and link into the wireless Internet that is available. The computers offer access to the library’s virtual space, a comprehensive website which provides access to catalogue searches and a growing amount of electronic resources, teaching support options, library and research services and help. The website is linked to library’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, iTunes and mobile apps sites, embracing digital technologies that are used by today’s youth. For many the well-equipped virtual space reduces the need to visit the library itself, but in a busy health care environment the library provides a place for uninterrupted study, which is not available in the clinical environment.