Drop in on DEAR 4.1 Butterfly Lion

DEAR Preview 4.1

Click HERE to check if the book is still available from the MRC


So I have been experimenting with Pinterest to create online, visual Reading Lists.


What do I mean by this? Well I have been creating Pinboards using Pinterest to collect images of book covers and grouping them into themes. I have had several requests from Science to create a reading list to support different curriculum topics, and this seems to be working quite well, although some of the topics have been challenging (if anyone knows of any fiction books which covers fizzy sports drinks – please let me know!). Students have picked a book related to their academic study and have gone onto write a review of their chosen book as a homework activity.

The benefits over a traditional list are:- no reprographic costs, new titles can easily be added, and they are easily accessible by students and staff.

These reading lists can be embedded in our VLE alongside the assignment and I have put a link to all the boards on our Oliver Homepage.

I plan to promote with other subject areas, as this is just one other way the MRC can encourage and support Literacy Across the curriculum and the Reading for Pleasure Agenda!

Click HERE to view my Reading List Boards!

Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Oliver


By having a closer look at searching for famous people, or famous places I was able to demonstrate and then allow students to use Oliver to find Dewey Shelf numbers.




Building on our previous sessions about picking a good keyword to unlock a question, I gave them three homework examples and asked them to identify the keyword.

As we were concentrating on names of people or places (Pablo Picasso, Mount Etna, etc) they had to work out that the second part (or surname) was the most important part. 


For example searching with “Mount” will find lots of infomation about Mountains in general, but searching with “Etna” will find less information but the finds will be more closely linked to Etna.

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage


I then went onto demonstrate where to find Oliver, (on the VLE) 

how they can check which books they have borrowed, 

and how to do a Subject Search.



Students then logged onto a computer and found their way to Oliver before searching for Walt Disney, River Rhine, City of London, and Nelson Mandela, and recording the Dewey Shelf Number for each. Once completed they could then go on to explore their own account, and search for their favourite author, series or title, before hunting for the books in the MRC.




Staff CPD: Online Resources supporting staff and students

Last week I ran a session called Online Resources: Supporting staff and students.

Turn out was reasonable with staff attending coming mainly from the Humanities and Arts (includes dramatic arts) colleges. The format was that I gave a brief demonstration of each of the resources and this was followed by 5 minutes for them to explore themselves.

I started with an introduction to Oliver (our LMS – Library Management System) which is on the MRC VLE homepage.

I showed them how they and their students could use Oliver to:-

  • create a reading list that includes both books and websites, and which can easily be emailed to students or turned into a link which can be placed elsewhere on the VLE, or in powerpoints for example.
  • check their own loans and set up their interests for automatic notification of new resources.
  • save time by using alternative provider which repeats the same search in a number of different databases such as Clipbank.

Next I returned to the Oliver Homepage which is split into 4 columns.

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

In the first column I highlighted the MRC blog (what you are reading now); links to both Peterborough and the British Library for tracking down copies of out-of-print titles that can be borrowed; the link to Dawsonera (e -books); and demonstrated the link to the Blekko Search Engine where you can search 3 search engines at the same time and compare the difference in results.

The second column took much more time as this contains quick links to our online databases. So I demonstrated and the staff explored four of these …. Britannica Encyclopedia; NewsBank; InfoTrac and KnowUK. All incredibly useful when encouraging students to use sources other than relying on Wikipedia and Google alone.


The third column contains links based around books and reading. With video book trailers; Book of the Week; a quick link to the MRC DEAR page; as well as “Books for Keeps” and “Read Plus”.

The fourth column contains useful things for research and critical thinking skills. Such as Plato (which looks at plagiarism); Internet Detective (critical thinking for KS4 &5); Welcome to the Web (critical thinking for KS3); Easy Peasy Bibliography creator, as well as links to Guides and bibliography templates.

The hour flew by and everyone found something useful for themselves or sharing with their students. Resulting from this I have been asked to do further work with Year 12 students on avoiding plagiarism, and…. I was walking by a classroom the day after my session and there on the white board was one of the databases – the teacher gave me the thumbs up as I walked on by!

Case Study: Thomas Deacon Academy: Library of Doom Promotion

Setting the Scene

Thomas Deacon Academy has over 2200 students and not only do we have vertical tutoring (a cross section of students from each year group rather than the traditional single year group), but we also have a staggered 30 minute lunch embedded in a 90 minute tutor time. This set up means that every day there are 60 minutes of tutor time which encompasses the PSE programme, careers, citizenship, academic tutoring and has a two week cycle which matches the student’s fortnightly curriculum timetable. This programme is known as I-connect and each cycle has a different theme such as ‘The Big Draw’ and ‘Children in Need’.

One of my suggestions was to introduce a “stop & read” session where everyone in a tutor group, including staff, would stop and read for 30 minutes once in every cycle. Over the past two years this has morphed into DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) and has become a weekly event. To support this I maintain a website as a central focus for promoting reading for pleasure and make this available via our VLE (Virtual Learning Environment). This means that in every I-connect cycle (or fortnight) the DEAR Homepage focuses on a different author with links to websites; book trailers; activities and competitions. The purpose of these is to encourage students to try something new and widen their reading range, and to provide tutors with guidance and inspiration to run more interactive DEAR sessions.

 Cycle 1.3

During cycle 1.3 or 3rd October – 14th October I decided to focus in on and celebrate International School Libraries month (October) and indeed International School Libraries day on the 3rd October by choosing a set of books which has a library setting and a librarian as a main character. In previous cycles we had covered an illustrator and their picture books; and a text based writer so I was looking for something with a balance of both. I then remembered the ‘Library of Doom’ series and started building up the DEAR programme around this series.

DEAR Author Page

On the DEAR Author Page  I included a link to Michael Dahl (author of both the ‘Library of Doom’ and ‘Return to the Library of Doom’ series); a link to a book trailer about the ‘return to the Library of Doom’; and another to a video interview with Michael Dahl. I wanted to include an extract from one of the books to allow tutors to have the text on their class screens whilst they read aloud to their tutor group. So I contacted Michael Dahl with the request and he kindly sent me back an extract from ‘The Book That Ate My Brother’. This then gave me the idea for this cycles competition, could our students imagine what it would be like to be eaten by a book and could they write a letter in a bid to escape to the librarian (me)!

The DEAR lesson Plan I created for tutors included this competition. Michael Dahl contacted Raintree and they kindly donated some prizes which included 2 signed books by Michael.


To raise awareness of the DEAR programme I made use of the Academy widescreen TV screens  and the internal News programme (called The Word) and made several ‘e-posters’ for promoting who the current Author was.


On the second day I happened to catch a student browsing through the ‘Library of Doom’ books, and of the 9 titles available four had been issued in two days. By the end of the fortnight they had been issued a total of 13 times. They are still flying off the shelves – a month later.

I was disappointed with the low number of entries into the competition but the winners were very pleased with their signed books and book tokens.


1st Kimley 2nd Hayley 3rd Jodie

Website http://www.michaeldahlwrites.com/books.html

Michael Dahl Interview http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1y45wNeB6I

Book Trailer        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPwXOq1rvco

Research and Referencing for all Year 12 Students

During October I ran a series of workshops for all our Year 12 students entitled “Research & Referencing“. This was part of a series of sessions looking at Study Skills in general, from Time Management and Skimming and Scanning (the latter I created an activity for).

My session was in two parts.


Firstly we discussed the students favourite first ports of call – Wikipedia and Google. Many are aware of the downsides, lack of authority, reliability, volume of hits etc, but very few knew about the alternatives, – they do now!

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

I demonstrated the Oliver Homepage (our OPAC system) and showed them a quick search which found both books and (reliable & educational) websites. I also showed our links to our local library service and the British Library, from which they can, for a small fee, get their hands on out of print books that may be really useful for their studies.

I then demonstrated that from the Oliver Homepage they could gain access to the databases that the MRC subscribes to. The key ones for P16 studies being Britannica Encyclopedia; NewsBank and InfoTrac. I gave a brief demonstration for each of these and encouraged them to give them a try as their teachers will be expecting them to use a wider variety of sources than just Google and Wikipedia. The internal links within Britannica to other journal articles and the Webs Best Bits are invaluable on their own and makes a great starting point for research. Plus no-one will ever know if they use the Primary version to get a really simple definition to help them! With all of these you can save, print and email results – which is a great way of checking with your teacher that you are on the right track.

The second part of the session looked at:


I installed Plato onto our VLE back in 2008 and use this fabulous resource when teaching reference skills. I showed a few videos to introduce the concept of Plagiarism or cheating, then asked them to discuss/ answer 5 ‘Plagiarism’ questions with a partner before showing a series of clips about common plagiarism mistakes.

Collusion, Copying, Paraphrasing, and incorrect Citation.

The two most contentious of these were collusion, “but our teacher tells us to work together” and paraphrasing “doesn’t everyone do this?” and led to some interesting conversations with students (Great!).

I shared examples of good practice, and then some video clips I put together (with the aid of Plato) to demonstrate how to reference a book, journal and website. Interesting to find out that some weren’t familiar with the word ‘journal’, and that the date of access is required for websites. I advised them that before they started researching online, they create a Word document and put todays date at the top, all they then need to do is paste in any useful URLs to keep a record.

Another look at the 5 ‘plagiarism’ questions showed that some had changed their minds and answers. When going through the answers the question that sparked the biggest debate was about the copyright symbol not being essential for the ‘work’ (photo, article,video etc) to be protected. During one session we also had a discussion about using Creative Commons.

So I sent them off into the big bad wide world of research and information overload, with a reminder that at any point over the next two years they can come back and ask for a reminder “about that newspaper database you showed us….”, or for guidance about references.

I can only hope that this has helped solve the problem of when I have worked with Year 13 groups who complain that they “should have been shown this at the start of Year 12”. Well this year they have been!

A-Z of Internet Tools and Techniques: Letter D

So here we are with Letter D of the tools and techniques which you can use to get the most out of the Internet.

D stands for….

Distant learners

Distant learners are commonly found in further and higher education and farely rare in schools. However the introduction and prolification of VLE’s (Virtual Learning Environments) and personalised learning are making the concept more common.

VLEs are online platforms for delivering learning resources via the web, allowing students at home or at college and distance learners to make use of the same materials. VLEs include tools for communication, assessment, course management and recording results. Using a Virtual Learning Environment, educators can create online courses with rich interaction.

Make the most of the TDAc VLE, use your class site, check your homework tasks and remember to use the Oliver Homepage when doing research or planning assignements.

Bibliography Scott, Elspeth. (2009). All kinds of e-verything. School Librarian. 57

Wikipedia and Bias

Here is a very short video I put together about Wikipedia turning 10 earlier this year (2011) and how you have to read for bias.

In many cases no-one knows who puts the information onto Wikipedia as the video says it could be a professor, a mad professor or a mad man.

So if you do choose to start your research by looking at Wikipedia then do remember to check all the information in other reliable sources – like Britannica Encyclopedia – which you can gain access to via the Oliver Homepage – either through the VLE or check out the quick link on this page!