If you're looking for a debate over ebooks vs print books, this is not it.
I am here to venerate ebooks. I travel. I read a lot when I travel, because that's when I have the time. I'm 51, but I'm like a millennial. I want to travel light. I don't want to carry 12 books with me for 4 weeks over 3 continents, with the possibility of losing them (if they are library books) or paying for excessive luggage because of them. Like a millennial, I aspire to be a minimalist, to own as little as possible. Also, as librarian, I spend much of my working hours organising books. I don't want to do that on my off hours.
I just want to read books.
Even when I am not travelling, I love the convenience of being able to download a book without leaving the house, or the sofa for that matter, and to start reading it within minutes, even seconds. Immediate gratification is also tres millennial,no? I'm busy and I don't want to worry about returning them to avoid overdue fines. I want them cheap, or better yet FREE!
That's where you need these 2 things in the universe to meet.
1) A library membership that includes ebooks on Overdrive
2) A Kobo Aura One.
Why the Kobo Aura One?
Almost everyone has a smartphone, and most have a tablet too, so why do we need another device? Yet another screen?
Here are the advantages of the Kobo Aura One (vs Kindle/Kindle Fire/Tablet/iPad)
- It's the only non-backlit eReader that works with Overdrive. This is its biggest selling point. This means free library books that are better for your eyes. Double jackpot! No more paying for Kindle books from Amazon or searching for illegal downloads of pirated copies from obscure eastern European countries.
- It uses Carta E Ink technology, which claims to be better for your eyes and sleep patterns. It is also uses the lowest power display, which means a longer battery life compared to the usual bright backlit screens. You can further lower the power usage when you shut off the wifi.
- You can control the natural light. This means you can control the warmth of the light, not just the brightness.
- It's water resistant - for up to 60 minutes under 2 meters of water, should you drop it by accident in a pool or a bathtub or at the beach.
- It's surfing-hostile. It's in black and white, slow to upload/refresh sites, and you need to touch type VERY SLOWLY. Just try searching Google or Facebook. You will quickly lose the will to live, but this means way less distractions when you read.
- I go in phases of print vs screens, but in general I find print books cumbersome and heavy to handle. In my old age, I also like to control the font size, font style, and line spacing so it's easier (for me) to read. You can't do that with a print book.
- You don't support Amazon. You don't buy any of their Kindle ebooks. You aren't making Jeff Bezos even richer than he is.
There are occasions where I don't want a Kobo Aura One. Cookbooks, or any other books where photos play a big part of the book's content or enhance/compliment the text are far more appealing and instructive when viewed on my Kindle Fire. Many information books, such as those from the DK Eyewitness, design their ebooks with a lots of animation and visuals for educational reasons. To view those on a black and white E Ink screen would be a loss to the reader. Magazines are another source that are better viewed on a backlit screen due to their visuals and layouts. If you are a subscriber to PressReader, the online magazine and newspaper source, I would strongly recommend a backlit device.
Here's a cool video that summarises all these points, even about Amazon, or lack thereof.
Setting up Overdrive and your Library onto your Kobo Aura One
Firstly, you have to get Overdrive operating on your Kobo. After doing this, you will need to find your specific library, then login with your library membership to download your books.
When you are finished reading your book, you can remove it from the Kobo, if you want, or just leave it there so you can admire all the books you've read, and think, hey, I'm a such a keener!
Here's a short video on how to do this from the West Vancouver Public Library, but it's the same for any library that uses Overdrive, and most English-language libraries do.
Because you need to touch type slowly, I would search the library catalog of your choice on your laptop or phone, borrow it from there, then sync it to the Kobo. If you're more patient than I am, you can search, borrow, and download directly from the library on your Kobo.
Below is a video on how I search the National Library Board (NLB) of Singapore from my laptop. I am not a fan of touch typing, especially on my tiny smartphone or any tablet (I don't have one). After I borrow it on my laptop, I then go to my Kobo to sync it, and then start reading.
I want to dedicate this post to two people. One is Jane, a teacher librarian at another international school, who just bought a Kindle. She told me she wished she had talked to me first so that she would have bought the Kobo instead. As a result, here's my blog post to enlighten all those who are at the Kindle Kobo Crossroad. Ever the optimist, Jane has decided that she will be the proud owner of both the Kobo Aura One, and Kindle, just in case the library doesn't have the book she wants. Good for you Jane - the more, the merrier, when it comes to books. Variety is the spice of life - both for books and eReaders.
My husband is the second person I want to dedicate this post to. Honestly, he did all the research to find a better eReader for both of our screen-fatigued eyes. However, he prefers to read in German, his mother tongue, and the Kobo only supports Overdrive, which is mostly English language books. No worries. He bought a Tolino, which works with most, if not all, German ebooks from the public libraries in Germany. In 2017 Kobo formed an alliance with Tolino to be their technology partner. Unsurprisingly, the Kobo Aura One and the Tolino are very similar in from a technical and design POV, but there are minor differences in user functionalities.
Here's a list of other E Ink devices that work with Overdrive, including the the Kobo Aura One. Notably absent is the Kindle. This comes from Overdrive if you want to explore other ereader options that work with it.
Get a library membership, get a Kobo Aura One, and start downloading your free ebooks now. You'll start saving immediately. If you don't believe me, check out how much the Kindle version would cost you. They're not getting cheaper.
I visit Germany about 3 times a year, a week or two, each time. Specifically I visit a small village of 2,700 inhabitants, where my husband comes from. Located nearby is the town of Friesoythe. We often go there during our visits for shopping and visiting relatives.
Since last year, we also go there to renew his library membership for his online library books.
Being the perfect match for a librarian, my husband loves to read. However, since we live in Asia, non-English books can get pricey, and the selection is limited. Living in a small condo does not leave lots of room for us to store (show off?) books that we have read. Also the hot and humid climate we live in ensures that books do not have a pleasant, or long life, but one filled with mould, insects and yellowing pages. Although we have access to an outstanding, world class library system in Singapore, the books are mostly in English, with a smattering of Tamil, Malay, and Mandarin.
Unsurprisingly, reading in his mother tongue, German, appeals to him. The Goethe Institut offers a free membership to both print and online books, and the German school has an shelf outside the school library where donated print books are exchange freely. Being the ever practical and well-read German, he prefers the online books for ease of access, lack of storage concerns and lower prices. For this reason, he was really happy to find that he could get a membership for online books from the library in Friesoythe for a mere 12 euros a year.
So on a sunny, and warm Sunday in July we went off to renew his library membership, as they were open for 2 hours. The public library in Friesoythe, is located in the centre of the town, and attached to the church. The Bücherei St Marien Friesoythe, has a very informative, fun and user-friendly website that you can check out for more details.
Unfortunately, the library staff told us that they could not renew the membership, as it could only be done upon expiration. I did get to borrow a couple of book on my favourite hobby, besides reading - cooking. I even found a great book on pizzas!
As we were flying home on Wednesday, I had to return my library books by Tuesday. This time the librarian, Birgit Meyer Beylage, was there. She renewed my husband's membership for him. Another year filled with online German books! Happy husband, happy life. Hurray!
I was lucky enough to chat for half an hour with Birgit. We are both librarians. I work in Singapore, she in Germany. I work in an international school in the centre of city that defines urban density (albeit well-planned). She works in a public library in a town of 30,000 inhabitants that is collaboration between the church and state government. However, we still face the same challenges: to make our roles valid in the digital age, to provide evidence of why libraries are still needed, to cater to a variety of ages, from preschool to seniors, to blend the print with the online, to make the most use of limited space.
I was most impressed by the library, but I'll be honest. I've been visiting Friesoythe for about 17 years, and I never once set foot in this library, but I did this time. What I saw was a highly efficient use of limited space over 2 floors, a friendly space filled with natural light that welcomed a wide variety of patrons, and a summer reading program.
Most, if not all, of the free standing shelves were on wheels so that the space was flexible, and could be used for other public events to accommodate larger groups or an audience. Shelves were also designed to allow the natural light from the plethora of windows to flow through the library, with a variety of heights, depending on if it was a children or adult section. I found it had been only renovated in May 2018.
But don't be deceived by it's friendly and modern looks alone. The services offered by this library pack a real punch. Book clubs for adults and for students, and a collection of ebooks and audio books in German. Much like its English counterpart, Overdrive, you can renew and reserve books, as well as create wishlists. As we live overseas, and travel regularly, this is invaluable source of books for my husband, who prefers to read in German.
So that is the gem of a library I found in Germany. It's inspiring to know that all librarians want the same thing - a welcoming library that is appreciated and used by all ages.
Oh, and we want everything on wheels too...just saying.
I really love Canva. For someone who is creatively sterile as myself, it is a gift from the digital heavens.
For some of our leaving teachers, I offered to create their farewell cards. Although I lack any design sense, I love to get crafty when I can. Canva lets me do that.
First I created an A4 size cover to their farewell card with Canva (below right), then I was also able to create a customise cover to the the envelope for the said farewell card. I used double-sided tape and glue to fix the cover of the farewell card to some A3 construction paper I folded in half. I did the same for the envelope, hiding the school address, but leaving the school logo on the top left corner.
We also created Padlets for each teacher, where each of us could post some kind words wishing them well in their new adventures, and adding a photo. As you can see below, Padlets print out quite nicely, in a bookish format.
I really like the way that Canva and Padlet let us add our personal touch to say farewell to two generous and talented teachers who are leaving us.
The Y5s were in the final week of their STP unit of inquiry. When I asked them what they could do right now to make environmentally sustainable choices, they gave me some effective strategies that could be implemented immediately, and easily. Together, we came up with the ideas below.
The ideas written in purple were mine so students could get an idea of what I was looking for. BTW I told them I knew that I could shower in less than 3.32 minutes since I play my favourite song before I get in the shower, and it's still playing when I am finished!
Since this was the end of the UOI, they had accumulated quite some knowledge at the end of 6 weeks, in addition to their existing prior knowledge. I wanted to challenge all of this by discussing the practice of freeganism with them.
Freeganism is when people outright reject consumerism and obtain their food, and sometimes other non-perishable consumer goods, even electronics and furniture, by taking those that others that have rejected, thrown out or deemed useless. A more common, and direct, term would be "dumpster diving".
I showed students three videos.
1) A Freegan, named Daniel Tay, in Singapore who manages to lack nothing in food or goods, by taking those food items that have been thrown out by vendors or even excess food, "leftovers" essentially, from his neighbours. In some cases, he barters cooked food, For Daniel, Freeganism was the salvation to many, if not all, of his financial suffering, after he had tried many other coping strategies. He also talks about health and safety issues of Freeganism, the stigma of it from friends and family, and how he has turned his this unique lifestyle into a charitable endeavor.
2) A TedTalk by Daniel at the Singapore Polytechnic. In one year, he spends only $8.00SGD on food and $300.00SGD a month for other expenses. This is where he speaks quite eloquently, practically, and humorously, about the virtues of Freeganism in world that is obsessed with consumerism, and surviving in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Singapore. One unexpected benefit of the sharing of food, was the friendship and generosity of those in his community.
3) A Freegan tour of New York City, a city reputed for its high cost of living.
Here are those videos.
After viewing these videos, students were intrigued, inspired and puzzled by the concept of Freeganism. Some comments were:
- why is there so much wasted food that is still edible
- how can distribution be improved so that those who need food, but cannot afford it, get it
- what motivates people to become Freegans
- would we do this? Why?
I admitted that I have taken things from the recycling area of my condo, and even showed some Korean books I saved from the garbage. Not only were they high quality hardcover books, but they were related to many of our UOIs and useful to many of our Korean students who were EAL students.
Freeganism definitely gave the Y5s some food for thought.
As the Ks are studying the differences between living and non-living things, I thought yeast (living), and it's crucial role in making bread (non-living) would be an authentic connection to their daily lives. I used this recipe which I bake weekly at home. There are 3 kindergarten classes in our school.
First I showed a video on how we make yeast water (see below). We set out to trap the yeast on top of and inside the dates, as well as in the air, in a bottle of water. To prove to students that yeast is a living thing, I connected it's need for oxygen, like us, by opening the bottle of water twice a day. This is also to prevent the buildup of gas, that could explode, if left unopened for long periods.
We also fed sugar to the yeast and shook it to ensure that sugar dissolved. Again the connection to humans is that we also need food, and sometimes we also eat sugar.
We left the yeast water for 5 days so that the students could see the visual difference as the yeast grew inside.
Last year, I baked bread with instant yeast with the Ks, but to emphasise how yeast is a living thing that needs to be fed, to breathe and to be shaken, I thought yeast water would demonstrate this more effectively. It took time for yeast to grow, about 5 days. The students could see and smell this. You can see how the yeast developed in the photos above.
It took about a week to do this:
Yeast water - 5 days
Starter dough (ferment in fridge overnight) - 1 day
Bread dough (ferment in fridge overnight) - 1 day
Bake bread, cool and serve - 1/2 a day
If you do this, remember to take the yeast water home over the weekend to avoid an exploding bottle. To make it easier, you could also make the starter dough at home, and then bring it to school to make the final dough.
Our baked loaf looked fabulous, but due to the oven at school, I found the inside of the bread a bit dense, though it was thoroughly baked, as indicated by the absence of any residue when I cut the bread.
The Ks loved eating the bread, gained confidence with their baking skills, and maybe even learned a thing or two about living and non-living things.
Using their existing knowledge from what the Y3s have been learning so far on story writing, I planned a 6 word story lesson based the famous bet given to Ernest Hemingway.
I selected several colourful and detail-rich illustrations from the wordless picture book, Journey by Aaron Becker. Then I added spaces and lines for the students to add the final draft of their 6 word story.
Before doing any writing, I wanted students to understand the difference between just describing a picture, and how to go beyond it, to see the story behind the picture. For this reason, we did a Venn Diagram of Description vs Imagination. The students' responses are below.
I made sure that students did not have the same picture as the person next to them.
- They were then instructed to do no writing until told to do
- Look at their partner's picture and say what they think is the story (2 mins)
- Write 3-4 draft 6 word story on the back of the sheet (10-15 mins)
- The teacher or myself could choose the best one of the drafts
- They write the chosen 6 word story on the front page with the illustrations
As the students worked, I walked around the class encouraging, helping and guiding students, as well ensuring that they were on task. I shared some of the entertaining creativity that some of these Y3s mustered up in a very short time.
In less than half an hour, the Y3 created some very imaginative 6 word tales.
Students using Google Scholar for their academic research are in for a rude awakening. Google Scholar does not vet (eg verify their sources, not peer/scholar-review, etc) their "scholarly" articles. It could be totally bogus research. Bolding and underlining are mine, not the NYT.
"...but Google Scholar does not vet the journals it indexes. The journals are giving rise to a wider ecosystem of pseudo science. For the academic who wants to add credentials to a résumé, for instance, publishers also hold meetings where, for a hefty fee, you can be listed as a presenter — whether you actually attend the meeting or not" (Kolata). Reading the whole article, it's obvious that there are many ways to "pad" your resume with fake academic accolades.
Fake news has, unsurprisingly, permeated into fake research articles.
This underscores the need for cross-referencing your sources, and using REAL databases, such as JSTOR, EbscoHost and ProQuest. Our school has a school membership with the National Library Board, and this includes access to over 101 authoritative and specialised databases and ebooks. Access is possible 24/7 for most of these sources.
Furthermore, it is really obvious to me as a supervisor, both Extended Essay (EE) and Personal Project, when students have searched Google Scholar and read only the abstract. There is an absence of in-depth knowledge of the article, both in the EE when it is cited in-text, and when I verbally asked them for further details.
Academic rigour and variety of sources is required to fulfil the 12 marks for Criterion C for Critical Thinking (Research) and 6 marks for Criterion E: Engagement (Research Focus), That's a total of 18 marks out of 34, 53% of the total marks possible. See the assessment overview table below.
Students will need to click more than 2 times to find the appropriate and relevant sources.
International Baccalaureate Organization.”Assessment: Overview.” Guide Extended Essay. International Baccalaureate Organization, Oct 2017b, .https://ibpublishing.ibo.org/extendedessay/apps/dpapp/tsm.html?doc=d_0_eeyyy_gui_1602_1_e&part=2&chapter=2&query=abstract#N1_3_7_2_4_4_6_3_3_1. Accessed on Nov 4 2017.
Kolata, Gina. "Science: Many Academics Are Eager to Publish in Worthless Journals". New York Times. New York Times, Oct 30 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/science/predatory-journals-academics.html. Accessed on Nov 2 2017.
PebbleGo is an online database for the early years, and this is the first year the school is subscribing to it.
To connect it to the current Y2 about jobs in the community, I had students work in groups of 3-4. Students shared one iPad and were assigned a job and had to research it. As they worked together, they wrote down key points on mini-whiteboards.
There are several advantages to PebbleGo:
- students are introduced to databases at an early age and learn that there is an online alternative to the Internet
- it is very focused on specific topics that are relevant to the early years, regardless of the curriculum
- it is fact-based which is the basis of inquiry-based learning and suited to this age level
- there is an audio component to every article and subject headings. This helps both native and EAL students to learn words from linking the pronunciation to the written word and visuals. For example, it was evident after this task that many Y2s did not know the word veterinarians, or did not know it was the full version of vet.
Students were engaged with searching in PebbleGo, and collaborated well with each other in collecting and sharing information.
Here is a video to give you a visual on this lesson.
The last week was Curriculum Enhancement Week (CEW) in the secondary school, but some students did not participate. From them, I had four students who did not and offered to help me in the library. For some time now, I have been toying with the idea of identifying every picture book, and eventually I hope, chapter then nonfiction books by the IB Learner Profiles and Attitudes (IBLPAs).
First, I sat with the students as we went through some picture books and reviewed the traits of both IBLPAs, and how to see evidence of them in the books. I also had a last option, " This is just a great picture book", because, hey, sometimes a book is just FUN to read and we don't have to learn anything from it.
After we did this a couple of times so that I knew we were all the same page, I let the students do it on their own. Each time a book was done, a sticker was stuck to the inside front cover of the book. The purpose of this was so that teachers or students who are just browsing can see right away, without a computer, what IBLPAs are in each book. This fosters spontaneity and serendipity in browsing the books, as well helping those who don't want to search the online library catalog, a way to search manually for IBLPAs.
Then I created a Google Doc with all the IBLPAs. This was so that students could cut and paste the relevant ones into the subject headings of each book without errors and more consistency.
I then created a short video for the students to follow. Instructional videos seem to engage students and adults more, as we all become more visual learners. Also since they will not finish all the books in one week, it is likely I will have to train other students to do the same task, and perhaps even some parent volunteers. For this reason, I decided to make a short video.
I gave students administrator access to the catalog. This was because they needed to edit library records and I wanted to track which individual student for accountability reasons. After doing a couple of books, I checked in with the students to make sure they were doing it correctly, which they were.
Although they did not finish, I will get two more Y11 students who will come in weekly to help complete this task, as well as two parent volunteers. I hope to finish at least the picture book section by the end of the school year.
Our collection of library books for the primary mathematics is growing and we are ordering more for next semester. To make sure that teachers are aware of them and can find them, I made this instructional videos for teachers. I will also share it with students, Y3 to Y6, and parents.
To ensure teachers are aware of this video, I've added it to the Daily Communication that all Primary staff are expected to read on a daily basis to avoid a constant deluge of emails.
Ms. Dawson's Y4 Class also did reviews of many of our new primary books on mathematics. They were all collected in a Padlet where you can read these reviews.