I went for a routine blood test last Thursday.

This pathology clinic is usually a busy place, so a ‘take a number’ card system is in place to ensure that an orderly ‘first in first served’ process transpires.  People who don’t know each other in waiting rooms tend to sit apart from each other and most often wait in silence.

Two others, around my age, were already seated in the waiting room.  They sat a few chairs apart, so it was apparent they had not come in together.  A third person, a young woman perhaps in her very early 20’s, sat on the other side of the waiting room.  So my guess was that the three women did not know each other.  As I took my number card and sat down, I looked over at this young woman and saw that she had a bunch of number cards in her hand.  I couldn’t think why and was unable to make sense of the few words she was in the middle of exchanging with the two older women already seated in the waiting room.

Realization dawned on me as a minute later the young woman took out her mobile phone and asked, in a loud annoyed voice “Where are you? Others are in the waiting room and you aren’t here yet!”

Soon after, a stream of young, unkempt men and women entered – no barged would be a better word – one by one.  The sassy queue holder, the first young woman in the waiting room, set the tone by calling out to each of those entering the waiting room. Shouting, rather than talking, they exchanged short quips with each other in language most would consider more appropriate to a back yard party attended by those who knew each other intimately.

In between the entry of this mob, an older couple came in, took their number and quietly sat down.  Soon after, an older gentleman also came in. Then a mother and daughter.  Within a short time, more than a dozen of us sat in the waiting room.  Those of us not in ‘the group’ sat in silence watching but not commenting as these young people swore and shouted at each other – not just inappropriately, but about inappropriate topics – or talked to unseen voices on the other end of their mobile phones, as they stomped around the waiting room,  as they loudly crunched on apples, chips and other food, and as they trudged in and out of the door which was adjacent to the outside street to puff on e-cigarettes.

I felt mortified watching and hearing them.  A brief eye connect with one of the older women said she felt the same.

Finally, after what seemed like a very long time, they were gone.  My number was called next.

Polite chat with the male nurse attending me transpired.  He asked me if I had a busy day lined up.  As you do, I replied with scant details and finished with a comment that his workload for the day seemed heavy.  Looking up at me, I was surprised to hear him quietly whisper to me that he did not like the young people that come by in the morning.  Of course, intrigued, I asked for clarification.  Clearly I am very naive as his response shocked me.  These young people were all on drugs he told me. They are required to attend the pathology clinic so they can get clearance for their Centrelink payment – their Australian social security payments.  Still bemused, he spelled it out for me.  They had to present for a urine test.  Because they would ‘cheat’ he was required to watch them pass their sample so he could verify that the urine sample was in fact theirs.  He hated having to deal with them he quietly and sadly confided to me.

I was left speechless.

For days afterwards I’ve mulled over this whole experience.  The young people who came into the pathology clinic may have been no more than two or three years out of school.  And here they were, on drugs, unemployed, living a life supported by workers’ taxes.  The way they dressed, spoke and acted certainly didn’t place them into the category of needing social security payments to get by.  While they were unkempt, they looked reasonably clean and were dressed fashionably, kitted out with more than respectable footwear.  They seemed healthy and when overheard speaking to the attending nurse on a one-to-one basis, they spoke politely and seemed well educated.  It struck me that they were quite similar to those students in the back of many a high school classroom, the ones who rejected authority, thought they knew it all, refused to comply,  think most of what adults have to say is of no relevance to them – those who have scant regard for the world around them and instead put ‘me’ before all else.

What’s gone wrong?  Why are they living this lifestyle?  How can they think their behaviour is justified, correct, acceptable?  How can they imagine it their right to drift through life being supported by others?  How can they be so rude and disrespectful to those around them in a public space?

These young people were in school not so long ago, schools that most probably were very similar to the one in which I teach.   What did we do wrong?  What didn‘t we teach them?  What could we teachers have done differently to ensure they left the gates of our schools more independent, more responsible, more respectful, more aware and caring for those around them?

It’s obvious I’m not a Millennium nor am I of the X or Y generation.  When I grew up, good manners and appropriate behaviour in public were instilled in me.  Whether I agreed or disagreed with opinions expressed, respecting elders was and is the norm.  Taking responsibility for my own actions and destiny wasn’t a thought that surfaced.  I’m not meaning to sound as though I’m a ‘goody two shoes’.  I’m not perfect.  Nor are and were all my peers back then.  But the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in public wasn’t, I think, so blatantly and easily crossed.

Despite these young people most probably being of the Gen Z generation, shouldn’t some of yesteryear’s societal rules and expectations be a part  of their education?

Tell me if I am totally out of touch and have delusional expectations of how young people should be behaving.

Something is amiss.

Maybe this is why our curriculum is being required to incorporate new programs such as ’emotional  intelligence’ in which students are taught the kind of skills that used to be picked up incidentally in their homes or just out in public.  I guess this is a slippery slope kind of question, but do students need to be taught these skills at school or do parents need to be taught how to successfully parent?

Yes – I know.  Times have changed.  Society has shifted.  Social mores have altered and evolved.  Technology has had its impact on what we do and how we do it.

But – does this mean such a dramatic shift in how we relate to each other and that we now need to be taught how to do what used to be basic social behaviour?

Clearly it must.

The next day I was indulging in a secret passion of mine – browsing through the myriad of goods in a stationery store.  With avid amusement I leafed through this Kikki K book: Go Offline and Be Inspired which lists 135 ways, in case we’d forgotten, on how to get more out of life by just living the minute and connecting directly with each other.  Having been swept up into this new century with all the excitement that technology has to offer, many of the tips for better living spoke loud and clear to me!

Then I came home to relax with the morning paper.  Suzanne Carbone’s article Cafes put a lid on customers ordering coffee while on their mobile phone (The Age, February 5, 2016) hit me fair and square in the face!  Cafe owners are rebelling against the anti-social behaviour of some of their patrons who talk on their mobiles while ordering their coffee.  It wasn’t surprising to see this article screened on that night’s TV news report.

Lack of engagement

Where are we headed?  Where is society heading?

I’m left feeling a little sad.



Three years ago I wrote a heartfelt post – It’s disturbing: Entry ATAR score for teaching drops – in which I lamented the diabolical implications and ramifications of the continued drop in ATAR scores needed by graduating  high school students to enter the teaching profession.  In short, I lamented

  • that students are being short changed
  • that top calibre candidates are not entering teaching
  • that teaching is not regarded as an attractive profession
  • that the best high school graduates are not being attracted to teaching

How much more disturbing it is to read the stats outlined in a recent article: Government considers plan for teachers to make the grade (The Age. January 18, 2016) in which the entry ATAR scores needed for Victoria’s largest and most popular teaching courses have continued to decline!

As reported in this article

In 2009, the largest Victorian teaching courses required an ATAR of about 75, but by 2016 a score of 60 was typically enough to secure a first-round place.”

Teacher’s don’t need top grades


With a sigh of relief, it is encouraging to read that action may finally be about to occur:

Aspiring teachers who receive poor VCE results could be barred from Victorian classrooms under a proposal being considered by the state government.”

Establishing minimum academic standards for entry into undergraduate teaching degrees would be a welcome shift.

Why is it though, that the wheels of change move so slowly?

Facebook Privacy Basics

Being mindful of what we post on Facebook goes without saying.

Aunty Acid - Think before you post

Being familiar with the ins and outs of using Facebook and its various settings is, however, something that many of us know little about.

So when I logged into Facebook the other day, I was blown away to see an invitation to better learn how to use Facebook.   The teacher in me shot to attention as I quickly started paging through the simple, clear statements listed in this presentation and realized that this would make a great learning tool that could be used in the classroom or in our library sessions.

You're in charge

It’s an awesome presentation and reminds me that for all of us our learning journey is indeed never ending!

And with this discovery, another year draws to an end.  Desks have been cleared, bags laden with books to read have been packed and we head out the door at this end of the world for our summer break in which we aim to pause, reflect and re-charge our batteries before the start of the next busy year.

Warm greetings to you all for a safe, happy and rest filled break.

Whether participating as a reader or a writer of blogs, engagement with the Blogoshphere provides an opportunity to learn, explore and discover the knowledge, opinions and thoughts of others.  It is an exciting and vibrant world which invites readers and writers to freely express and explore an enormous range of topics.

Having the opportunity to tease out the various aspects of blogging – how to blog and what can be gained from blogging – is an opportunity that was extended to me by the Australian publication Education Technology Solutions and is the fifth and final article in a series about lifelong learning which I have written for this magazine over the last twelve months.

Aiming to provide concrete suggestions for the novice blogger to help get started as well as providing thoughts and ideas of the benefits to be gained by engaging in the Blogosphere. Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!  has just been published in Education Technology Solutions – Issue 69, December/January 2016.

ABSTRACT: Blogging is a powerful way to determine our own growth and development. By pursuing topics of personal interest, by considering the words and thoughts of others, by writing reflective and informative posts, a rich, supportive network is built. Engagement with the Blogosphere enables educators to enhance their own skills, knowledge and experience and in the process define their own path of lifelong learning.

Also published on the Educational Technology Solutions website, I’m pleased to also be able to share my article here:

Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!

pic-1By Bev Novak.

Blogging is a powerful way to learn, explore and discover.

Replete with an infinite source of information on a limitless number of topics, the blogosphere is a perfect location for educators to create and direct their own learning path. That which is learned from either reading or writing blog posts expands both their knowledge and their thinking. By posting comments on blog posts, it is possible to engage in a form of social networking that is distinct and different from other social networking platforms. Connecting with those who write blogs or with those who read their blogs is exciting, stimulating and inspirational.

Ever keen to pick up new skills, I was really excited to receive advice via one of our online library associations that an innovative program called 12 Apps of Christmas would be run commencing December 1st this year.

12appsofChristmasmas logoAimed to personalize learning, both students or educators are able to pick up tips on how to become more fulfilled independent, self directed learners by exploring apps on either smartphones or tablet devices.  Over 12 week days starting on December 1st this year, 12 helfpul app gifts will be available to unwrap and explore.

To get involved just download the App: 12AppsDIT from the App Store and view it on either your smartphone or smart tablet or log onto the webiste: 12 Apps of Christmas to more fully explore.  By registering, both students and educators will be able to explore all that can be gained from this innovative learning program.    A bonus for educators will be a page detailing how students can utilize these apps to enhance their learning.

Check out this video to learn more about this innovative learning program.

Last week I focused on my own foray with online reading and reflected on the massive changes that have unconsciously and slowly crept into my online reading routines.  My reflection on this prompted the realization that we really need to tease out skills involved in online reading so that we can be sure we are helping our students master these necessary skills.

Debunking the assumption that students in our schools instinctively know how to successfully engage with online reading is essential at the outset.

Being tech savvy, which many of our students are, does not mean they know how to successfully extract information from the wide diversity of websites they are likely to encounter in our increasingly online world.  Like all aspects of education, skills need to be taught and learned.  Remember those left right eye coordination activities given to young pre-school aged children?  Perhaps it’s time to develop similar activities that incorporate skills pertinent to online reading and establish for this young age group a set of foundation skills which will see them better engage with our online world.

As students progress through our schools though, cross curricula kinds of activities should become part and parcel of various classroom experiences:

  • Exposure: Constant and regular exposure to a wide range of online reading sources is important to enable students to develop familiarity.  If online reading activities focus more on one kind at the expense of another, they will not develop necessary skills.  Expose students to online reading for pleasure, interest and information which can be found in short stories, newspaper articles and Wikipedia posts.  Ensure that online reading incorporates a range of media such as text, graphics, pictures, video and audio such as that found in blogs, magazines, encyclopaedias and newspapers.
  • Format: Rather than assuming students have an innate understanding of how to ‘read’ various online sources, discuss and highlight techniques which can be applied to different kinds of pages as well as aspects included wtihin them:
    • learn to see the gestalt of a webpage so as to instinctively know how to tackle reading it
    • explore what is incorporated in header and footers of webpages
    • size up a webpage so as to determine skills needed: one column requires top down scanning; many columns requires side to side scanning while moving from top to bottom;
    • scan web page headings and the first sentence of paragraphs to give an indication of content
    • focus on the entire website content before succumbing to the urge to check out embedded links
  • Expectation: Increased familiarity with a range of different online websites will enable students to predict what they may expect to find.  This expectation will, in turn, give them cues on how to approach reading the website.  In other words, the more we talk about what is being read, or having students discuss it with each other, the more ‘approach’ skills they will develop. By exploring embedded links in a structured way, students can develop a sense of when it may be of value to wander away from the reading at hand and what they can gain from this diversion.
  • Notetaking: Learning how to use various apps and programs to take notes while reading will enrich the online reading experience.  Along the way, valuable lessons can be learned in how to gather information, record sources and compile bibliographic information which may be needed if the information is to be shared.
  • Focus: Much as we encourage students to pick up a novel or magazine and read for an extended period of time, so too should we require them to read online for an extended period of time.   Those wonderful programs such as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) can easily be moved to online reading.
  • Writing:  Today there are a plethora of online tools which allow the novice to write and create websites of their own.  Learning the ‘back end’ of how a website is created or a blog written is a very effective way of learning to read online!   The mantra I constantly tell my students rings very true:  “The more you read, the more you write.”  Flipping this mantra to say “The more you write, the more you read” also holds true!

Increased expectation and improved navigation will ensure improved engagement with text.  Enabling students to successfully engage with online reading is a path to increasing the amount of online reading they choose to do rather than being required to do.

Somewhere in this amazing process, a spark may well be lit that will encourage independent online learning that may inspire a voracious hunger and thirst to learn!

Coming across a blog post a couple of weeks ago which said we’re not reading much online today, threw me a bit.  Why?

Because I’m a convert!

I knew that my habits had changed the day I searched for the online copy of an article from a hard copy magazine to which I subscribe.   I had the hard copy magazine article open on the side of my desk.  After locating the online copy, I realized just a few minutes later I was totally engrossed – online!  I actually recollect that moment, because I stopped reading and took notice of the shift that had overcome me.  That was over two years ago.

While I have no recollection of consciously or unconsciously acting on my preference for online reading, it is clear that I have indeed made the shift.  Somehow or other I have taken control of what was a shocking case of ‘wandering eyes syndrome’ in which I could feel my eyes darting around a web page having no structured approach and seeing no logical path to apply to my frequent foray into the world of online reading!

I recollect becoming exhausted and slightly frustrated trying to engage with online reading. So, what happened?  What changed?

I wish I’d taken more notice along the way, because now, when confronted with articles such as this one: How much are people reading online? which states quite emphatically that not many of us are reading online, I feel at a loss to proffer an alternate view.

What I do know though, is that now, I can, given the time, spend quite a few hours a day reading online and I do most certainly prefer reading magazines, which in their standard print version, can be several pages long.

But …..

….. my infatuation with online reading still does not encompass reading novels.   Nup.  I haven’t as yet given up on hard copy books.   While I have read a few eBooks – from proverbial cover to cover – my preference remains, as evidenced by the huge pile of books on numerous bookshelves and tables at both home and work, for the good old hard copy novel.

So what is it that has seen the transformation to my preference for online reading of magazine and newspaper articles along with various interest based articles?

  • Increased familiarity: As the years have tumbled by, I guess it is clear that my familiarity with the layout of online reading materials has increased.  While blogs differ dramatically from each other, the format of them are all quite similar.  The same goes for online magazines and newspapers where the format of many are quite similar.  The header and footer of most blogs, online magazines and newspapers seem to conform to similar ‘layout rules’.  Either that, or I have become conditioned to what they have to offer and how to search within for information.  The same applies to websites.  While there are huge differences between websites, I’ve learned, or become increasingly familiar, with their layout.
  • Ease of use: With familiarity, I’ve developed a set of expectations on how to use various formats that present themselves to me.  I’ve come to expect and appreciate the embedded definitions and explanations that regularly appear on websites. No longer do I feel that I’ve lost my train of concentration as I wander off on the random paths of discovery on which these embedded links lead me.  In fact, I’m often conscious of how incredibly engrossed I become as I traverse my journey of discovery – especially when I glance at the clock and realize that an hour or more has zipped past.
  • Interaction: Navigating online articles and posts provides a way of engaging with text which is unparalleled when reading hard copy text.  As one of those diehard ‘pencil in hand while reading’ people, I must say that online reading has liberated me quite dramatically!  Over the last ten plus years, I’ve become a paperless reader, who regularly notetakes digitally.  Online reading totally lends itself to this routine.
  • Engagement: Part of my increased familiarity and ease with online reading must be due to my increased habit of online writing.  As a blogger, I regularly engage with the kind of material I write.  Without realizing it, I’ve become living proof of the mantra I constantly share with my students:  “The more you read, the more you write”.
  • Purpose: Reading for interest or reading for information are two very different purposes of online reading.  Reading for interest implies an increased engagement with the text, whereas reading for information implies that a rigorous search in underway.  While I’m conscious that my eye movements for an information search differ to my regulated controlled reading of text, skimming is an integral part of the reading process.  Learning to skim in a methodical way when engaging with online material is as important as learning to skim hard copy material.   I’ve found that my skimming of online material has improved over time.  Rather than being aware of my eyes darting all over the website, nowadays I’m conscious of skimming from top to bottom over headings, first sentences of paragraphs, bolded words and links which break up the website as well as skimming in a more controlled way across columns and other varied, unordered features which present in many websites.

So ….. should we be teaching our students strategies to increase their ability to engage better with online reading?


I’ll save my thoughts and suggestions for next week though!


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