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A Backyard Space for Play and Learning (and Reading)

We’ve been spending quality time in our backyard lately, and I thought I might share this little corner of our home with you.The arrival of spring always instils a fresh new love for our backyard, but since bringing Ike home after an 8-day stay at the Royal Children’s Hospital, the kids have just delighted in [...]

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WHERE HAVE ALL THE BOOKSHOPS GONE?-My Favourite Online Bookstores.

Sponsored by StarTrack

There are still quite a few incredible bookshops peppered around Melbourne but sadly there aren’t any close to me. I have to travel at least 20 minutes (which usually means I have to schedule in a day-trip with the kids) to visit a bookstore run by passionate booklovers that stocks beautiful Australian literature.

When I can’t fit in a trip to one of these wonderful bookstores, I turn to some trusty and equally wonderful online book retailers, and I’m proud to say they are local Australian businesses.

Online bookshopping

DID YOU KNOW? Australians spent a record $16.6 billion online in the past year, but sadly the majority of online book sales are being placed through overseas online retailers. Between September 2013 and September 2014, e-books and books were two of only six items more commonly purchased from overseas online retailers than from local ones (Source: Roy Morgan Research)

I can’t even begin to tell you how heartbreaking that is to read, especially because I know and have met such wonderful Australian online retailers in the past six years.  There are some small, local online book retailers doing extraordinary things. They may not be able to provide the discounts that the large overseas booksellers can offer, but they give their customer service a run for their money.

Startrack Online Retail Industry Awards

Which is why I was excited to hear that the StarTrack Online Retail Industry Awards (ORIAs) have launched a brand new award category in 2015:  the StarTrack ORIAS People’s Choice Award , allowing Australians to nominate and vote for their favourite online store.

The StarTrack ORIAS have celebrated excellence in Australia’s online shopping industry since 2010 but with the new StarTrack ORIAS People’s Choice Award, all Australian online shops are eligible regardless of size or experience which means small online shops can go head-to-head with the big guys with an equal chance of winning.  It’s not only about sales but the extraordinary experience they provide that keeps customers coming back for more.

So I’m calling on all of my wonderful readers who support and purchase from local online book retailers. Let’s nominate our favourite Australian online bookstores for this award. Let’s tell Australians why we keep returning to these local online booksellers even though we could buy books more cheaply from larger overseas competitors. Let’s put these little online bookstores in the spotlight and share them with the rest of Australia. You could even win one of ten $1,000 gift cards (T&Cs apply). Voting closes 1 June.

I’ll start by sharing a handful of my favourite Australian online booksellers. The Kids’ Bookshop, Story Mama, The Itty Bitty Book Van and The Little Bookroom get my vote. Operating from small premises and with small staff, they are booksellers with extensive knowledge and a fierce passion for quality literature.

In a world of faceless retail transactions, they work hard to connect in real life with their customers. They provide helpful, friendly, personalised and a speedy online service (and free gift-wrapping) and contribute to literacy-based charities and organisations.  More impressively, they enjoy organising and attending pop-up literature festivals, information nights, book launches, story times and books swaps.

Is there another Australian online bookstore where you purchase your books? Be sure to let me know in a comment below and don’t forget to visit the StarTrack ORIAs website today to vote for your favourite online retailer for this year’s StarTrack ORIAS People’s Choice Award.

Coordinated by Nuffnang. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

5 Ways Technology has Changed the Prep Classroom Since 1984

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5 Ways Technology has Changed the Classroom since 1984- A reflection by My Little Bookcase

In 1984, at just 4 years of age (so tiny!), I started MY first year of school. I wore an over-sized school dress and lop-sided pigtails, I got to know a whole class of strangers I had NEVER met before and I learned how to read within a Whole Language curriculum.


So Cammy is back to school this week after a successful first term of school. Enthusiastic and eager about starting school, she spent last term asking me countless questions about my own school experience. It has been fun to reminisce and compare our experiences. I’m really quite surprised by how much the classroom has changed in 31 years.

First Day of School 2015. My Little Bookcase recounts changes in Prep classrooms since 1984

Delayed school-starting ages, transition programs, nurturing buddy systems and individual learning plans are changes I’m excited to see taking place. I’m also excited by the various technologies that have been introduced to schools and classrooms.

1. Interactive Whiteboards

My Prep teacher was incredibly talented when given a piece of chalk and a blackboard. She possessed skills teachers no longer need to master; just as students no longer need to master the skill of cleaning the blackboard duster. Nor do students need to crowd around the teacher trying to glimpse just a small section of the book she is reading to the class.

Instead many Australian children are blessed to have an interactive whiteboard installed in their classroom, allowing resources to be shared much more easily in whole-class sessions. Interactive whiteboards can be used in such a wide range of ways, but mostly I love that they invite children to actively and physically interact with and manipulate the information that is being presented to them.   No longer do they need to be passive learners.

And aren’t we all better off without having to listen to the teacher’s nail screech down the blackboard when the chalk has become too short?

2. iPads

The closest thing I had to an iPad when I was in Prep was a small blackboard slate that I’d sit on my lap when writing or drawing (or maybe it was the contact-covered milk carton that housed my personal weekly words). Even just seven years ago, when I was still teaching, students only had two or three computers to share between a class of 25-30 children.

iPads are so much more dynamic than blackline masters. Like the interactive whiteboard, iPads have such a variety of uses but because many schools have a good student-iPad ratio and because they are small, portable and easy to use their use can be planned or spontaneous. They give children the chance to consolidate what they have experienced on the interactive whiteboard as a class; they allow learning and tasks to be catered to individual children and they allow children to learn at their own pace rather than trying to keep up in group situations.

3. Social Media

Social media has such a bad reputation, but it can be a rich learning tool. I think wonderful things are happening in classrooms because teachers are inspired by what they see on blogs and platforms such as Pinterest. Teachers are able to network with educators all over the world with the help of Twitter, Facebook and Google +, and I have no doubt that our children benefit from this.

Students can have authentic learning experiences with social media too. Setting up and maintaining class blogs and Twitter accounts teaches them first-hand the importance of cyber-safety under the supervision of their teacher. It is also a great way to record and reflect on learning.

4. Communication

Newsletters have been online for quite some time now, but email is becoming a preferred method of communication for teachers. While it certainly doesn’t replace a face-to-face chat, I absolutely love the use of email to communicate with Cammy’s teacher. I can shoot through an email to Cammy’s teacher with the most trivial of questions and not have to feel guilty that I’ve wasted her time. What’s even better is that I always receive a prompt reply by the end of the day.

What I really wish we were using when I was teaching (and I’m sure with five children, my Mum would have liked this 31 years ago too) is the facility to get online to book your child’s parent/teacher interview. What a lot of headaches this software is no doubt saving.

5. Online Lunch Orders

Okay, so maybe I’m not too happy about this change. I wish Cammy could experience the independence and pride that comes with writing her lunch order on a brown-paper bag, the concentration needed to calculate the order correctly and the mad rush of rummaging through mum’s purse to find the correct change. But, times have changed and I’m sure there are many new skills Cammy can learn from ordering her lunch online. It may also help because I actually very rarely have loose change in my purse.

Finding the right school

31 years ago, families rarely looked beyond their local school; now it is the norm to look a little further from home to find the right school. Cammy doesn’t attend our closest school as it didn’t seem like the right fit for her. In today’s society, parents have a huge array of choice when it comes to schools for their children, and with that comes an element of stress.
Rather than assisting only children, technology can help the whole family when it comes to education. School Places is an online website that can help, especially for families who are looking to find the right private school for their child. The website is designed to make the process easier, faster and less stressful.

I’d love to hear about your own school reflections. What nostalgic memories do you have of school? What new and exciting (or weird) changes have you seen in your child’s classroom?

About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase

This post is part of a Nuffnang advertising series.