Celebrating Earth Hour – How we can help improve the health of coastal landscapes

In the lead-up to Earth Hour on 24 March 2018, it is important to explore the ways that young people can help care for their environment.

This excerpt from Oxford Big Ideas Geography 8 provides an inspiring insight into how damaged coastal landscapes and fauna are being rejuvenated, and how young people can get involved through organisations and programs such as Coastcare, Teach Wild and Ocean Care Australia.

Caring for coastal landscapes

Many human activities are changing coastal landscapes in negative ways.  Some of these changes (such as the building of new ports or holiday resorts) are deliberate, but many are accidental. A line of litter (such as fishing nets, plastic bottles and household rubbish) can be seen along the high tide mark of some beaches. The fragile vegetation on sand dunes is sometimes trampled and destroyed by thoughtless beach-goers; without the small bushes and trees that hold the dunes together, the wind blows sand further inland. Beaches are eroding, water quality is declining because of pollution and, in many places, coastal animals and plants are endangered by human activities.

Recognising that these threats exist, many people and organisations are working to preserve and protect our coastlines: from large global programs to individual volunteers who donate their time and energy. One such organisation is Coastcare, whose 60,000 volunteer members identify environmental problems in local coastal regions and work to solve those problems. Coastcare volunteers remove invasive weeds, litter and trampled plants from dune areas, and they plant new vegetation to anchor the dunes and keep the sand from blowing away.

Another organisation, Ocean Care Australia, is part of a global network that helps school and community groups to clean litter from coasts as part of an ‘adopt-a-beach’ program. Many schools, particularly those in coastal areas, have become involved in initiatives such as this.

Governments and large organisations have recognised the vital role that schools can play in educating young people about coastal issues. The Teach Wild program is just one of these. A partnership between the Australian Government (through CSIRO), Shell and Earthwatch Australia, this program enlists the help of school students to monitor the health of coastal ecosystems. As part of this program, school students collect and map debris (such as bottles, nets and other litter) found along the coast.

Case study: saving the Fairy Tern

Many plants and animals that live in the coastal environment are under threat from human activities. One bird that is considered to be at risk of extinction in Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia is the Fairy Tern. There are about 5000 Fairy Terns in Australia. About half of these live in Western Australia; the rest are found in a few smaller colonies, primarily in South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales. Fairy Terns lay their eggs and raise their chicks in open nests in sand dunes, without cover from grasses and bushes. This makes them especially vulnerable to attack from introduced predators, such as wild foxes and domestic cats and dogs. The other major threat comes from four-wheel-drive vehicles, which disturb nesting pairs and destroy nests by driving straight over them.

Those The terns that nest in national parks, however, have a helping hand. The managers of national parks can make and enforce clear rules about visitor behaviour. Restrictions on where people can go, and what they can and cannot do, are designed to protect the environment and to make the area safe for terns. In Coffin Bay National Park in South Australia, for example, Fairy Tern nesting sites have been fenced off and all vehicles are banned from these areas. Dogs are forbidden and fox numbers are kept under control through the use of poison baits. The numbers of birds are monitored by park rangers and by volunteer groups, such as Friends of Parks. These measures have seen the numbers of Fairy Terns in Coffin Bay stabilise. Rangers hope they will soon increase.


Earth Hour 2018: The real cost of your mobile phone

The advantages and disadvantages of mobile phones on the health of users is often discussed and debated. In some ways, they have improved our lives and health, while in others, they have caused new social problems.

However, according to Oxford Insight Geography 5, mobile phones also make an impact on the environment.

When exploring the ways in which the environment is changing, it is important to look not only at the effects of these changes but also their causes. For example, when investigating declines in fish populations, geographers look for causes such as increases in world population, pollution levels and changing consumption patterns. Similarly, when looking at the environmental changes brought about by industry and mining around the world, geographers need to explore a range of possible causes. One of the main factors driving the growth in mining and production is increased demand for electronic consumer goods such as mobile phones. Current estimates put the number of mobile phone subscribers around the world at about seven billion. This number has increased significantly over the past decade. The raw materials used in the production of mobile phones come from different locations around the world. Dramatic increases in demand for these materials have created serious environmental problems in a number of locations.


Plastics are a by-product of refining oil. Oil is usually found in the earth’s crust and is accessed by drilling into the crust, either on land or on the seabed. There are significant environmental risks associated with mining and using oil. These range from the potential for oil spills at the mine site to the greenhouse gases produced when oil is used for fuel. Many plastics are hard to dispose of and take thousands of years to break down. Since the 1950s, more than a billion tonnes of plastic have been discarded around the world.



Because copper conducts electrical signals, it is used a great deal in electronic devices. Copper is mined in many places around the world. Chile’s Escondida copper mine is the world’s largest. The mine is essentially two giant pits dug into the desert floor. Waste rock is left in piles called tailings and copper is transported in pipes 180 kilometres to the coast. Like many large mines, Escondida is located in the desert. This creates problems for the mining operators who need water for their mining operation and their workers. A desalination plant is being built on the coast to provide this water. The water will be piped to the mine.


Coltan is a mineral ore, high in iron, that is used in mobile phones as well as video-game players and some computers. Australia is the world’s largest supplier of coltan. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Africa is another large supplier. To reach the coltan in the DRC, miners have stripped away rainforest, including the rainforest in national parks. The roads they have cut through the rainforest to reach the mines are also used by local people to hunt wild animals for food. One of the animals hunted by locals for meat in the rainforest is the gorilla. The western lowland gorilla is now a critically endangered animal and has all but vanished from the rainforests of the DRC.


Insight Geography 5

5 ways to gain the confidence to teach technology in the primary classroom

Gone are the days of a blackboard at the front of a classroom and a noisy printer connected to a bulky computer up the back. In today’s classrooms, from the age of six, students are using robots to learn about problem-solving, coding and programming

But how do teachers cope with new technologies increasingly being used in the classroom?

Berwick Fields Primary School classroom and technology teacher Anita Green has embraced the use of robots and other new technologies at the school, providing students access to a range of technologies, from iPads and laptops to programmable robots. Younger students, from Foundation to Grade 2, can borrow Bee-Bots for coding, while other technologies used by students include Edison robots, Chromebooks and Lego Mindstorms.

However, Anita admits that one barrier to the introduction and optimal use of technology in the classroom can be a lack of confidence among teachers, who might not be familiar with the newest technologies or feel intimidated by the knowledge of the students.

Drawing on her own experience of ‘upskilling’ – from her role as a classroom teacher and maths specialist to a role teaching technology and robotics – Anita has the following tips for those looking to build their technology knowledge and skills:

  1. Sign up for professional development. I am enrolled in a two-day course later in the year and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
  2. Learn from your colleagues. I know there are various teachers in the school who know a lot about technology and are almost experts in robotics.  They have been amazing and shared their wealth of knowledge with me as well as forwarding on a range of documents and lessons to help me.
  3. Join a Digitech group. I have joined the local ‘Digitech’ group, which is a network of local schools that hosts meetings once or twice a term to talk about technology in their school.  Even if you can’t attend all the meetings, being on the mailing list is helpful.
  4. Do your research. I have purchased a few books on teaching technology that were recommended to me by others. I also use Google (or Pinterest!) to search for good ideas, and when I find a useful site (or I am recommended one). I tend to subscribe so I can get their emails and see any new resources that come up.
  5. Have a play. I definitely believe in hands-on learning.  Over the Christmas holidays, I took home some Edison robots, as well as one of the Lego Mindstorms and a Chrome book, and had a play. It is the best way to learn!  The Edison robots, which have been the focus of my work this term, have several books with series of lesson plans which are so easy to follow.  They have been great!  These are available on their website.

Green said that apart from some teething issues, such as charging devices or connection problems and teacher confidence and knowledge, technology could play a vital role in the classroom, engaging students and preparing them for a digital future.

“The benefits must outweigh the practical issues because we keep persevering! Given the size of our school, we have almost full-time tech support which is really handy. And a lot of teachers are willing to learn, which is great.

“I find the students are really engaged in digital technologies. I think digital technology is important for their future so it should be in the classroom each day in some way shape or form.”

Understanding the role of motivation for for learners with dyslexia in the ELT classroom

Research suggests that learning a foreign language is a demanding task for learners with dyslexia. The difficulties that might emerge are not restricted to reading and spelling in the foreign language; other skills can be affected, such as comprehension, vocabulary and grammar acquisition, speaking, and writing.

Although emotional feelings are not the cause of dyslexia, they can have a great impact on learners’ attitudes towards foreign language learning.

This extract from the award-winning Supporting Learners with Dyslexia in the ELT Classroom focuses a key factor that can cause difficulties for learners with dyslexia in the English language classroom at an emotional level: motivation.


Motivation has been defined as ‘some kind of internal drive which pushes someone to do things in order to achieve something’ (Harmer, 2001) and is thought to be responsible for ‘why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity and how hard they are going to pursue it’ (Dörnyei, 2001, p. 8).

English is obviously a very popular language with an international status, so one might think that students, perceiving its importance for their professional and social future, should be naturally motivated to learn it. However, motivational patterns are very personal and depend on a number of factors, such as the learners’ story of success or failure at school, their personality, their perceptions about the language, their potential, the usefulness of what is being taught, etc. As Balboni (2006) points out, motivation to learn another language can be based on three things: duty, need, and pleasure.


Students learn the language just because they have to, typically because it is a mandatory subject at school. This type of motivation does not lead to actual language acquisition but rather to short-term efforts to pass tests and exams; once the goal has been reached, the motivation to learn rapidly goes away (and so does what has been temporarily memorised just to pass the test or exam).


Students learn the language because they need it for some reason—for example, because they are immigrants, they need it for their job, or they are planning to move to a country where the language is spoken. This type of motivation typically applies to young adults and adults learning English for social or professional purposes. It can lead to the development of good language skills, but it does not appear to be long-lasting; once the need has been satisfied (or, at least, so thinks the learner) this type of motivation disappears.


Students learn the language because they associate it with a positive experience. Learning another language can stimulate different kinds of pleasure, such as having new experiences, socialising, discovering something new, undertaking a challenge, systematizing knowledge, etc. This type of motivation is the only ‘internally driven’ one, so it is likely to be long-lasting and lead to the best results in terms of skills and competence. Since English is a mandatory subject in school programs all over the world, it comes as no surprise that many learners—with and without dyslexia—study it because they have to. A key factor here is the quality of their school experience; the more English is presented in an engaging way, the more motivation based on pleasure can arise. In the case of learners with dyslexia, research shows that some can have a positive attitude towards foreign languages, which they see as a way of ‘getting their own back’ by learning a new language from scratch (Daloiso, 2012).

Others may display negative attitudes; they ‘get caught in a vicious circle because, due to their problems in language learning, they lose their motivation, which then might lead to experiencing further failures’ (Kormos & Csizér, 2010). Studies in the neurobiology of learning suggest that motivation is not just ‘rational willingness’. It is, rather, connected to—and influenced by—the emotional feelings that learners experience during classroom learning; thus, the environmental context plays a pivotal role in sustaining motivation. An influential approach in the field is the stimulus appraisal theory, which has also been applied to foreign language learning (Schumann, 1997; Schumann et al., 2004) and motivational patterns shown by learners with dyslexia (Daloiso, 2012). This theory argues that all learners make evaluations of learning situations along the following five main parameters.


Learners evaluate whether the stimulus is new or whether it has been experienced previously. Novelty can be evaluated positively or negatively, depending on its connection to the other parameters; for instance, surprise tests are, of course, novel, as they are unexpected, but they can be perceived as threatening and unpleasant by learners. In the teaching of foreign languages, novelty (for example, new activities/materials/videos) is generally considered a good strategy to attract learners’ attention. However, novelty without structure might lead some learners to become confused and demotivated. This is particularly true for learners with dyslexia, who benefit from clear presentations and direct instruction (Schneider & Crombie, 2003).


Learners evaluate whether the stimulus itself is pleasant. Pleasantness is a subjective criterion, since it depends on one’s learning preferences, aptitude, and beliefs about foreign language learning. Some learners with dyslexia typically associate English language learning with duty rather than pleasure, and this contributes to higher levels of anxiety resulting from an awareness of their learning difference. It is important not only to employ strategies to reduce such anxiety but also to know the students’ learning strengths and help them associate English with their personal interests. This is true for all learners, but it becomes essential for those who experience fragile motivation, as do some learners with dyslexia.

Goal/Need significance

Learners evaluate whether the stimulus will help or hinder them in achieving their goals or needs. Learners with dyslexia might have unrealistic expectations about language learning, either in a positive or in a negative way. Some might overestimate their capabilities and ask to do all the activities with no accommodation. For instance, they might ask to read aloud in class, which could be painful for them and also boring for their classmates. It is very important to build rapport with students and explain the reasons why some activities need to be done in a certain way in order to be useful to them. This does not imply that learners should be denied the opportunity of showing that they are making an effort—and maybe progress. In the case of reading aloud, you could ask them to record themselves as they are reading aloud at home and to bring you the file so you can listen to it and give appropriate personalized feedback. Other learners might underestimate their own capabilities, especially if they have had negative experiences in foreign language learning in the past. Teachers should get across to them that there is no such thing as a ‘foreign language learning disability’ (Sparks, 2006); that dyslexia can cause some difficulties, but with appropriate accommodations students can experience success in language learning.

Coping ability

‘Coping’ refers to learners’ assessment of whether or not they are capable of dealing with a situation, for example doing an activity, assignment, or a test. As mentioned above, learners tend to overestimate or underestimate their potential, but with learners with dyslexia, sometimes there are objective reasons for them to feel they cannot cope with tasks such as spelling tests or dictations. Teachers should identify activities that might cause frustration and come up with alternatives (for example, by adapting or replacing them). However, accommodations should be accompanied by ‘empowerment’ activities, for example the explicit teaching of learning strategies to help learners improve their coping abilities and learning autonomy.

Self-esteem and relationships

Learners evaluate how engaging in a situation might affect their self- and social image. As regards their relationship with the teacher, some learners with dyslexia might become very anxious because they feel they are always being tested, so it is essential to let them know when formal testing is taking place and when the activity proposed is just for practice. In terms of their relationship with classmates, they might be reluctant to do cooperative work or activities in front of the class because they feel that their learning difference is not understood or accepted. It is therefore important to take measures to raise class awareness of dyslexia.

Supporting Learners with Dyslexia in the ELT Classroom by Michele Daloiso was announced in February 2018 as the winner of the 2017 Ben Warren Prize, a biennial prize for language teaching titles.

ELT Dyslexia

Celebrating the trailblazing female doctors and scientists of World War I

While relatively few in number, female scientists and doctors made a big impact during World War I. From testing mustard gas on their own skin to running field hospitals in the face of “indescribable filth and vermin, evil smells, no rations, no lights, a hospital full of ill and dying men”, they revealed their skill and competence in the most difficult conditions.

However, these women have largely been ignored in historical accounts, which have tended to focus on the experience of wartime manual workers, who were far more numerous and left behind more readily accessible evidence.

A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War explores the lives of some of the extraordinary women who helped pave the way for the female science and medical professionals of today.

Caroline Haslett

Caroline Haslett was just one among many thousands of young women whose lives were transformed by the First World War. Through their struggles, setbacks, and successes, they collectively influenced future generations. Her experiences illustrate how the War permanently altered scientific, medical, and technological prospects for women. A suffragette with a weak school record, she became an eminent international consultant on the domestic uses of electricity, educational reform, and industrial careers for women. She used her influence to alter the scientific careers of countless schoolgirls all over the world.

Haslett was judged a lost cause by her teachers because she never could learn how to sew a buttonhole. As a teenager, she left her Sussex village for London and—to the alarm of her strict Protestant parents—joined Emmeline Pankhurst’s suffragettes. When the War started, she was working as a clerk in a boiler factory, but during the next four years she was repeatedly promoted to replace men who had left to fight. By 1918, she was running the London office, visiting customers such as the War Office to discuss contracts, and astonishing staid civil servants with her expertise in a man’s domain. After being trained as an engineer by her enlightened employers, in 1919—still in her early twenties—Haslett began managing the newly founded Women’s Engineering Society. She was determined to consolidate and expand still further the opportunities for women that had recently opened up. Electric technology—dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, washing machines—would, she believed, free women of drudgery, liberating them to lead a higher form of life. She envisaged “a new world of mechanics, of the application of scientific methods to daily tasks . . . a great opportunity for women to free themselves from the shackles of the past and to enter into a new heritage made possible by the gifts of nature which Science has opened up to us.”

At the end of the War, three million women were working in industry. Like Haslett, some of them had the advantages of good grammar and the right sort of accent, but many were relatively uneducated—domestic servants, barmaids, and shop assistants who had seized the opportunity to escape from their menial occupations.

Martha Whiteley

The chemist Martha Whiteley graduated with a University of London degree when she was twenty-four, but, lacking either rich parents or a husband to support her, she spent the next eleven years teaching. Although no hard evidence survives of her ‘Dear Diary’ feelings about following this route, her frustration is suggested by the fact that for several years she was carrying out scientific research as well as working to earn her living. In 1903, she joined the staff at Imperial College London.

When the male lecturers went away during the War, Whiteley was put in charge of the experimental trenches and the temporary workshop installed just outside the main chemistry laboratory. Putting on one side her research into synthesizing barbiturates and other drugs, she shifted to examining gases. And there was only one way for her group to do that effectively: by testing the gases on themselves. Although they did not share the fate of other wartime chemists, who died through such self-experimentation, they went through some unpleasant experiences. Over thirty years later, in a lecture designed to inspire female students, Whiteley described how she had examined the first sample of mustard gas to be brought back to London. ‘I naturally tested this property by applying a tiny smear to my arm and for nearly three months suffered great discomfort from the widespread open wound it caused in the bend of the elbow, and of which I still carry the scar.’

Whiteley received several tributes for her wartime research. She must have felt gratified to have an explosive named after her—DW for Dr Whiteley—and also proud to be awarded an OBE. More unusually, she was celebrated in the press as ‘the woman who makes the Germans weep’ because of her research into tear gas.

Isobel Emslie

Living and dying on the edge of danger, female doctors – including many from Australia – had an enormous impact on the eastern front and its local populations. Most obviously, they rapidly acquired the surgical expertise needed for treating wounded soldiers, and countless affidavits testify to their patients’ appreciation. In addition, they ran maternity units, cared for refugees, researched into infectious diseases, and introduced preventive health programs.

In the summer of 1918, Dr Isobel Emslie successfully applied to become the commanding officer of a hospital funded by American donations and based in Ostrovo, ninety miles west of Salonika. ‘Just fancy me a C.O. at my tender years,’ she wrote proudly to her mother; ‘I should have been 20 years older & worn hob-nailed boots & flannel.’…

During the last four years, all the women had witnessed appalling devastation and misery, but nothing matched what they encountered now. As their wheels spun in axle-deep mud, they were passed by Bulgarian refugees and bewildered Serbian soldiers plodding along between piles of discarded ammunition. Never again could Emslie see a jay without shuddering to remember the birds pecking at the decaying corpses of donkeys and horses. On the fifth day, as the snow swirled around them, they knew from the stench that they had arrived. Priests mumbled the last rites as they wandered among the hundreds of injured soldiers lying on a stone floor, still in their uniforms, swarming with maggots and lice. Patients wailed continuously as surgeons operated without anaesthetics on a deal trestle table; Emslie never forgot ‘the floor swimming in blood . . . the pails crammed with arms and legs and black with flies’.

Sanitation was of paramount importance. It had become a standard joke that whenever the Brits got together in Serbia, their conversation began with lice and ended with latrines. The women immediately installed incinerators, washed the woodwork with paraffin, cleaned up the water system, and began peeling off the men’s ancient, blood-soaked bandages. Even after forcing the slightly less sick to leave, they had 450 patients suffering from wounds, dysentery, and the virulent Spanish flu that killed so many healthy young men. The housekeeper reported that Emslie looks such a young C.O., but she is most capable, and has made wonderful strides to bring order out of a colossal chaos. . . . [W]e had to tackle a Herculean task to battle with indescribable filth and vermin, evil smells, no rations, no lights, a hospital full of ill and dying men, and everyone tired out.

On top of converting an old barracks into a clean hospital, she spent much of her time in bureaucratic nagging to ensure their food supplies. And as well as all that, she found herself responsible for local civilians in villages up to fifty miles away. Most Serbian doctors were either dead from typhus, recuperating in the south of France, or opening lucrative practices in Belgrade. Constantly busy, the women had little time to ruminate on the horror. Three weeks after they arrived, the Armistice was declared, but they hardly noticed it. For them, the day’s exciting news was that Rose West switched on the hospital’s new electricity system.

A Lab of One’s Own Science and Suffrage in the First World War by Patricia Fara is available from OUP Australia.

A Lab of One's Own

Our favourite heroines in classic literature

On International Women’s Day, we pay tribute to some of our favourite, feisty, fearless literary heroines – characters who have shown us what it is to be bold and brave in the face of a society in which these attributes were not always appreciated.

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

It is hard to find a character with more strength, determination, presence of mind and independence than Jane Eyre. Despite her relative poverty and lack of familial support, Jane never doubts her own worth, never relying on the men in her life to save or support her.

Jane Eyre

  1. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

There is nothing quiet and restrained about Pippi Longstocking. Exuberant in personality, outfit and hairstyle, Pippi is one of a kind.

Astrid Lindgren’s enduringly popular character celebrates her individuality and displays an adventurous spirit. What else would you expect from a nine-year-old who lives alone with a monkey, a horse, and no rules whatsoever? When her neighbours encourage her to conform, Pippi Longstocking has other plans and has no hesitation in wrestling a circus strongman, dancing a polka with burglars, or tugging a bull’s tail.

Pippi is a model of individuality, creativity and adventurousness.


  1. Anne of Green Gables by Maud Montgomery

A complex and lovable character, Anne, is wildly imaginative and exuberant, unable to fit into the narrow confines of Victorian expectations. Indeed, when author Maud Montgomery decided to reject the sermonising formulas of the children’s books of her day, she brought to life a character much closer to Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, and Tom Sawyer–also orphans, like Anne–than to the self-sacrificing, conformist heroines then in demand. In doing so, Montgomery subtly questioned the values of her society–the stifling restraints of its religion and most especially its treatment of women–while giving readers all the pleasures of her considerable story-telling gifts.

Anne of green gables

  1. Moll Flanders by Daniel Dafoe

Born in Newgate prison, and seduced in the home of her adoptive family, Moll Flanders learns to live off her wits, defying the traditional depiction of women as helpless victims. In spite of being female at a time when the patriarchy was all-powerful, Moll Flanders was a force to be reckoned with, demonstrating intelligence, determination and independence. In the face of what some might consider to be a hopeless situation, she shunned traditional roles that were forced upon women at the time and fought for her survival and the life that she chose.

Moll Flanders

  1. Emma by Jane Austen

While commentators might debate whether Emma is or is not a feminist, she is undoubtedly independent and erudite, defying social expectations faced by women in the nineteenth century. As Emma blunders her way through the mysteries of her social world, attempting to find a suitable husband for her friend, Harriet, she is endearingly lively, wilful and fallible.


Oxford Word of the Month: March – magic

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noun: a double ristretto coffee with steamed milk.


Australian coffee drinkers, especially those in urban centres, are blessed with quality, choice, and good baristas when ordering their daily fix. Stories abound of Australian travellers complaining about the poor quality of coffee found in cafes in the UK, US, and Europe, and we are familiar with the ‘flat white revolution’ from down under that’s been exported to cities such as London and Paris.

The Australian love affair with various forms of espresso coffee really took off in the early 1980s. Before this, Italian and Greek cafes in Melbourne and Sydney had been serving espresso coffee for decades following post-war migration, but it took a while for the rest of the country to catch on.

Australian English is the beneficiary of our need for coffee. Amid the cappuccinos and lattes, flat white, long black, and short black are locally grown terms, all dating from the early stirrings of the espresso trend in the 1980s. The continuing popularity of the cappuccino also gave Australia the babyccino in the 1990s, and the mugachino in the 2000s.

The latest Australian coffee term to enter the lexicon is magic, first recorded in the current decade: ‘I’m loving the new style of coffee called a ‘magic’ … double shot ristretto with a splash of milk.’ (Geelong Advertiser, 8 May 2014)

It has been described as a ‘three-quarter flat white’, a ‘three-quarter latte’, ‘more coffee-ish than a latte’, and as ‘Melbourne’s gift to the world’. The trend is strongly associated with Melbourne, where it’s said to have been invented: ‘The story goes that it was dubbed the magic at Ray in Brunswick some time back in the early 2000s.’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 21 January 2014) Naturally, the association with Melbourne has provoked the inevitable rivalry with Sydney. The same article asks: ‘Can Sydney make a magic?’

Perhaps the choice of magic as a name was influenced by its use in the name of two Melbourne institutions: an NBL team and, formerly, a radio station. But the appeal of the magic has now spread further afield. There is web evidence of it in cafes across the country from Perth to Brisbane. An Adelaide cafe acknowledges the origin, offering ‘a Melbourne magic’ on the menu. Tasmanians too know about it: ‘Make mine a ‘magic’. So hot right now… Order one now before it’s so cool it becomes uncool.’ (Hobart Mercury, 26 August 2017) A Sunshine Coast newspaper describes the process of making one:

Served in a small vessel. Start with a double ristretto base, add a small amount of milk. ‘It’s basically 50% coffee and 50% milk, served not too hot, and that’s called a Magic.’ (Caloundra Weekly, 4 June 2015)

Now that the magic is on our radar, we will be watching to see if it becomes more widely used in Australia, and worthy of an entry in our dictionaries.

Magic will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.


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How dictionaries can help children become independent readers

The first time a child reads a chapter book on their own is an exciting milestone in their literacy journey. Suddenly, they can explore the world of books at their own pace, without always relying on having an adult beside them. But is there a way of encouraging and supporting children in their early years of independent reading to ensure their love of books continues?

In my household, one of the signs of my seven-year-old son’s emerging ability to read independently was a new fascination with words, such as tremendous and astonished, which are rarely heard outside of Enid Blyton books. Similarly, we could all tell that my niece had also been reading Blyton’s books when she started calling her brother’s behaviour ‘horrid’.

However, it is not just quaint words from old English that have emerged as new words for my son since he started reading independently. I have also been surprised by his use of unusual and sophisticated language found in David Walliams’  bestselling books.

In Mr Stink, there is an item which the titular character has purloined and a cloud which is malevolent. The tramp is described as not just smelly, but malodorous, and Christmas songs play incongruously in the background.

In his books, Walliams does not talk down to children and uses words that might challenge the most literate of parents. And I think this is a good thing. It is extremely valuable for children to build their vocabulary, especially when reading unfamiliar words in the context of a sentence within a book they are enjoying.

But while I was happy my son was building his vocabulary, I worried that his need to keep getting out of bed to ask the meanings of words might frustrate him and stifle his enjoyment of reading.

One way that I found to solve this problem was to offer him a children’s dictionary so he could look up words he hadn’t seen before on his own. My seven-year-old son has started grabbing his Early Years Dictionary to find the meanings of unfamiliar words, and the very act of looking up and reading the correct definitions has become part of the fun of reading. The dictionary has proved to be a useful tool to encourage and support his independent reading and build his vocabulary.

In a paper titled Vocabulary, written as a Closing the Gap Initiative, Anne Bayetto wrote of the importance of the  increased vocabulary children gain through reading widely.

“The link between vocabulary and comprehension is strong and significantly influences academic success,” she wrote.

“Vocabulary knowledge is fundamental to being an independent and successful reader and writer and is comprised of the words that are understood when heard or read.”

As mentioned before, building one’s vocabulary does not have to be boring, and discovering new words is often part of the fun of reading.  In an article published in The Chronicle, Alberto Manguel remembers the experience of asking a teacher what a word meant and being directed to the dictionary.

“We never thought of this as a punishment. On the contrary: With this command we were given the keys to a magic cavern in which one word would lead without rhyme or reason (except an arbitrary alphabetical reason) to the next.”

And so, with the help of some good books and a dictionary, I am enjoying watching my son discover new words and broaden his vocabulary – even if it might involve describing his sister as ‘horrid’.

Definitions according to Oxforddictionaries.com

Tremendous, adjective

1             Very great in amount, scale, or intensity.

‘Penny put in a tremendous amount of time’

‘there was a tremendous explosion’

Astonished, adjective

1             Greatly surprised or impressed; amazed.

‘he was astonished at the change in him’
‘we were astonished to hear of this decision’

Horrid, adjective

1             Causing horror.

‘a horrid nightmare’

Malodorous, adjective

1             Smelling very unpleasant.

‘leaking taps and malodorous drains’

Purloin, verb

1             Steal (something)

‘he must have managed to purloin a copy of the key’

Malevolent, adjective

1             Having or showing a wish to do evil to others.

‘the glint of dark, malevolent eyes’

Incongruous, adjective

1             Not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something.

‘the duffel coat looked incongruous with the black dress she wore underneath’


The Oxford children’s dictionaries are available from Oxford Australia.


Oxford First Dictionary

How teachers can bring digital technology into the literacy classroom

Teachers know that change is a constant in the classroom, and this has  never been truer than in today’s digital world. New technologies are not only changing the way children live, but also how they are taught, and teachers are embracing these opportunities.

According to Australian Literacy Educators’ Association President Beryl Exley, a shift towards digital literacy is one of the main changes teachers are seeing in the classroom; other changes include the teaching of visual literacy, media literacy, critical literacy and  functional grammar, rather than just traditional grammar.

She described these changes not as trends, but as substantial parts of the curriculum. According to Ms Exley, digital technologies  offer great opportunities for literacy educators when used alongside more traditional methods.

“The digital world is the reality, and it brings certain challenges, not to replace existing curriculum but to extend it,” she said.

The digital environment can make an impact on the way grammar itself is taught, due to the new platforms on which language is used.

Traditional versus functional grammar

Changes in literacy teaching are evident in the increased emphasis on functional grammar alongside traditional grammar.

The difference between the two is that while traditional grammar is based on normative rules and the standards of edited English, and is mainly limited to describing the linguistic elements of written or spoken texts, functional grammar considers how language varies within the context of culture – whether  in visual, audio, spatial or gestural modes.

It is not hard to see that this shift towards teaching functional grammar is, in part, due to the changing landscape in which text and language is available.

The new emphasis on functional grammar was highlighted in the release of the Australian Curriculum English (ACE) by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which drew upon the complementary methods of traditional Latin-based grammar and systemic functional linguistics (Parsing the Australian Curriculum English: Grammar, multimodality and cross-cultural texts by Beryl Exley and Kathy A Mills). The best of the past and the present, you could say.

A practical approach to bringing technology into the classroom

One way in which teachers have combined traditional and digital learning has been in developing a class blog about a certain subject. Ms Exley illustrated the role of  blogging in the modern classroom by citing a case study of primary school students using an online interactive blog to document their learning in science (The potentials of student initiated netspeak in a middle primary science-inspired multiliteracies project by Jay Ridgewell and Beryl Exley).

The study revealed that the blog extended the time and space available for student reflection outside the teacher-led class discussion. However, the project was not without its pitfalls:  Exley and her fellow researcher found that school-based blogs, “engaged students in ongoing dialogue about scientific content in different ways to programmed learning and real face-to-face class discussions”, but “…failed to develop important forms of scientific literacy, most notably evaluation”.

Crucially, traditional teaching and evaluation should underpin digital activities to ensure that other important elements of learning were not neglected in the contemporary classroom.

In another study, an eight-year-old boy engaged in travel blogging, an activity found to provide a pleasurable experience as well as pedagogic benefits (Children’s pedagogic rights in the web 2.0 era: A case study of a child’s open access interactive travel blog by Beryl Exley and Linda-Dianne Willis).

As students, even in their earliest years of education, become more comfortable in the digital sphere, literacy teachers have the opportunity to embrace newer technologies, while using existing methods to extend their learning experiences.

How schools can embrace the benefits of social media

Social media can be a valuable tool to help schools connect and engage with their communities. But just getting started can be intimidating for new users. Which channel is best for which purpose and how can pitfalls be avoided?

Marcellin College in Melbourne has achieved great success through its social media strategy, becoming the most followed secondary school on Twitter.

Deputy Principal Adriano Di Prato explains the college’s approach to social media, the benefits and opportunities of the channels it uses, and how other schools can get involved.

How do you use social media in your school (which channel)?

Marcellin utilises a range of social media to connect to different segments of our community. We use Twitter and LinkedIn to connect to parents, staff, Old Collegians and their families, businesses and other educational settings. We use YouTube to post videos that connect to our students, we use Facebook for a specific social justice award we promote to Old Collegians. We also use Instagram for promoting Visual Arts.

What is your following on social media (followers/likes)?

Marcellin remains the most followed secondary school on Twitter with an average of 500,000 views per month and over 3,659 followers.

Why did you start using social media in this way?

Without question, social media is the phenomenon of our time. One can’t ignore its reach and capacity to help us connect, collaborate and engage. We decided to use social media to share our remarkable story as a Catholic learning community, sharing broad opportunities and successes by our students and staff.

Social media is consistent with the college’s marketing guidelines and supports our desire to maintain the strength and brand of our college identity. It also supports our presence and attention in a competitive marketplace.

Our college has integrated Twitter into our online communication strategy, not as a marketing tool (a natural by-product, yes), but primarily as a platform to engage with our community. We use it to celebrate the diversity of all in our community, showcasing skill, ability, participation and family spirit. Twitter is the best way to connect with people and express ourselves, allowing our entire community to discover what’s happening. Twitter also helps our community create and share ideas and information, all posted in real time, inviting discourse and greater relationship connectivity.

Has your use of social media changed over time? Why?

The frequency of our use of Twitter has successfully been maintained by a larger group of key staff , who tweet and promote the rich and diverse opportunities at our school.

We’re also always reviewing new platforms and considering how they could enhance learning, community, relationships and connectivity.

What benefits does social media offer your school, its staff or its students?

It allows us to “control” our message and share our story with a broader community beyond our local context. It has also allowed for greater collaboration with educators and other Marist schools across the globe.

Our marketing strategy is fundamentally about making lasting and memorable connections.

We have over 90,000 visits per month to our website, with approximately 27% new visitors: based on Google Analytics, 85% of all new traffic to our website per month (primary message platform) comes directly from our social media platforms. These are impressive statistics.

How can other schools get involved?

Just do it!, but ensure that your social media use is part of a comprehensive communication and marketing strategy, which incorporates online, print and in-person methods.

Do you have any advice on the pitfalls or opportunities involved with the use of social media?

Research the best fit for your learning community – don’t just go with the biggest or latest fad. It’s important to understand that any social media strategy takes time to implement and cultivate in order to gain currency and authenticity.

Consideration must be given to a strategy and process to curate rich media content and commit time, each day, and to posting content that connects and engages.

Adriano Di Prato, Deputy Principal, Marcellin College

Marcellin College is a leading independent Catholic secondary school for boys in Melbourne, established by Marist Brothers in 1950. Explore Marcellin College’s Twitter activity @Marcellin