Category Archives: Staff Picks

Tech Savvy A-Z Apps Series: C = Communication

We live in a global village and technology is a big reason for this.  It makes the largest of distances, smaller at the click of a button.  Need something?  Why be limited to your physical location when you can jump online and find exactly what you’re looking for in Sweden, the US or the other side of Australia? Maybe you love to travel.  With travel costs and times getting better and better, you may have made many friends in many different locations around the world.  Communication methods have evolved at an astonishing rate in the past 5-10 years. No longer are we limited to picking up the phone and hoping your recipient is at home.  Email is the favoured method for workplaces, you can text your mates or family on the go and there’s a social media app for just about everyone!

textingSocial media can be wordy, quick, photographic or video based.  Many people (and we thank our readers for this) love to receive the latest blog post in their inbox.  Other’s prefer bite-sized updates and like to skim through the latest tweets to keep up with their social circle.  Maybe reading/writing isn’t your thing.

instagram-1594387Can’t help but take photos of the world around you?  Many out there are exactly the same. Amateurs to professional photographers and everyone in between have made Instagram a hugely popular platform for communicating with others via a visual medium.  Instagram have also incorporated video into their offerings giving people further options for expressing themselves.  Scroll through the images and videos…

 allows users to log in and express themselves in 140 characters or less.  This makes information sharing quick and if you add in a photo or link, you can get your point across without much effort. One of the biggest social media sites around, it has maintained this short, sharp and shiny method of communicating for the last ten years!
Vimeo is dedicated for those who love the moving image and it’s not just for amateurs with crazy cats or daredevil tricks.  Budding and professional filmmakers alike use the space for testing ideas, techniques and gaining support.


Facebook is one of the largest social media platforms that draws in people from all over the world, whatever your age.  The many apps and different ways Facebook have developed to communicate, have kept it’s followers keen to keep using it regardless of age or technical ability.

has become very popular recently with it’s instant, expressive and disposable photos and videos with fun edits sent to one or many.  You can grab a selfie, write onto the photo and send off to your mate.  They can then respond with text or another photo. It’s all fleeting though as one of Snapchat’s popular feature means everything self deletes after use.

So this leads me into the big issue with social media crossing borders; language.  This is where the image based platforms work best.  It takes no understanding of language or grammar to appreciate a photograph of a silly cat video, baby’s first steps, amazing scenery, travel adventures or creative short video. So what if these images and videos inspire you to get travelling, how can you prepare for crossing the language barrier?

There are quite a few apps now available to teach, assist and practice with new languages.  Many of them also include a network of community members that you can interact with to further your proficiency in your language of choice.

Google Translate – this is a free app from iTunes App Store & Google Play and is a simple, but very helpful conversion tool for travelling.  You can speak something in your own language and it will translate it into the language of the person you’re conversing with.  It works the other way too, get them to speak and it’ll be converted back to English.  It can also work with visual signage, which is very helpful for navigating around an unfamiliar place. There’s also an option to save certain phrases to repeat for later.

This is great if you’re going for a once-off trip somewhere and don’t plan to use the language again, but what if you get there and you’re bitten by the ‘travel bug’?  You’ll want to come back or explore more wonderful places around the globe.  That’s when you realise you’ll need to learn a language or two, because there’s only so far you can get with gesticulations and an expressive face…

Duolingo – is a great free app available from the iTunes App Store, Google Play & Windows Phone Store that teaches language using games and rewards to help your progress.  With a variety of challenges for each lesson, in bite sized chunks and hints on how to improve, it’s quick and easy to learn with this app.
owl-happy2xBabbel – free app from iTunes App Store & Google Play with in-app purchases.  A self paced learning style that gives you options on what part of the language you’d like to learn be it for travel or business needs. It will also keep you up to date with regular review sessions and speech recognition technology to make sure you’re really getting that pronunciation correct.

So whether you’re keeping in touch with friends and family in the same town, city or across the globe or admiring the view of the Canadian Rockies posted by an Instagram traveller, there are a multitude of apps you can choose from that will help you connect and communicate.

Post Contributor: Melinda Kennedy


What’s Your Dewey? 770s Photography – A Thousand Words or Less!

Is ‘a picture worth a thousand words’? Recent research into how we read and interpret information would suggest not. In his article As it turns out, a Picture is Not Worth a Thousand Words, Paolo Gaudiano states:

‘…just as words cannot really turn into pictures, pictures cannot replace words in terms of their ability to convey clear, (mostly) unambiguous information.’
[Full article: ]

Despite this, images as text  are on the increase and visual literacy is now as important to our educational development as digital literacy. This arguably rests with the technical advances in how we produce and reproduce images and the ease with which we are able communicate them widely.

51edvj4bf8l-_sx340_bo1204203200_Photography Visionaries by Mary Warner Marien is a chronological listing of the lives and images of 75 photographers spanning photography’s history from the 1800s to the digital age. Marien provides a fascinating insight into the art and inventiveness of some well known and not so well known photographers who have visually recorded and fashioned our collective view and memories for over 100 years. The imagery represented is captivating and indicative of the medium’s lasting impact. The list of inclusions is by no means exhaustive (and does appear to have a U.S. bias), however, there is great representative, historical detail to be found in the the photographs included.

We rely heavily on our visual interpretation of the world and visual literacy is as much about our world view as it is about what the world presents us.


In Photographs from the edge : a master photographer’s insights on capturing an extraordinary world by  Art Wolfe and Rob Sheppard, the enormity of the world’s diversity and complexity is on magnificent display. Wolfe’s expeditionary photography takes us to all corners of the globe capturing some never-to-be repeated moments in nature and culture. Many of these photographs will always remain a unique part of our visual history, and Wolfe shares the techniques, experiences and decisions that helped him capture them.

51k5mnnywtlWhile Wolfe’s work brings us a sense wonder at the largess of the world,  Macrophotography : capture magnified photographs of nature’s smallest subjects by Dennis Quinn draws us in to look more closely at the things we might miss. This unique book  teaches readers how to choose and use the tools needed to capture magnificent images of the smallest of the natural world. You’ll learn how to select and use your equipment and where to find your subjects. In each section of the book Quin shares the creative secrets behind some of his images as well as providing information on the life cycles of his subjects. This book is a fascinating mix of art and science.

Food photography : from snapshots to great shots by Nicole S. Young takes readers through the principles behind setting up, taking and editing great food photographs. The book contains some  large, vibrant photos, accompanied by expert shooting tips.  To look inside:

With the huge uptake of social media and smartphones, photographic images flood the internet and everyone has become an expert photographer, be it food, nature, fashion or portraiture.

Selfie : the changing face of self-portraits by Susie Brooks looks at the history of self-portraiture from the 40,000 year old hand stencils found in Indonesian caves, to famous painters like van Gogh & Picasso to modern photographic selfies. An interesting blend of stories, techniques and fashion insights into an activity that seems very recently trendy.

With Christmas just around the corner, getting a new camera or smartphone to record the festive celebrations may be on the agenda.

the-digital-photography-handbookNow in its 5th Revised Edition, The Digital Photography Handbook by Doug Harman is still considered one of the best guides to digital photography. The book includes expert advice on the art of digital photography as well as guidance to making the most of your current equipment and software or what to look for when replacing it. A comprehensive book well worth reading for anyone with an interest. Follow this link for a sneak peek:

The 770s also includes Computer Art, Cinematography and Videography, which is handy because the technology seems to have converged with cameras making movies, and editing software turning film into stills. Many words are written on the topic, certainly more than a thousand, so I think I’ll just close with one single picture!
Nola Cavallaro

Tech Savvy: Tech Recycling

As we head toward the end of National Recycling Week in Australia and we’re talking all things paper and plastic, what about that old digital camera in the cupboard or obsolete television sitting in your garage? That stuff is e-waste and we’ve got some great ideas for how you can safely dispose of yours!
National Recycling Week was started by Planet Ark in 1996 to get Aussies all over the country to focus on how they could do their bit at home to diminish waste. Twenty-one years on and the campaign has gained momentum and they’ve added other initiatives, like Cartridges 4 Planet Ark where you can drop your old printer cartridges into participating outlets.
 So what can you do, where can you go and what exactly can you recycle?  There are three options – sell, donate and recycle.
Depending on the condition of your tech, you could get an ad on a site like eBay or Gumtree and get some of your cash back.  Another option is to donate the item.  If you have some tech that you no longer use but is still in great shape, check around with organisations or family and friends to see if they’d like it.  Local primary or high schools might appreciate your old tech for their students as it’s hard to afford for many schools.
The HYPA (Helping Young People Achieve) group would love your old mobile phones for their at risk youth to have a contact option when suitable emergency accommodation becomes available.  You can find out more about this great initiative from this link:
The final option is to recycle.  There are many ways to do this and sometimes companies will even give you a cash back for your efforts like Apple who have a program called Renew.  Check out the details at the link  This website also contains instructions about how to delete your data from the device before submitting for recycling.
batteriesThere are a range of options for the many tech items we discard.
The Gawler Library is a drop off point for old mobile phones and batteries. So every time you come in for your books, DVDs or magazines you can off-load your old mobile phones and expired batteries and we will forward it onto the recyclers for you.
The major Australian technology companies have come together to fund a recycling organisation called TechCollect.  This is something the Australian Government  requires  of tech companies who import electrical goods into Australia.  It’s a free national recycling service, approved under the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) for computers, computer accessories and TVs (e-waste).  Their website,, contains great links, information about their activities and locations to drop off your old tech.  Worth having a look to see what you can recycle at your place.
The Australian Federal Government introduced the NTCRS in 2011 to assist Aussies with offloading their old televisions and computers in an environmentally safe way.  If you have any questions they have put out a factsheet to answer those frequently asked:
Other companies participating in a tech recycling scheme include:

Harvey Norman is a drop off point for the e-Cycle Solutions Scheme, which is also free to consumers.  You can recycle TVs, computers and computer peripherals (mice, keyboards etc) at your nearest Harvey Norman Centre.

IKEA have located in the entrance of their stores, a drop off where you can leave old light bulbs (regular and low energy), batteries, drink containers, cardboard and paper packing materials.

Camera Recycle Australia have partnered with specialist camera stores around Australia to offer a way to get rid of that old camera.  Since the rapid takeover of the digital image there are so many older film cameras sitting around that contain hazardous substances that need to be disposed of correctly before the rest can be recycled into new stuff.  This is also a free service to consumers, so if you’ve got an old camera, check out the link to find your nearest drop off point.

So whether you’re about to upgrade your phone, looking to buy a new TV or just having a clear out, check out the links above and get your old tech to a drop off point.  It’ll make a huge difference to our landfills and you’ll feel better with your new tech knowing your old gear is now being recycled, instead of adding to the problem!
Post Contributor: Melinda Kennedy

What’s Your Dewey: 745.5 Recycling – Not Waste But Upcycling

You might expect to find Recycling under 363.7 (Environmental issues) and you will.  Strictly speaking, Recycling as a technology will be found in 628.4. While there are interesting titles in both those Deweys, what really fascinates me are the wonderful ideas that turn ‘junk’ into treasure, usually employing low-tech solutions. A term for this coined in the 1990’s is Upcycling. In a 2010 article in Upcycling is defined as:

A process that can be repeated in perpetuity of returning materials back to a pliable, usable form without degradation to their latent value—moving resources back up the supply chain.

My understanding is a little simpler – I call it ‘making useful and/or attractive things from things at hand’. The best place to find titles on this topic are the 745.5s. Below I have selected just a few to share but there are many, if you care to look.

craftsmartThe Craft Smart series of books is aimed at children and provides step-by-step instruction for 12 crafts in each title. Recycling by Danielle Lowy uses junk mail, bottles, socks, buttons and old ties to make toys, noticeboards, pincushions and jewellery. The instructions are well illustrated, clear and easy to follow – and not all completely ‘for children’.

greencraftGreen Crafts for Children by Emma Hardy is aimed at older children and young teens and gives step-by-step instructions for 35 projects using natural, recycled and found materials. The book is divided into 5 sections with the Recycling section providing 8 projects. My favourite is the felted bag made from an old, well-loved jumper.


Found and made: The art of upcycling by Lisa Hölzl is for teens and aims to arm them with a set of upcycling skills and resources for the future. In its Introduction it says ‘This book is about using your unwanted everyday household trash to make works of art.’ It also makes the point that ‘turning trash into treasured art is more than just recycling because it keeps rubbish out of the waste stream… finding a new purpose for your waste products before you throw them away.’ The book is very useful in encouraging readers to look at all materials in a new way and has some great suggestions worth pursuing.


Upcycling : 20 creative projects made from reclaimed materials by Max McMurdo photography by Simon Brown is a recent publication that is arguably an adult orientated, designer look at upcycling. At the onset, McMurdo points out that upcycling can also be re-purposing, reuse, reclaimed, salvaged, remade, preloved or reinvented. The book makes a good argument for not buying new, apart from the environmental benefits and possibly (though not necessarily) the cost-benefits, McMurdo makes a case for pushing design elements to review the way we create our living environments. Contents include Furniture, Storage & Display, Lighting and Accessories and a useful section on Tools & Techniques. Step-by-step instructions are accompanied by photographs and commentary.

index-aspxReclaim that : upcycling your home with style by Sarah Heeringa takes the view that we can and possibly should surround ourselves with things that have meaning and therefore re-use, re-purpose and redesign the things we love  for long term use. The book has many interesting ideas but anyone seriously wanting to pursue Sarah’s  views on interior design can also access them at her Facebook page

There are so many ideas and thinking outside the box is guaranteed to bring more. Next week is National Recycling Week so in the spirit of ‘waste not want not’ it may be a perfect time to Upcycle some things. I may even revisit the 363.7s and the 628.4s to see what else I can use.

Nola Cavallaro

Tech Savvy: A-Z Apps Series – B is For Books

B is for books and with the arrival of e-books and e-readers, there have been many ways to get your hands on the newest release or your childhood favourite.  From e-reader apps and social interaction for book lovers, to reading the latest title or cataloguing your own home collection, there are many apps to choose from.  There are also children’s books that have been turned into interactive apps for shared reading.  These e-books for younger readers contain surprises during the book reading and many have the option of listening to the narrated version. They are a lot of fun regardless of your age!  
For many, the act of turning the page and the tactile feel of paper is just something you can’t read without, so e-books are just not for you.  But if you don’t mind jumping into e-books, there’s a huge world of online books for you to explore! Here’s our list of e-reads, interactive books and social apps built just for that…

goodreadsThe Goodreads website and app is a great place to start if you’re looking for a new read.  It’s a community of book lovers that share their passion for reading.  You can find recommendations from Goodreads, join a discussion group or add your friends to see what they’re currently reading and what’s on their to-read list. There are also plenty of reviews for all genres of books to be had.  It’s available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play for FREE!
icon175x175iBooks comes as included software with Apple products for reading e-books and PDFs.  The iBook Store is the online side of the app, available to peruse, to search for free and paid titles which include the latest bestseller to Shakespeare’s works. Good settings include the functionality to change the size of the text, colour of the page and ability to create bookmarks to save your spot for later.

itchy-bear-appwrong-book-appThe Wheelbarrow company have produced a few interactive books for children and among them is The Wrong Book and the Itchy Bear Series. These titles, written by Nick Bland, are narrated by Frank Woodley and Angus Sampson respectively.  Both of these are available from the iTunes App Store for $9.99 each, but will provide lots of fun and enjoyment.  

bus-ipad2xThe Wheels on the Bus app by Duck Duck Moose is available for FREE on Google Play/Amazon  for Android and the iTunes App Store.  It has many sounds, songs and interactive surprises on every page for young kids to enjoy.  This company have also released numerous other interactive e-books for these platforms which you can find at the link;

So maybe novels are not your thing and you prefer a good non-fiction read. Or you’ve got a special interest that you’d like to pursue.  There are just as many reference or non-fiction books available to download as there are fiction books.  These could be How-to titles like cooking, mechanics and craft;  or perhaps you prefer learning more about the world around you like religion, biographies and science. Universities now offer their textbooks as an e-book option, replacing physical and heavy text books.

ebooks-australiaE-books Australia is a great place to start.  They have items to download on almost every subject and whilst this is not an app, it does have a mobile site which is great to download books on the go and start reading straight from your e-reader app.  Prices on this site will vary greatly so make sure you check before falling in love with the title.
Follow this link to check it out:

 Fancy yourself an author?  Would you like the opportunity to see your work published?  With the e-book medium, this is not just possible but also simple to do.  There are many apps out there that can assist with the creation and publication of e-books. 

Book Creator
is a FREE app available from the iTunes App Store and Google Play, that has everything you need to create your ‘fixed layout’ books.  These types of books contain varied visual accompaniment that enhances the text;  such as Children’s picture books, art books, photographic books, manuals etc.  In addition to the app, their website is a great place to find assistance with webinars, articles, videos and community space to discuss your ideas. The app will publish your book in ePub, which is the usual format but can also publish in video so you can export to Vimeo or YouTube.

Maybe writer’s block is in your way?  Not to worry there is an app called Lists for Writers for $4.49 from the company Thinkamingo. Need an injection to get your creative juices flowing?  This app will supply you with everything from colours to geographical names to physical characteristics of people and place.  It’s available from almost everywhere (iTunes App Store / Google Play / Nook / Amazon for Android / Windows Phone Store / Blackberry) so no-one will miss out.  Link:

 There’s now a whole new world of books available for you to download and read, create and publish and discuss with like-minded people.  Although don’t worry if you’re still a big fan of the physical paper and cardboard variety, they aren’t going anywhere soon. You might own a vacuum cleaner, but you still use the broom… The power blackout we had recently meant the good old book and candlelight was your best bet for riding out the storm without worrying about that blinking battery symbol!

Post Contributor: Melinda Kennedy  
#technology #app #book #ebook