Category Archives: Technology

Skype author visit

Gail Giles, a YA author that has appeal to guys, girls, high and low level readers, Skyped into Collins Hill HS a few weeks ago. I was a nervous wreck, anticipating the many things that could go wrong when you combine teenagers, technology, and the first attempt at something new. However, it was a resounding success! Gail Giles was witty and fun, and our students did a wonderful job asking questions and keeping the conversation going. If you want to see the highlights, see our short video here. If you want more details, keep reading…

Amy Golemme, my co-media specialist, and I brainstormed authors that would have mass appeal. Gail Giles was our first thought, so I took a shot in the dark and emailed her. She emailed back quickly and we got the details planned out – one test session a few days before, then 2 sessions during our 2nd and 3rd periods. We decided to use the media center to keep it cozy and inviting, rather than a larger space like the commons area or theater. I made signs for the hallways and classrooms and the media center. I went into all the 9th and 10th grade LA classes to promote it. Students that wanted to participate had to read at least one of her books, answer a few questions, and write a few questions they’d like to ask her. For those students, I gave them a pass out of class during 2nd or 3rd period and they were our VIPs. I also invited two language arts classes per session and any media specialists from the around the county that could come.

In Gwinnett, we aren’t allowed to use Skype, but we do have an alternative – Polycom and the Blue Jeans network. We use those tools and the author uses Skype. Kevin Tomlinson from the county was excellent technical support for us and helped put my technology fears to rest. On the day of the event, we set up about 80 chairs in the media center, created VIP seats, put out a breakfast spread, set up the technology, and hoped for the best! Gail came on, introduced herself, and then we had the students come up to the computer to ask questions. We had a webcam and external mic hooked up to my laptop. The students asked good questions, and Gail was entertaining, funny, and informative. When I polled the students after the event, they all said they had a positive experience and many expressed interest in doing it again. One student even turned in a top ten list of authors she’d like to Skype with!

If you have any questions or want templates for signs, the handout students filled out, or any other details, don’t hestitate to email me at holly_frilot@gwinnett.k12.ga.us or call at 770.682.4126. It was a lot of work, but a great experience for us and for the students.

Holly Frilot, Collins Hill High School

In Defense of E-Reading

Call it a backlash.  This holiday season increased the world of e-books and e-readers by something like a jillion fold according to my highly scientific sources.  So in January we had a couple of e-book grouches unload on this new budding trend.

Travis Jonker had an article in the School Library Journal (of all places) called snippily enough, “Fine. I Got an E-Reader. Now What?”  I already responded to him on my own blog.  Doug Johnson took it even further in a post on his blog, calling Mr. Jonker “reactionary” and in the comments said that the SLJ promoting his views was “detrimental to the profession.”  Ouch.

Now we have Jonathan Franzen, the world’s grumpiest writer, getting into the fray.  Not only does he not like e-readers, he fears “it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence [like printed books]. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”  Link to the whole grump here.

Huh?  E-readers are somehow going to lead to the downfall of civilization as we know it?

Science writer Carl Zimmer steps ups to defend e-readers in a wonderful article from Discover magazine.  In Franzen’s diatribe he uses The Great Gatsby as an example of a text that “doesn’t need to be refreshed.”  This leads Zimmer to muse of the differences of Fitzgerald’s minor masterpiece in print and digital formats.  “It’s certainly true that ebooks are an awkward young format that’s still sloppy and hard to manage,” he says.  Then he goes on to speculate, “I expect ebooks will follow much the same trajectory as paperbacks. They will start out being frowned upon as shabby, and then they will deliver literature conveniently to millions of people who might not otherwise have read it.”  To hear more of Mr. Zimmer’s cogent thoughts, listen to him interviewed on this topic (and answering callers) on a podcast from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Jonathan Segura has a defense on NPR’s Monkey See blog called, No More E-Books Vs. Print Books Arguments, OK?  The gist of his argument is similar to one I’ve made before: “It’s not an either/or proposition. You can choose to have your text delivered on paper with a pretty cover, or you can choose to have it delivered over the air to your sleek little device…We should worry less about how people get their books and — say it with me now! — just be glad that people are reading.”

How to teach 3 social studies units covering over half a century in 4 weeks: A 5th Grade Glogster Project

Last year, I began a journey with 5th grade that integrated multiple social studies standards into one big project.  The teachers put students in cross-classroom groups and assigned them social studies topics for a unit on the turn of the century.  Each group made a glog about their topic after using print and digital resources to gather information.  We were amazed by the leadership, collaboration, and innovation that took place in that project, but we made a lot of mistakes along the way too.  You can read more about last year here and here.

This year, we almost didn’t do this project.  The teachers were feeling even more overwhelmed by the content this year because they had to teach 3 social studies units and 2 science units in 9 weeks.  You would probably feel overwhelmed too if you knew you had to teach these units in that amount of time:

Even the district planner recommends a total of 12 weeks for the units, but requires that it be done in the 3rd quarter (9 weeks).

After multiple combinations of meetings between me, the 5th grade social studies teacher, the gifted collaboration teacher, and the instructional coach, we developed a plan for how this year’s content might look.  Each of the 3 social studies classes were assigned a unit.  Within each class, topics were assigned to individuals as well as groups of students.  These students made plans of how to divide the content among their group.  On Mondays and Fridays, the social studies teacher and gifted teacher did direct teaching of some of the content from all 3 units.  On Tuesday-Thursday, students came to the media center to research their topics in online databases, websites, and books.  Last year, students just took notes as they read, but this year we wanted students to have a better structure that was based in questions that came from the standards.  The gifted teacher combed through the standards and created 2 different graphic organizers with questions for students to consider.  The organizer also had space to document resources used.  Some students chose to use digital copies of this organizer while others chose to print it out and write their notes.

Once again, I pulled together a pathfinder divided up by topics.  This pathfinder gave each student a handful of websites about their topic.  I also showed them how to search the databases found in Georgia’s Galileo collection.  My paraprofessional took the topics and searched through our print collection.  If a book matched one group’s topic, she put a post-it with their names on the book.  If a book spanned multiple topics, she put it in a shared stack.

To begin our journey, I briefly introduced the pathfinder, graphic organizers, and how to take notes (not copying and pasting entire paragraphs of information from websites).  I also showed a glog from last year’s students to give them an idea of what they would ultimately be doing.  We chose not to introduce how Glogster works at the beginning.  We also chose to not give students logins and passwords to Glogster.  Students then began a week of research.  The social studies teacher, gifted teacher, student teacher, my paraprofessional, some college students, and me began working with students as much as possible to support them in their search.

After a week, I introduced how Glogster works by showing a very basic run-through of the kinds things it can do.  Students continued to research, but as they finished, they checked in with one of the adults.  Most of the time we offered additional guiding questions and support so that they had the most complete information possible.  Once students reached a point where they had enough information, they received their username and password to Glogster.

Most students began Glogster with deciding on their wall background.  Then, they moved to adding text from their organizer.  Eventually, students branched out to include photographs from public domain searches and linked their pictures to the sources they came from.  Some students also did audio introductions to their glog or recorded audio for various parts of their glogs.  Some students used Screencast-o-matic to do screencasts of timelines from PebbleGo or tours in Google Earth.  A few students used webcams to record themselves talking.  One group even did a webcam video of their resource list rather than just creating a text box for it.

You can view some of the finished or in progress glogs here:

Recovering from the Great Depression

Black Cowboys

Wright Brothers

George Washington Carver

Alexander Graham Bell

Thomas Edison

Spanish American War

McKinley & Roosevelt

Panama Canal

Immigration

Voting Rights

US Contributions and Treaty of Versailles

Lusitania and Other Ships

Duke Ellington

Louis Armstrong

Harlem Renaissance

Babe Ruth

Charles Lindbergh

Henry Ford

The Great Depression

Jesse Owens

Stalin, Mussolini, Roosevelt, & Churchill

Holocaust

Presidents of WWII

Bombing of Japan

Changing Role of Women

Tuskegee Airmen

Cold War

Khrushchev & McCarthy

D-Day, VJ, & VE Days

Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, & Hirohito

Panama Canal 2

Once students finalize their glogs, they will present them to the rest of the 5th grade to share the responsibility of teaching and learning this massive amount of content.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons

Storytelling App

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Disclaimer:  If you read this post earlier and couldn’t find the sock puppet app in the iTunes store, it is now back, so go to the iTunes store and get it while you can 🙂

Today as part of our storybook celebration, students who came to the media center had a chance to try out an app on our 10 iPads called Sock Puppets.  The sock puppet app allows students to choose up to 4 sock puppet characters, multiple props (some moveable, some not), and multiple interchangeable backgrounds.  Students use the selections to create a 30-second puppet show.  They simply press record and then begin moving the various objects and puppets around on the screen.  Each time a puppet is touched, the iPad places an arrow above that puppet’s head so that the students know which voice to record.  After 30 seconds or when the students press stop, the app scrubs up students’ voices to make them more sock puppet-like.

Today, students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades tried out this app.  Instead of taking them step by step through the process of making a puppet show, I simply said: “Go to the sock puppet app and use it to create a 30 second story.”  In a matter of minutes, students were figuring out how the app worked.  Of course there was lots of silliness, but in this time of exploration, students had permission to play and have fun without worries of being right or wrong.  Even though students were doing impromptu puppet shows, they created some very creative and humorous pieces.  I only wish that I had student access to Youtube so I could share some of them with you.  At the close of each session, we talked about how we might use this app in the future, and students were excited about the possibility of writing 30-second scripts that would make their puppet shows more cohesive.  I wonder if that same excitement would have existed if I had made the students start with writing scripts or watching me make a complete sock puppet show on the smart board before they had time to explore?

I think this free app has a lot of creative potential, and I’m glad that I was able to offer a space for students have time to play.

There are many examples of sock puppet videos on Youtube.  Here’s an example.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons

September 11th: A Transliterate Experience

As I’m preparing to present at the School Library Journal  Leadership Summit 2011, I’m thinking a lot about transliteracy and how I can create experiences and opportunities for students to “read, write, and interact across a range of platforms.”

Fifth grade approached me a few weeks ago about collaborating on a day of September 11th activities.  Because they are departmentalized this year, they wanted to bring connections to September 11th in each of their classes:  reading, social studies, and math.  The more we planned the more the day came together as a day to experience the events and stories of September 11th in multiple ways in order to create a complete story about the day’s events.

The day started with each student getting a September 11th ribbon to wear throughout the day.  In homerooms, students wrote and illustrated what a hero was to them.

When students rotated to their reading class, they read the bookFireboat by Maira Kalman.  They watched videos of the actual fireboat and had a class discussion about how heroes were found in unexpected places during the events of September 11th.

In the media center, we started our time by watching a 2-minute video that overviewed the day’s events.  We read a 3rd grade student reflection from the book Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001 collected by Shelley Harwayne.  Then, students went to the computer lab and used a pathfinder of websites to experience September 11th through videos, interactive timelines, personal accounts, news reports, and more.  Along the way, student wrote down information that they learned about the day.  To close our media center time, students used Wallwisher  to create their own memory wall for September 11th.  Students wrote thank –you’s, prayers, emotions, and other thoughts on our collaborative wall.

At the end of the day, students returned to their writing and illustrations of heroes to see if their thinking had changed in any way after experiencing the day’s lessons.  They also revisited the 5th grade wall to see how it had developed throughout the day.  Reading each 5th grader’s thoughts is a powerful experience and to see all of their thoughts published in one location was a dynamic closing of today’s lessons.

These students were less than one-year-old when September 11th happened.  Their lives are very disconnected with the events of that day.  We wanted today’s experiences to immerse the students in the stories and tragedies of this historic event through multiple kinds of media.  By the end of the day, students had:

  • Viewed recaps of the events of the day
  • Listened to accounts of the day through multiple viewpoints
  • Interacted with timelines and maps
  • Read and viewed news reports
  • Viewed personal videos & eyewitness accounts
  • Read and listened to stories & children’s books inspired by the tragedy
  • Wrote personal thoughts, views, and facts
  • Collaboratively documented their thoughts as a grade level with web 2.0 tools

As usual, I was amazed at the level of engagement and collaboration as students worked with technology.  At the beginning of the day, we had a big issue with Wallwisher not allowing students to post their messages.  I was frantically trying to figure out the problem, but at the same time students were trying out different things to fix the problem.  It was a student who figured out that the page had to be refreshed before typing a new note because we were all logged in under our school’s generic account.  Because of their willingness to try things out, the rest of the day went very smoothly to capture all students’ reflections on the wall.

The sheer amout of resources for September 11th can be overwhelming, but I can only imagine how the number of resources might grow if this tragedy happened today.  Today, we would have tweets, facebook posts, huge amounts of personal videos, blogs, and more.  We would be able to live this story in a much more diverse way through multiple platforms.  I was impressed at the close of the day by how many platforms students had used to experience this tragic story, and I feel like our students leave us today and head into the weekend with a better understanding of September 11th as they see the memorials and television specials on Sunday.  I invite you to take a moment to visit our 5th grade wall and read students thoughts from today.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons