Sunday, September 26, 2010


Beware of out-of-control hyperlinks. I have 13 Internet Explorer boxes open from jumping from one link to another.

I have been trying to find an online collaborative project with other librarians. No luck. I found a good website on library curriculum but it was informative not collaborative.

 I would like to do something with books and getting students excited about reading. I found an article on Collaborative Learning Gaining Traction in Classrooms and Libraries by Sarah Amandolare that linked me to the website EPals. From this site I found In2Books which links adults with students' reading books.  The program is for students doing book reviews in grades 3-5. Students choose books from a booklist and write a review.There is a checklist to see if certain story elements are in the review. The students write to another adult about the book they have read. The adult writes back to the student and they discuss the book. The adult has gone through a screening test and the teacher has control of the communication. The review that comes from the adult goes to the teacher who approves it and sends it on to the student. At this point I'm starting to wonder if all these bells and whistles cost money. So I open a few more hyperlinks to add to my collage of cascading open browsers and find that the program is free if you are a Title 1 school in the U.S. and costs $360-$460 US dollars if you are not.

Here's a link to a video explaining the program

I wiped the browser(s) clean and tried a different track looking up online book clubs. I found one I liked called Spaghetti Book Club. It has a wide range of books and the web interface is easy to use. Two of the bottom links didn't work and when I clicked on the About section it said there were membership fees.

I need to mull over this topic. The In2Books collaborates with adults and I want students to collaborate. The Spaghetti Book Club doesn't collaborate so it doesn't really apply. What would be more valuable? Scott has Pen Pals with grade 2 students in the U.S. and I see the value in it. Perhaps linking with another classroom in the world and sharing reading is the way to go such as the ES 1001 Tales. ES 1001 Tales has a great setup and I could get lots of ideas from it. I used a Wiki a couple of years ago with books and it became too unruly with no organization to the books. I also had problems with students accidentally deleting each others reviews. Of course it didn't help that I didn't know what I was doing. I think the blog setup would work better as a collaborative tool because of the easy way to organize using categories.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Follow up to Google Search Stories

I decided to teach Google search stories video creator after learning about it in class from teacher, Jeff Utecht. After teaching Google search stories video creator to two classes, I decided that I needed to spend more time explaining how to tell a story using the search boxes. I also made a greater effort to touch base with each group several times to see how they were proceeding. With some classes I spent too much time with one group. It worked better if I touched base more frequently giving some guidance on how to write the story; otherwise students would summarize or not choose one book to write about. I also spent too much time with two classes problem-solving computer logon/wireless issues which took too much time away from the learning experience. In later classes if there was a computer issue I set the computer aside and got another laptop dealing with the issue after the class left. This seems like such an obvious solution but I'm surprised how often I lose track of time troubleshooting computers. I've been working on improving my time management of classes. I had a sub for one of the days I had to teach this lesson and I put together a video of how to do it using Camtasia Studio. I thought it would be faster than doing screen shots and typing up the lesson. I'm not sure if it was because it took an hour to make the video. When looking at the videos made by the students who had the sub it looked like they understood the objective. Their videos contained elements of a story.

Here's the video I left for the sub:



One teacher said that over lunch the students were talking about videos they made in library and he asked me how I was able to make a video and have students’ checkout books in 45 minutes. He said the students seemed to really like the lesson. I had another boy afterschool stop by and say, “I was trying to show my Dad my video and couldn’t find it. How do I find them on the Internet?” I showed him and he wrote down how to view them. I'll have to followup with him next week.

I did a survey of one of the classes to get feedback on the lesson.  I got the idea from the comment on my blog and from another blog, the tech volley, where the writer conducted a survey. In my survey, I asked 5th grade students what they learned and most said, “How to make a video.” One wrote: “The Internet has a lot of powers and abilities like humans.” Only one related it to elements of a story. I'll have to continue to work on this part of the lesson.  There were 19 positive and 1 negative comment. The positive comments were: It was fun and easy, I liked choosing songs, I liked working in groups and with friends, “I liked the part where we thought of ideas in the book to type.” Overall, it seemed to be a good lesson that got the students excited about learning and reading.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Kindergarteners remind me of bobbleheads.

Watch the 7 second video of a bubbly boy who is so excited for his turn to use the interactive whiteboard. He is third in line which is why the girl next to him says "no."  


I created a lesson around the book, A Picture for Harold’s Room, by Crockett Johnson.  Through a PTA grant, I received the Epson Brightlink Interactive Whiteboard in our library. It is like a Smartboard except it uses any surface to project an image. In addition, the screen size can be adjusted which gives me more flexibility with height. For this lesson I scanned all the pages of the book and put them in a PowerPoint.  I read the pages and the students followed along with what was happening in the story by using the white interactive pen to draw in purple. For instance, one student would draw the purple line, another student would draw a house, etc. Each student received a turn with the "purple crayon."

This lesson aids students with comprehension strategies such as sequencing and story retelling. It addresses different learning styles by hearing the story (auditory), seeing the pages projected on the screen (visual) and using the pen to draw what is happening with the story on each page (kinesthetic). At the end of the lesson, students made up their own “purple crayon” stories.

According to Bloom’s taxonomy for digital citizens the lesson moves students to a higher order of thinking that involves creating. In addition, the lesson reinforces what students are doing in Readers Workshop which is story sequencing and retelling. I put together a short video showing the students retelling the story, making up new stories, and figuring out how to use the interactive pen. [youtube][/youtube]

There's a video on YouTube of the story that is good but when I showed it first in the lesson to students it made the lesson too long. The students got restless.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To copy or not to copy

The ABCs… of Copyright.

The topic of copyright and intellectual property is nothing like the ABCs - it isn’t that sequential. It is more like tossing your ABCs into a blender and producing a Copyright Smoothie.

Sounds good but the answers are not easy. Or clear. Here’s a taste.

My thoughts on copyright started after making my first blog. I began to wonder what media I can and cannot post on a blog. I have been creating video book trailers the past few weeks. My inspiration came from book trailers I found on Scholastic. Book talks are a great way to get kids excited about reading. I have found that when I mix book talks with video talks I have a more dynamic presentation that incorporates more of the senses. I’ve had 3rd graders hear video book trailers and start jumping up and down like they are at a rock concert. Check out the 39 clues video book trailer – that’s a favorite. (Check out IPad’s eBooks’ – Wow! I jumped up and down, but that’s a separate blog topic.) I thought I would create my own video book trailers and play them on the flat screen monitor outside the library highlighting books every month. Then I thought about putting them on a blog. That made me wonder about copyright issues.

In my video book trailer, I have a section where I show an animated video of a coin flip.  The coin flip is really cool and drives home the point that the main character in the novel is given a special coin that sets off a series of events where he is solving a mystery to save his school. I found the coin flip on YouTube with no reference to its creator. While I know it's okay to hyperlink to the coin flip, is it okay to put it in a newly created video and then post it on a blog? In my video, I also show the covers of three books and illustrations from each of them. I Photoshopped some illustrations and I vaguely remember that being a No No in a library class. I believe it’s illegal to change the original work. So the question is should I or shouldn’t I post my video on a blog?  


We can start with my smoothie picture which is from Microsoft clip art. I went to their website and found in order to use their pictures I have to include the following statement: "Used with permission from Microsoft." (Can I just hyperlink the photo to Microsoft's site or must I have that statement?)

In the Google search engine I typed “blogs legal use of photos site: gov” and found the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. According to it I need the author’s permission to use his or her books. Under the Fair Use Act I can use the book trailers for lessons or educational purposes but it isn’t clear about blogs. This blog is for our COETAIL class so does that make it okay to post my video book trailer? (Or am I using the Fair Use Act as an excuse to not figure out copyright? ) The Fair Use Act says I am not supposed to change the original copy. That’s the No No I couldn’t remember. You can produce a parody. There is a funny copyright video that uses less than 30 second clips from Disney movies to explain Copyright. German director Werner Herzog has a hilarious spoof on the book, Madeline.


Copyright doesn’t always make sense to me. My video book trailers are meant to get kids excited about reading. If they are excited about reading then they will go buy the book or check it out. This favors the author of the book where I am promoting their creation (through my creation). Hence, I don’t think I’d upset any authors. Although I might with my Photoshopping and the anonymous coin flip. So after plodding through all the information it would seem that I need to be careful with blogs because they are public. Sorry reader. I better not post my video book trailer. I did come across an 8th grade class that did book trailers where they drew original pictures and animated them. This could be an alternative if I want to go public with some book trailers.  

What bothers me is how copyright interferes with student learning. And I have had many arguments with fellow librarians who want to make this black and white. But it isn't. Too often the creative side gets stifled because of copyright. I had a student make a great video book trailer using scenes from the animated movie, Coraline. I'm not posting it in any public domain. The student was expressive and used language arts skills being taught in the classroom. It was a great integrated lesson that never would have happened if I had said, "Oh, you can't use those movie clips because it's illegal." What I do need to add to my lessons is a clear understanding to not post those "creations" on any public website and to understand that it isn't legal when put in a public domain. Here's a helpful toolkit for educators from the US patent office. It's important that students understand copyright laws in public domains.

Obviously, students or adults are not going to master copyright laws but as an educator I can teach the concept of digital citizenship where students think about the tech skills they are using and what it means to be responsible when using the World Wide Web.  If you want other musings on this topic check out Alison McAloon’s blog that discusses how she’s used copyright with 5th graders and Wendy Van Bramer who is linked to a “Ted Talk” that discusses  the delicate copyright balance between creators/inventors and publishers/owners. The speaker gives examples of how the trend in laws has been to favor publishers/owners and how this stifles creativity.

It is truly fascinating how the Internet has broken down the old hierarchy of publishing and allows anyone to be an author. I love the creativity that it inspires and the controversy it stirs up in folks. It is very exciting to be a part of the evolution of digital technology.  

Time to digest my Copyright Smoothie.  …Very, Very, very, slowly.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Google Search Stories Video Creator

Hyper. Linked.

Imagine thoughts exploding in all directions.

Like my lunch.

I put an egg in the microwave for one minute. An impressive boom sounded and I ended up with a crater in my egg, (a mess to clean), and a lead for my blog. I love the speed of the microwave and Internet.

I used Google Search Stories Video Creator with two 5th grade classes that came to the library for 45 minutes. I showed them three videos: Toy Story, Monster Cookie, and Zombie Apocalypse. The students had a blast with this lesson and didn’t want to stop. There were a few bumps along the way but we sure had fun!

The lesson involved creating a video based on the books we had discussed in the previous library lesson. Students chose groups of two or three and used one computer per group. A couple of times the students lost their Internet connection and the story disappeared. Not good. Most remembered what they typed so the frustration level remained low. Another glitch in the lesson was that we couldn’t publish the stories to YouTube. I was hoping students could use their Google Apps account but that didn’t work. I tried a generic account on Gmail and that didn’t work either. I had a hunch that the school filter or Norton’s was interfering with the download. I grabbed a video camera and taped their stories. That seemed to satisfy everyone. Luckily I get to teach the same lesson five times so I went home and was able to link a YouTube account to the generic Google Account.  I posted an example on YouTube and showed it to the second 5th grade class. Everything was going well with no Internet connections lost and we posted 3 videos.

Or so I thought.

Google Story Creator said it was successful but when we looked on YouTube they weren’t there. I quickly told students to upload their videos and then leave the computers. I took their videos and used an online converter program saving them to a flash drive from their computers. I imported one of the videos to Corel Video Studio and there was no sound. I copied the file to my hard drive but still no sound. Perhaps it’s the MPEG extension that Corel doesn’t like? I’m starting to think that maybe I don’t want my egg to explode but will go back to cooking it on the stove in a format I know. Next, I went back to the online converter and converted the MPEG to an .avi file. That worked, but the quality was reduced.

Here’s a video of lesson.

With the first class I grabbed a video camera and it looks a little bit like an earthquake is happening but it’s my shaky hands. The second class is a downloaded and converted video. I produced it in an .flv. Is that the best format for a web page? Or is an .mp4 format better?


I really wanted students to tell something about the story. I didn’t always get that. Instead I got a list of characters in the story like on the Pokemon section of the video. I verbally told students that they need to have the title of the book, setting, main character, and tension, but I need to slow down this part of my lesson and write it on the whiteboard.  We did do one together but I must have gone too fast. I'll have to check more for understanding. I'll let you know how it goes.

P.S. I was putting in my hyperlinks and went to YouTube typing in TASlslibrary (the generic email account). Guess what! The videos were there. There must be a delay in the posting. Yeah! No more converting.