Thursday, September 29, 2011

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is an amazing way to capture the attention of students and motivate them to learn a variety of literacy skills such as information literacy, reading literacy, visual literacy, and technology literacy (I'm probably missing others). Students must design, create and present their own digital stories using:

  • research skills - document and find information for the story

  • writing skills - develop a script

  • organization skills - need to manage and complete the task on time

  • technology skills - use a variety of tools such as the computer, camera, scanner, microphone, software and more.

  • interpersonal skills - have to work in groups.

Two years ago I created a lesson where third graders made video book trailers using Photostory. The problem is that it was too time consuming. I see the students 17-18 times a year for 45 minutes and 10-15 minutes is spent checking out books. I end up seeing students roughly 13 hours or less for the entire school year.

13 hours.

I see students more when I coach a sport after school than I see students in the library over the year. So what is meaningful learning? What is supportive? Jeff Utecht in his blog post, Only the Willing, mulls over the meaning of his job and it got me to thinking about my job. What's the most important thing I want kids to learn?

My answer: get them excited about reading!

The video book trailers took up six 45 minute lessons or 30% of my teaching time. Was it worth it? Should I be doing mini-lessons?

I asked grade 5 students to create a video book trailer of our visiting author, Ralph Fletcher. I had a few students say, "Oh awesome! I liked making that in third grade." The real test will be to see what they remember. But what it really made me think about was that I need to build on skills from year to year and get more mileage from my 13 hours. I need to start younger. Maybe digital storytelling is the way to go. I can start with iPads and iTouches in the library and do some type of lesson in every grade. For instance, have grade 4 choose their favorite personal narratives and create a digital story. Or grade 1 students do a retelling on a field trip. I really need to dig into the resources I got at the  Learning 2.011 Technology conference on digital storytelling.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Summer Reading Challenge

The first ever Summer Reading Challenge 2011 was launched last spring. Congratulations to the 162 students that participated! It was great fun handing out gold certificates this September and talking to students about series or books that they enjoyed reading over the summer. We also had double the circulation check out of books over the summer because students read more.

The Reading Challenge involved students keeping track on a calendar how many minutes of reading they did each day over the summer. This fall during the month of August they turned in their calendars to the library. The goals are posted below:

Kindergarten=(10 minutes X 5 days per week) = 480 minutes; Grade 1 =(10 minutes X 5 days per week) = 480 minutes; Grade 2 =(15 minutes X 5 days per week) = 720 minutes; Grade 3 =(20 minutes X 5 days per week) = 960 minutes; Grade 4 =(30 minutes X 5 days per week) = 1440 minutes

This could be done any time of the year. You could do it for one month and challenge students to read a certain amount of books or you could make it longer and challenge them with minutes. One thing I would do differently is that we had gold, silver and bronze certificates based on percentages of books read; instead, I would just have one certificate for participation. Most completed reading for the gold certificate. One student read over 30,000 minutes!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Putting epub books on the iPad or iTouch

If you have a residence in the US, you can borrow eBooks or audiobooks from your local library. You just need a library card. I live in Minneapolis and can choose from over 17,000 eBooks or audiobooks through the library. There are many devices that can be used and it is always being updated with new devices - just last week, downloads were made available for Kindle devices.

I don't own an eReader. Hey, what can I say? I can't decide which one to get and they change as fast as a street light. I do own an iTouch and have access to an iPad; hence, I decided to put my library books on these devices and created a 30 second video on how to do it.

epub books to ipad using bluefire reader

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's a Book

Lane Smith's humorous picture book titled, It's a Book, captures the tension of traditional print trying to exist in a digital world.


For me, the book is a reminder that the future of book publishers and libraries must be one that adapts to a society using less paper and shifting toward digital content. Lately the hot topic in libraries involves the explosion of eBooks. According to an article in the School Library Journal, eBook sales have increased 1,000 percent in the past three years. This fall, the librarians at my school discussed purchasing eBooks and audiobooks for the library from OverDrive, a large global distributor of eBooks and audiobooks. We know that this is the future; however, the cost of purchasing the eBooks is still high or I should say licensing the books. You don't really own them. It's more like subscribing to a magazine, except it costs thousands of dollars. The University of Kansas is in litigation with OverDrive because it wants a new service provider, Cloud Library, and OverDrive is saying, nuh-uh, no way are you moving the eBooks to another provider. Over 5 years, the University has invested half a million dollars in eBooks and audiobooks. You can see why the courts are involved. What a mess.

Then there is the issue of what eReader to purchase for the library and what platform to use. Or do you even need an eReader? Maybe in iPad is better? I'm wondering also whether or not to get a color eReader versus a black and white reader because I am an elementary library serving children from ages 4-12. Will parents prefer an eReader in color and would they read picture books in color to their young children with it? Do I check out the device to parents or kids? What if it gets lost? Elementary students aren't very responsible and the device is expensive. And to muddle my thinking even more, Google has just created a cross-platform eReader App that might force some changes in the industry.  Plus there is the issue of troubleshooting for library patrons, digital rights management, etc.

I decided to send a message on Twitter to see if anyone uses eBooks in an elementary library and what eReaders they use. So far no comments. I'll keep digging...


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Flipped Classroom and the Library

The Flipped Classroom (or Reverse Instruction or Teacher Vodcasting) appears to be best suited for older students as a teaching pedagogy. The flipped classroom is when teachers put lectures online as videos and assign students to watch them as homework; then students come to class with questions regarding the lecture. Class becomes a time to question, experiment, and collaborate with others while the teacher is the expert and coach.

Sharing videos is a great tool that wasn't available when I was a growing up. Our homework was usually to read a chapter from a textbook or novel. I would have loved having access to teachers lectures where I could watch and review at my own pace. This allows for differenciated learning and addresses more learning styles. What a terrific new technology tool for delivering curriculum content!

Would this learning method work in an elementary setting? If elementary students were required to watch a video at home they would need the skills to get to the webpage, have knowledge of computer videoplayers, have enough bandwidth at home, know what buffering is, know how to troubleshoot, and maybe need knowledge of how to download videos. It would be interesting to see what issues came up if you had grade 5 students do this. One consideration is that all students need Internet access and a computer. We are a 1 to 1 Laptop school; however, students don't get a laptop until they enter Middle School.

I don't know how I would apply the flipped classroom to the elementary library. We are having an author visit and maybe I should post a video on him and tell students to watch it. My problem is that I see the students on a 10 day rotation and weeks go by before they come to the library again. I also don't assign homework. I'm not saying it can't be done, I just don't see how it would work with my current setup. Maybe a flexible schedule would work? Seems like the only way I could give it a go is to collaborate with a teacher.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Technology in the Library

The Learning 2.011 Technology Conference in Shanghai, China was really exciting for getting ideas on technology use in the classroom and outside of it. I took a digital storytelling class and was so excited that I videotaped Shanghai using the iTouch. I had 200 thirty second or less videos and they captured the noise and crowds of China. (I deleted most of the videos.) It was my attempt to tell a story of a country I had never been to using a video camera app. I had so much fun!


I love using technology in the library. It's a tool for getting students excited to read. After the conference, I was reflecting on an area of technology that I need to improve on such as social networking. I'm a twit when it comes to Twitter. Honestly, I can't quite figure it out. Jeff Utecht introduced our CoeTail cohort class to it, but my brain was not computing. I shut down at the part. I know a ton of applications but this social side to technology is really different! How do I use it in a meaningful way? How do I develop the habit of using it? How do I find time to use it in a schedule already overflowing?

The unique setup of the Learning 2.011 conference is that people get together and have a one hour workshop on a topic of interest to them. I went to the Twitter workshop. The presenters' PowerPoint on the LCD screen kept flickering like an eyelid blinking in rapid succession. It made me feel slightly ill if I looked at it too long. I focused on the speakers and what they were saying and found my twitter jitters disappearing and my thoughts becoming positive: this is something I want to do! The speakers showed the value of networking with colleagues and others who are on the cutting edge of technology. They showed people in the conference tools for organizing and reading tweets that are more intuitive than the Twitter homepage, such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and gave the advantages and disadvantages of both. They showed how it has helped them improve lessons and connect with other students and teachers around the world. They showed the power of this technology tool that opened my eyes to its possiblities.

Another teacher at the conference told me about Shanghai Taxi, an iPad app that is free and translates English words to Chinese. Too bad I didn't have my video rolling when we showed the iPad,with Longyang railway station in large Chinese letters, to the driver who giggled over it like a kid. He thought it was so funny. He started to hand the iPad back to my husband, pulled his hand back, laughed, shook his head and touched the screen like it was a magic wand. More importantly, it worked; we got to the right destination.

The beauty of this conference is that you can customize it to your needs or interests in learning technology. The sessions are no longer than one hour and I could absorb all the new information. I need to thank Jeff Utecht for suggesting this conference that he co-founded. It is terrific.

Sitting on my desk next to my computer is a notebook that has scribbles saying, "Tweet about this:...." and I have a list of ideas, but I haven't tweeted them. I know you are thinking, what a twit.

But no more. Tonight I sent my first Tweet asking for apps that are easy to use for grade 5 students doing video book trailers on the iPad.

Except I forgot to mention I wanted an app for the iPad not iPad 2.

Then I realized I forgot to mention I wanted a free app because I have a demo iPad for only 2 weeks.

Then I realized I only had 9 Followers so it really doesn't matter ; )


Friday, September 16, 2011


Who is responsible for teaching National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS)?


The wording of the new standards applies to parents, teachers, staff - basically all adults.  I've been using technology for 30 years. The skills change so quickly as new technology gets invented that I can see why they've made the new standards more general than the old ones that focused on skills. They've done the same thing for library standards. People living in a technological society need to understand technology use and the consequences of good and bad actions.

I just spent three days at the Learning 2.011 Technology Conference in Shanghai, China. Presenters gave an onslaught of ways to connect technology with curriculum and social networking. I came back oozing with excitement at trying the new ideas and foolishly tried three new lessons on the same day. That was a little too ambitious. I really didn’t have the right technology tools to do everything I was trying. I tried using cameras instead of iPads and they were too cumbersome and slow for grade 4 students. I did have an iTouch and that group finished the project in 40 minutes. Hmmm. Tells you something about those touch screens and young children.

What was obvious at the conference was that technology affects all of us. Kim Cofino stressed using technology to customize education, Kevin Honeycutt stressed using social networking and gave the example of his son raising money through social networks to purchase laptops and begin a library for a school in Nepal, Julie Lindsay spoke about the flat classroom and connecting with students and teachers around the world, Wes Fryer talked about his daughter publishing a book, Sheldon Bradshaw showed his 5 year olds blog. However, the highlight was when three young students showed how technology had impacted their learning.

After the keynote speakers, we separated into different classes of interest. I signed up for Digital Storytelling. One of the instructors,  Sheldon Bradshaw , pointed out that there are times to “get rid of the burden of text” and focus on oral storytelling. Bradshaw and Wes Fryer had an iPad and iRig microphone and showed examples of how your can do this in a short time with the iMovie app. I needed to transfer this learning to the age of the students I teach which is KA-5. I decided to try it on grade 1 students. I didn’t have an iPad but I did have an iTouch. Before the conference I read, The Library Mouse, to first graders. It’s a story about a mouse who starts writing books and hiding them in the library for people to find. The readers decide they want to meet the mouse and he leaves blank books and pencils on a table encouraging the readers to start writing. A self-published center begins in the library. First graders wrote their own books and then hid them in our school library. When they finished, I asked them if they wanted to read me their story and I videotaped them with the iTouch.  The following video shows a first grader reading her story and then being creative and making up the end of the story about the witch being good.


So... to recap.

As we become more and more connected in a digital world, it’s the responsibility of all members in a community to teach students and each other responsible technology use, and the NETS standards give a structure for doing just that. As a librarian, I want to get students excited about reading and technology is one tool I can use to reach that goal.