Learning About Cool Tools Blog

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Thing 5: Digital Storytelling

I have been wanting to have students create book trailers ever since reading Mighty Little Librarian, Tiffany Whitehead’s post about student created book trailers. Just having opened up Google Drive in our school, my 5th and 6th graders are currently making their book trailers in Google Presentation as a way to get them savvy with that program. However, I think the music component of a book trailer is very powerful so I would like them to transfer their finished product to a platform that supports an addition of music. (Where are you with this Google?) This tool has been the perfect place for me to try out a variety of digital storytelling tools to find the right fit for my students.

I loved Animoto. It is easy to use, free, intuitive, and, did I mention, free? I can add my students on my account if I register for an educator account, which I did. This is helpful because my 6th graders have gmail but my 5th graders don’t. On the down side, the amount of text you can add is limited. It’s disappointing because I love this tool in every other way. Some of my students got right to the point with making their persuasive case for why to read a book but some of my other students are wordier. This was the tool I decided to use as my creation for this entry. I had started one in January and never got past the first slide because of everything I was trying to accomplish as a first year middle school library teacher. This assignment was a great opportunity to go back and master this product. It was totally worth it.

I tried storify and photopeach and both were blocked through my school’s filter. Even if they are fabulous tools, it will take me some time to get these unblocked so I decided to try out other tools.

My next try was Voice Thread. Knowing my students will have to register for an account which has to be verified through an e-mail address is tricky. Again, my 5th graders don’t have our school g-mail yet. I watched one of the intro videos and found it fascinating. I like the idea of conveying an idea through voice and an accompanying video instead of just pictures, music, and text. Hmmm… Maybe I will reserve this one for next year’s 6th grade alone. I think this tool would lend itself well to research projects. I also wish I had known about this tool when I was doing presentations for the school board this year. It would have been fun to introduce the new additions made to the library using this tool and asking my library squad to create it. I will put this one in my bag of tricks. I thought Digital

Passport was similar to VoiceThread but I like the layout better where you can see the video of the person speaking along with the slides of information. I am thinking that over the summer, I may create one each of these for my Information Literacy classes to introduce each of the topics of the curriculum.

PresentMe seems like another great option as it doesn’t require an e-mail authentication after sign up. My 5th graders have an e-mail address, they just don’t have access to it yet so they can sign up with it as long as they don’t have to go into it to authenticate their account. I like that you can upload a Google doc, being that we are a GAFE school and uploading a Prezi slide is also an option. On the down side, in order to upload music you need to pay for an upgraded account.

Overall, I like the options out there and I can see that if there was one that almost fits the bill but not quite, I might put in for some funding to upgrade. Seeing all of these tools also brought up some good questions that I haven’t addressed it being my first year here such as ‘Do we have microphones?’ and ‘Is there money in the budget for a tool like this?’ Overall, these have been very helpful and very timely. Looks like we’re going to go with Animoto for our book trailers and my wordy students will have to be more precise with their convincing text.

Here’s my try at a convincing book trailer via Animoto: http://animoto.com/play/PnXOu92tYiAR1TcxnJ41oA 

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Thing 4: RSS

RSS FeedsBack when Google had a home page, I utilized Google Reader for all of my favorite blogs. It was a wonderful way to unclog my inbox from e-mail notifications about blog updates or newsletters. When Google Reader was discontinued, I looked around for an alternative but just didn’t find anything as satisfying. Since I already know what RSS feeds are and have used one as a pretty big fan, this Cool Tool has been a great opportunity for me to try out some new ones and get back into the swing. I have Symbaloo but never open it up, so this isn’t a good alternative for me, although I do like it’s lay out. I think the key is having one that hangs onto a place you frequent to begin with, which is why having one on my Google home page was so good for me. Since Feedly can be attached as a Google app, I decided to try that one. I liked that it is an app and I appreciate the layout. I also really like the organization option to categorize your feeds into groups. Right away I added Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Free Technology for Teachers, Never Ending Search, and The Daring Librarian. I really wanted to add Mighty Little Librarian as I am a big fan and I want to know whenever she blogs and was really happy to see her come up during a search. I added Cool Tools for School under my Educational Technology section.

I added the Flipboard app to my phone for those times when I’m standing around waiting for something. I thought this was a great suggestion. This is a neat way to have all of the blogs I’d like to read in my free time actually available during my free time. It seems easy to use and convenient on the fly and this is the thing that’s most important to me working full time and being a mother of 3, ease of access to take advantage of those small downtime moments.

Again, many of these tools are not new to me as I’ve said in a previous post. But having a reminder to go back to these tools and remember why they are helpful as well as reincorporating them back into my routine is a wonderful thing! I think the thing is to make sure going to Feedly regularly before I begin my day would be a great way to make sure this tool does not go by the wayside for me.


Thing 3: Photo Sharing, Editing, & Fun

This topic was of particular interest to me as I am not much of a photographer. My mother took maybe 3 pictures of our family growing up and I’ve inherited her lack of foresight in having a camera out for those moments you want to cherish later. My mother had an excuse but as I have a camera on my phone, I don’t have much of one. This section of Cool Tools is inspiring me to be more vigilant about using my camera. I did do a project at the beginning of the school year that was inspired by Pinterest. A smart librarian put up a poster that said, “I mustache you to share your favorite read…” As a new librarian and new to middle school, I wondered if it would be cool to get your picture taken with your favorite book. When I met the teens I thought, nope, they’ll never do this. The poster was empty for weeks. Finally, one curious student asked me what the poster was all about. I explained they could have their picture taken wearing one of the interesting mustaches I had while holding up their favorite book from the library. It only took one! As soon as one person had a mustache on and was posing, 5 more students lined up asking what was going on. It took off like wildfire and I now have a mustache wall that grows out from the poster. 

How else can I use photos? The art teacher approached me about doing poetry photos using the spines of books. That project will be done later in the year so I was excited to see a link for this idea on the Cool Tools post. The link is temporarily down, though, but I will be checking back later. I viewed the Flickr photo sets to tell a story of an event and I am thinking of doing this type of thing to highlight the wonderful recess program that I started in the library this year. I think it would be interesting to see how much learning students choose to do on their own when given material and no agenda, which is what the library program sets out to do. I have students who use Google Earth to find area 51 and talk about time/distance/maps/perspective in the process. Other students play ‘school’ with the smart board, reteaching the day’s math lessons (I have 4th and 5th graders along with my middle schoolers). There is a small, self made club that draws maps. Students knit, crochet, draw, read, and make movies. It would be powerful to capture this all via a photo set using a medium such as Flickr. I think I will also ascertain if I can use one of the Flickr widgets to add to my school library blog. I want to be sure I have permission to post students and if there is anyone who has expressed that they do not want their child photographed or their child’s photograph posted. 

So, the thing that has me the most jazzed up about Thing 3 is the idea of having students use photographs to learn about copyright, fair use and Creative Commons. I am teaching an information literacy course with 7th and 8th graders and this would be an interesting way of helping to personalize the idea that photographers own their works in the same way that authors own theirs. Students are so used to copying and pasting at random that they are very surprised when I tell them that they need to credit their sources. This may be exactly the way to drive this idea home. 

Thing #2: Online Communities & Personal Learning Networks

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Thing #2: Online Communities & Personal Learning Networks

Back to Twitter!

I joined Twitter a while ago at the urging of another school librarian who was doing some very interesting things using technology and the classroom. I was enthused when I first joined and saw the benefits of connecting with other professionals in the field of librarianship and particularly, for me, in the field of librarianship and technology. I have to admit, however, that I’ve let it slide ever since. Finishing up my graduate degree, applying for certification to extend my teaching license to include library media specialist, and beginning to work was overwhelming. Twitter was one of the things that went by the wayside for me. Again, I’d like to reiterate that choosing Tools #1 was a great choice as I had forgotten the benefits of Twitter. Just revisiting the posts of those who I am already following makes me regret letting this tool slip by for so long.

I was already following Joyce Valenza and was interested in a post she directed her followers to by Barbara Bray on the dangers of corporate driven education: http://barbarabray.net/2013/12/30/this-time-its-personal-and-dangerous/ Another librarian I’ve been following posted this interesting article about the popularity of YouTube videos, particularly focusing on the surprising rise of educational videos seen here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/12/30/257552199/hot-on-youtube-videos-about-video-games-and-science-too?sc=tw&cc=share

Since I’ve used this tool before, just getting back to it is my biggest accomplishment. I decided to explore ‘100 of the Best Twitter Tools For Teachers by Category.’ I liked the entry about TweetDeck and decided to give it a try. It is an easier visual experience for me with the columns organized already into a timeline. I like this way of experiencing Twitter and will use this for sure. Ironically, one of the people I’m following tweeted the link of a blog about student blogging, which added to my learning from the previous Cool Tool lesson! It can be found at: http://suewaters.com/2013/02/11/getting-more-out-of-student-blogging/ This blogger cautions educators to ‘Go slow to go fast’ in introducing blogging, encouraging scaffolding in introducing the experience. I find this good advice, which I will follow. I also appreciate her comment that if students don’t read and comment on each other’s posts, the blogs are basically an electronic bulletin board. I take to heart her emphasis on teaching students about their digital footprints as well as the importance of teaching quality writing.

Of the other 100 Best Twitter Tools, I quickly became overwhelmed. I tried out Twibes because I thought the name was a cute play on words. I ended up joining the Twibe Joyce Valenza recently join based on ISTE. I find myself feeling how cut off I’ve been in establishing myself with my degree and getting started. Twitter is a venue I will definitely be using on a more regular basis again to reconnect. I think this is especially essential for school librarians as we are usually the only ones in a building and as such lack a professional community on a daily basis. This tool definitely fills that gap.

Thing 1: Blogging

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Blogging for Students

GWL MS Library Media Center

My name is Edna Auerfeld. I’m a library media specialist at Greenwood Lake MS in Orange County. This is my first year at the middle school level.

I’m taking this course because I enjoy technology and want to have a more thorough knowledge of the tools offered in this first course. When I signed up for Cool Tools, I looked at the topics and realized that I already knew quite a bit about the topics under Cool Tools #1. I had helped other professionals in these areas. I chose to go ahead with #1 anyway as I wanted to be sure my knowledge was comprehensive and I am already happy that I went that way. The section of this topic that is new to me is ‘Why Students Should Blog’ and ‘How to Start Blogging With Students.’ I find the argument that writing for an audience through a blog is a great way for students to consider who they are writing for by establishing that target audience. A discussion on who will read the blog is a great introduction into how different formats and different audiences will necessitate different approaches to the writing. I’ve been thinking of blogging as something professionals do, not students. This idea is new to me and one which I will be pursuing. I think I will use it for book reviews but discuss the internet etiquette and safety pieces mentioned in the above mentioned sections.

I particularly appreciated the resources offered under ‘How to Start Blogging With Students.’ The idea of practicing etiquette by starting out with a big chart sheet of paper and having students comment using sticky notes is a helpful one. I know I will be able to use this to guide students into commenting on blogs in an appropriate way. The ’11 Facts About Cyberbullying’ article is also a fabulous resource and a great springboard for discussion in a class. IMHO, I think #5, “81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person,” is a particularly interesting and erroneously held believe and one which deserves attention in the classroom before blogging can begin.
Again, I’m happy I started at the beginning with this course!