Read Across America and World Read Aloud Day 2014 is Here!

World-Read-Aloud-Day-2014Wow!  I am so excited that Read Across America and World Read Aloud Day is here.  Some miraculous things have happened since planning for this week started in December.

The shared Google Doc that Shannon Miller and I created has been very busy and growing every day.

I’ve been having countless conversations on Twitter, Facebook, and email to connect our teachers and students with authors and classrooms around the world.  The global collaboration that has gone into this week is energizing, inspiring, and exhausting!  I can’t wait to see all of the planning come to life next week.  I know that there will be so many moments  that will inspire and surprise us during the week.  I’m also thinking back to last year and how the weather changed our plans!  I’m hoping for global great weather next week so that all of our connections happen.

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Here’s a look at our week!

On Monday, we will have about 50 guest readers from the community reading Dr. Seuss books in every classroom.

These are a few of the books we will share with libraries, classrooms, and authors around the world during the rest of the week.

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On Monday we will connect with:

  • Okle Miller and her students in Florida
  • Crystal Hendrix and her students in North Carolina
  • Wendy Garland and her students in Massachusetts
  • Jennifer Reed and her students in Massachusetts along with author, Peter Reynolds
  • Jenny Lussier and her students in Connecticut along with author, Ame Dyckman
  • Nancy Edwards and her students in Seattle, WA
  • Shannon Miller and her students in Iowa
  • Kathy Schmidt and her students in Gwinnett County, GA

On Tuesday, we will connect with:

  • Erika Victor and her students in Berlin, Germany!
  • Jennifer Reed and her students in Massachusetts
  • Heather Temske and her students in Roswell, GA
  • Laura D’Elia and her students in Massachusetts
  • Christy Brennan and her students in Pennsylvania
  • Shannon Miller and her students in Iowa along with author, Deborah Freedman

On Wednesday (the official World Read Aloud Day), we will connect with:

  • Donna MacDonald and her students in Vermont
  • Matthew Winner and his students in Maryland
  • Anne Marie Pace, author
  • Kate DiCamillo, Newbery-winning author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
  • Sherry Gick and her students in Indiana along with author, Barbara O’Connor
  • Shannon Miller and her students in Iowa along with author, Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw
  • Tanya Lee Stone, author

On Thursday, we will connect with:

  • Edie Crook and her students in North Carolina
  • Okle Miller and her students in Florida
  • Cherie Smeltzer and her students in New Hampshire
  • Shawna Ford and her students in Texas
  • Jenny Lussier and her students in Connecticut
  • Wendy Garland and her students in Massachusetts
  • Shannon Miller and her students in Iowa

On Friday, we will connect with:

  • Meghan Nels and her students in Massachusetts
  • Shannon Miller (Iowa), Matthew Winner (Maryland), and Jesse Klausmier
  • Cathy Potter and her students in Maine
  • Shawn Ford (Texas) and Shannon Hyman (Virginia) and their students
  • Stacy Ford and his students in Texas
  • Randie Groden and her students in Massachusetts
  • Shannon Miller and her students in Iowa with author, Tom Angleberger

Whew!  It will truly be an amazing week!

We are going to attempt to document our week as much as possible through pictures and videos. We are also going to work on a map of our virtual travels using Google Tour Builder.  During each Skype, we will make sure to ask where are guests are specifically located.  Then, after the Skype, I will pull up our Google Tour and we’ll add pins and details to the map.  By the end of the week, I can’t wait to look at the whole tour and remember our travels.

Letting Kindergarten Imagination Soar with Blokify and Makerbot

blokify (4)Mrs. Kelly Hocking’s Kindergarten class just started a collaborative project with the art teacher and the media center.  Her class has been very inquisitive about structures and sculptures and what it’s like to be inside of those structures.  For example, they’ve looked closely at the Statue of Liberty and they are fascinated with the idea of going inside and looking out from the crown.  In art, Mrs. Foretich is introducing maquette sculpture which is a small scale model of a rough draft or unfinished work.  It allows them to test how different shapes are put together without making a full sculpture.

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These 2 ideas started coming together in a project.  Mrs. Hocking started exploring Minecraft at home and thinking about how worlds and structures were created in the virtual world.  Then she started wondering how this might flow into the discussions her class was already having about imagining and going inside of structures.  This is when we started talking about Blokify as a tool for putting together blocks to create a larger structure.

Mrs. Kelly, the art teacher, and I all met to brainstorm.  Students will eventually build a larger sculpture out of shapes in art.  Their art standard is:

GPS: Demonstrates that shapes can be put together to make new shapes or forms.

Their essential question is:

How do artists build Sculptures?

We decided that we would start our journey with Blokify.  Blokify is a free iPad app that allows students to put a variety of blocks together to build pretty much anything and then 3D print that shape.  The files can be emailed for download into your own software for 3D printing conversion.

We decided that Blokify would be the kickoff to this larger project.  In the library, Mrs. Foretich, our art teacher, showed students some examples of maquettes and talked about how artists might make a rough draft of a larger sculpture to test some things out before making a larger sculpture.  Then, we showed students some images from Blokify’s facebook page to give students the idea that you don’t just have to make a box in Blokify.

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After that, students went straight to iPads and jumped in.  We didn’t spend a lot of time “teaching” them how to use the app.  Instead, we let them explore.  We also didn’t tell them what to build because we wanted them to have permission to imagine and dream as they built.  Mrs. Foretch and I walked around to tables and showed students some tips as they worked.  For example, if you hold your finger on a block it will disappear.  If you pinch the screen, you can zoom in and out.

Two of my enrichment cluster students came to support students as they worked, too.  Monica, 5th grader, and Grant, 3rd grader, were naturals at nudging Kindergarten students along without doing the work for them.  We were almost able to have a helper at every table because of them.  I was so glad that their teachers allowed them to come and share their expertise with Kindergarten.

Some students started really being strategic about where their blocks went in their structures while others liked tapping all over the screen and seeing how it turned out.  We did question a bit if we didn’t give student enough guidance, but we ultimately decided that they really needed this time to explore.  If our prints don’t quite turn out like they hoped, then it will be a learning experience about how they might rethink their own approach to designing.

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As always, there were some wonderful moments that happened.  One moment was when  a student who we’ve all been trying to find the right learning method was thoroughly engaged.  He was so proud of the work he did, and he showed us a way to connect with him as a learner.  I  hope that this new discovery will lead to other projects and learning experiences for him in his classroom.

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After students left, I had a group of 5th grade helpers email me all of the files from the iPads.  I put each file into Makerware, resized it, and saved it onto an SD card for printing.  We will print our designs after spring break.

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Once designs are printed, Mrs. Hocking wants students to put their structures on a piece of paper and draw the rest of the setting around the structure.  From there, students will think about the inside of their structure as well as the surroundings and begin to tell a story about their creations.  We aren’t sure yet how that piece will be captured, but I’m excited about the possibility.

In art, Mrs. Foretich will continue to explore this standard by expanding what students are building.

 

 

Problem Solving and Science in Action with the Rube Works App

RubeWorks (2)Back in December, Kate Wright, 2nd grade teacher, told me that the grade level would be studying force, motion, pushes, pulls, and simple machines in the late part of 3rd quarter and they wanted to incorporate the art and inventions of Rube Goldberg.  It was a seed of an idea which I absolutely love.  I love when a seed is planted early enough that it has time to grow and expand with new opportunities.

Over the winter break, I had a follow on Twitter from Electric Eggplant , and in miraculous fashion, the seed idea began to develop.  Electric Eggplant is the developer of a new iPad app called Rube Works.  It’s the official invention game of Rube Goldberg.  I started having a Twitter conversation with them and found out that the app was on sale until the end of December.  I went ahead and purchased 30 copies knowing that it was going to be a perfect fit with the seed of an idea.

My Twitter conversation continued and I was connected with David Fox, the developer of Rube Works.  He agreed that once we got the project going, he would love to connect with us and see what the kids thought of the app.

Since that conversation, a page on Skype in the Classroom has been created for Rube Goldberg which includes the chance to Skype with David as well as Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer.  We added both of these to our growing seed of an idea.

RubeWorks (3)Over the past 2 days, the 2nd grade has been working in the library to use the Rube Works game.  This is a kickoff to their study of force, push, pull, and motion.  We started by watching some videos of Rube Goldberg inventions because most of the students had no idea who he was.  They were fascinated by the zany inventions to do simple, everyday things.  Some of them even launched into a brainstorm of what they would invent (which is coming as a part of our seed of an idea!)

Next, I showed students the Rube Works trailer.

They were eager to get started.  Because the Rube Works app has a reading component that does not have text to speech, the teachers paired students together so that a stronger reader was in each pair.  This helped lift this reading barrier for students, but it also gave students a brainstorming partner.  Students quickly saw that creating a Rube Goldberg invention is not a piece of cake.  It takes trial and error, risk taking, failure, problem solving, perseverance, working through frustration, and creativity to make these inventions work.  In our 35-40 minutes of work time, most pairs managed to finish the first scenario and some made great progress on the 2nd.  A few even made it to the 3rd level.

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Even though there were moments where students could be heard saying, “This is so frustrating!” and “I just can’t get this to work!”, I didn’t see a single group stop working.  I overheard one student say, “I thought first levels were supposed to be easy!”, but she didn’t give up.  When we gathered back on the floor, we talked about how we all get frustrated, but it’s what we do with that frustration that matters.  The teachers brought up a classroom discussion that they have been having with students about perseverance, and this was such a great connection to help them feel what it’s like to persevere through something even when it’s hard. It was so rewarding to students be successful after multiple attempts.

I encouraged students to keep their solutions a secret but to feel free to give one another hints, which is yet another skill that we pulled into this lesson.  We wanted every person to work to figure out these puzzles without someone just giving away the solution.  Students didn’t want to quit after our hour together and they are eager to continue working with this app in their classroom.

When I asked students and teachers about some things that they love, they mentioned things like:

  • clear instructions
  • hints
  • the ability to test your invention multiple times along the way
  • that the app shows you the actual drawing that Rube Goldberg made after you finish a level
  • that it was challenging but fun

We look forward to continuing to explore this app and incorporate what we’ve learned into our own Rube Goldberg inventions.

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Honoring Student Voices through Student Book Budgets with Capstone Press

Student Book Survey 2013 2014For the past several years, I have reserved a portion of our library funding to be completely controlled by students.  Over time, I’ve seen student-selected books be among some of the most popular books in the collection.  The library collection is mainly for our students, so why not let their voice be heard in the collection development process.  Part of our library funding comes from the state, and another part comes from fundraisers such as our fall and spring book fair.  Since students and their families shop at our book fairs to build their home libraries while supporting our school library, I see student book budgets as being one small way of giving back to our community.

This year, our book budget process has gone through some changes.  In order to involve a few more students at various stages, I broke the process into parts.  Part 1 was to gather data from the school.  Every Tuesday and Thursday I have a group of five 5th grade boys who work in the library as a service project.  Together, we developed a Google form to gather information from the school.  We wanted to track the number of students we surveyed at each grade level, the number of boys and girls, specific reading interests, and specific requests.

Once the survey was created, we generated a QR code so that they could quickly scan the code and go out into the school to survey students with iPads.  This was mainly needed with our youngest students.  For older students, I emailed the survey to them to fill out.

Each year, we tend to see similar results with our data, but I told the students that we can’t assume that we know what people are wanting in the library because it can change.  Here’s a look at the main data they collected.

Student Book Survey 2013 2014   Google Drive

Next, I blocked off some library time during 4th and 5th grade’s recess time and asked for students who would like to participate in an alternative recess for a few days to spend money on books.  I’ve tried doing this during lunch and it is just too complicated to juggle food, catalogs, vendor websites, etc.  I didn’t get as big of a response from students this year, so we’ll see if we return to this model next year.

On day 1, the 4th and 5th grade book budget students came to look at the survey results.  They made some decisions to inform how much money should be dedicated to various categories.  I printed the specific requests of students and Savannah and Isaiah spent time highlighting some specific titles that students were asking for.  It was a tedious process for them!  The even got down to searching the library catalog to see how many copies of books we had like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and discussing if there was justification to order even more copies of existing titles.  We finally all agreed on some overall categories of:  Comics/Graphic novels, sports, humor, scary, world records, and action/adventure.

tough decisions

Even on this 1st day, they started having some tough conversation.  For example, they saw that World Records was a highly requested category, but from experience, they know that students are mostly talking about Guinness World Records.  They decided that instead of dividing the budget and giving this category several hundred dollars, they would just buy 2 new copies of the 2014 World Records for about $60.  It’s always fascinating to see how quickly students realize how a budget works and how hard it is to make decisions for the library.  One of them said, “Mr. Plemmons, I know this is only a small part of your job, but it sure is hard!”

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On day 2, we welcomed Jim Boon, Capstone Press Sales Rep.  I love working with Jim because he treats the students like young professionals.  I also love that Jim listens to what students are asking for and tailors his talk and display to the goals that they have.  He setup displays of books that matched their goal categories with a few books that connected to their themes in different ways.  He gave every student a new Capstone catalog and a pen.  As he proceeded to show students various books, he invited students to turn through the catalog, circle books of interest, and fold down the corners of pages.  After he shared some specific books, students came up and started browsing through the books on display.  Jim and I proceeded to have individual conversations with students about the books in the catalogs and help them see where prices could be found.  We also mentioned to students that Capstone offers Capstone Rewards and various incentives.  For example, if we spend $1750 on our order, we get 30% back in Capstone Rewards, but if we spend less than that we get 10% back.  I love the math that comes into this project each year because it is real world application of an important life skill.

I also love that in our individual conversations there are stories that emerge.  Jim had a great conversation with one of our students, Ember.  She consistently asked Jim about the prices of every book.  The budget was weighing heavy on her mind and she was thinking hard about how to get the most books for our money.  In their conversations, there were a few books that Ember desperately wanted in our collection, and I loved that Jim made sure to leave one of those books that she requested for us to add to our collection!  I know Ember will greatly appreciate it.

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Students were having so much fun that they decided to take their catalogs with them to continue marking titles of interest.  I’m a little scared of seeing what they come back with!  It’s such a hard process to cross books off of the wish list, but it is an important process to choose the very best books for our collection at the current time with the funds that we have.

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This process is beneficial to me as the librarian too because I get to see books that students are getting excited about.  For the purposes of the project, I remind students to focus on their goals and only purchase what matches the requests.  However, I’m over to the side writing down titles to put on my own ordering list for this year or the beginning of next year knowing that the titles already have a group of readers waiting on them.

Thank you to Capstone Press for your tremendous customer service, your professional relationship with all of your users including students, and for giving our students a voice in collection development.  You are superstars!

Our next step will be to look at one more vendor to fill in some holes in our wish list, and the we will start the tedious process of cutting books from our list until we have our final order.

 

World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge #3: Snapshot of My Reading Life

World-Read-Aloud-Day-2014For the next 3 weeks, I’m participating in the World Read Aloud Day blogging challenge.  Each week, I will respond to a question along with many other bloggers participating in this global celebration of reading aloud.  Our students, teachers, and families will also be involved with these questions each week as I invite them to respond through Flipgrids, Thinglinks, and more.

For week 3, I’m asking students, teachers, and families to take pictures of their reading lives.  They will send these photos to our Flickr account via email.  Those photos will appear in the Flickr stream on our blog,

but I’ll also use them to create a slideshow of our reading lives.

Here’s a little snapshot of my reading life.  It was hard to take just one picture, so I cheated and took a few!

My bookshelf

My bookshelf

This is my bookshelf in our living room at home.  Looks messy doesn’t it?  That’s because my kids are constantly putting things on it and pulling things off.  At the very top of the shelf you’ll find a few of my autographed books.  I have so many that I had to put some in a boxes.  Many more are sprinkled throughout the books on my son and daughter’s shelves.  You’ll find books by Kate DiCamillo, Barbara O’Connor, Patricia Polacco, Jerry Pinkney, Aaron Becker, and Carmen Deedy (just to name a few).  I love reading books aloud that have been signed by the author because I somehow feel a connection with the author knowing that their pen has actually touched the pages I’m reading.  The signatures and dedications also hold stories of their own.  When I hold an autographed book, I’m reminded of the story connected with meeting and hearing from that author.

Alora & DiCamillo

My daughter, Alora, with her autographed copy of Mercy Watson

About 4 years ago, I met Kate DiCamillo at the Decatur Book Festival.  My wife and I were expecting our first child in December of that year and we wanted to get a special book signed to her.  At the time no one knew the name that we had chosen for our daughter.  As I handed Kate DiCamillo a copy of Mercy Watson, I said Alora’s name to another person besides my wife for the very first time.  The name became very real at that point.  Kate DiCamillo stared at the name on the yellow post-it note and said, “Tell Alora what a beautiful name she has and welcome to the world.”  When Alora was reading this book the other day, she saw that her name was on the title page.  I shared the story of getting the book signed and what Kate DiCamillo said, and Alora said, “Wow!  Thank you!  That is so kind of her.”  I love how our reading lives are filled with wonderful stories, but that those wonderful stories lead us to memories and stories of our own.

Alora's bookshelf, age 4

Alora’s bookshelf, age 4

This is my daughter’s bookshelf.  It is filled with books about Disney princesses and Dora the Explorer, but it also has so much more.  I love that we can share these Disney favorites with one another, but that we can also sit down and read books together like Creepy Carrots, Epossumondas, and Mercy Watson.  Seeing stories come alive through her eyes makes me enjoy and appreciate them even more.  Most of my reading life is spent reading picture books to my kids or reading books to share with students at school.

Anderson's bookshelf (age 20 months)

Anderson’s bookshelf (age 20 months)

Books often make their way from Alora’s room to my son Anderson’s room and back.  Right now, I read with Anderson every night while my wife Denise reads with Alora or tells stories aloud.  Anderson loves nursery rhymes like Hey Diddle Diddle and Jack & Jill.  He also loves Goodnight Moon and Babies.  Any books that are short, repetitive, with lots of pictures are the ones he likes to read.  We often spend time reading the same book over and over each night until he moves on to something new.  He has also stretched me to tune up my singing voice because he loves books that are songs.  We are still reading/singing Little Drummer Boy, It’s a Small World, and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands several nights each week.

Our school library is filled with so many different kinds of books, and this is another very important part of my reading life.  It’s impossible for me to read every book on these shelves myself, but students bring these books to life for me in my own reading life by sharing what they are reading and enjoying.

shelving cart

A few books that our Barrow kids enjoyed!

I love that every day I spend time reading with someone whether it’s my own children or my children at school.

For more information on World Read Aloud Day visit http://litworld.org/worldreadaloudday 

To connect with other libraries and classrooms, visit our shared Google Doc.

Kinetic Art Sculptures Using Our Makerbot Replicator 2

kinetic sculpturesOur art teacher, art student teacher, and I have been having a blast with 3rd graders designing kinetic sculptures.  About 2 weeks ago, students came to the library during art to learn about Tinkercad and how artists use technology to create.  Before this lesson, they watched a Tinkercad tutorial.  In small groups, they designed an object for 3D printing.  Whatever they designed would become one piece of a larger kinetic sculpture in art.  You can read more about that experience here.  

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Once students finished their design, I went into each account and tried to double check that the designs were all pushed together into one piece art.  Then, I downloaded the .stl file into Makerware.  In Makerware, I resized the object to a smaller size to speed up the printing process.  I also added a raft (removeable base) and supports to each print.  I’ve found that in Tinkercad these 2 steps are needed because what you see on the computer screen might actually be misleading.  The raft and supports help the 3D print be more stable.  All files were loaded onto the SD card prior to students arriving.

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Ms. Foretich, art teacher, created a printing schedule with about 60-90 minutes between prints.  During each time frame, students came to the library and chose their filament color.  Then, I shared some information about the 3D printer since it was the 1st 3D print for most students.  Finally, we pulled up the file on the SD card and a student pressed the M.  Students sat in chairs or huddled around the printer to watch.  After watching the print for a few minutes, students went back to their regular day while the print finished.  I kept an eye on each print during and between my lessons.

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Each printing experience was different and you really never know what is going to happen when you press that red M.  Many times the print is a big success, but sometimes it’s not.  We’ve had some failures, which are very important.  We save every failed print we have and put it in a box.  It reminds us that we aren’t perfect, but it also serves as an instructional tool to talk to students about what didn’t work.  We learn from our failures and a box full of failure speaks volumes to all of the students who are starting their 3D printing process.

fail

When a print fails, we go back into the design and look at what needs to happen.  Sometimes it’s as simple as pushing some pieces together more than they were.  However, sometimes it’s a big flaw that cause students to just start over.  It certainly slows the process down, but it is important for them to revisit their work, revise, and try again.

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It’s always fun to see which students are motivated by the concept of 3D printing.  Sometimes the students make surprising choices like giving up their recess time to spend that time watching the 3D printer create.  Hearing their “wows” and “cools” is inspiring.

jaymar

Students are continuing to print their pieces this week and next.  In the meantime, they are continuing to work on their kinetic sculptures in art knowing that their 3D printed object will also be a part of their design.

 

Beta Testing with Wandoo Planet and Evanced Kids

Wandoo (7)Today a group of 5th grade boys Skyped with Lindsey Hill of Evanced Kids.  Recently, Matthew Winner posted on his blog about a beta testing opportunity for Wandoo Planet, a kids’ interest genome project.  I signed up to be a beta tester and it wasn’t long before I got an email inviting me to join.

I tried out the product myself and had a lot of fun clicking on the fun little characters carrying signs with words of interest.  I could give a thumbs up, thumbs down, or a heart to each sign.  This helped the program start finding other topics I might like.  When I reached a point where I felt done, the program took me to a tree with branches for each of my love categories.  Within these categories were suggested books and movies I might read or watch.  If I saw a book I knew I wouldn’t like, I could delete it so that it could be replaced by other books.  I also learned that I could add additional branches to my tree.

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This week, my tech crew of 5th grade boys tried out Wandoo Planet for themselves.  I tweeted a picture of their beta test and immediately started having a conversation with Lindsey Hill at Evanced Games.  She wanted to hear their thoughts, so we set up a time to connect.

Twitter   Interactions

 

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After some quick introductions, the boys launched right into talking about what they liked and what they wished or wondered.  The boys talked about:

  • Being able to search for specific topics rather than wait on the animals to bring the topics to them
  • Trying to cut down the time it takes to build your tree
  • Wondering which age groups the product would actually be for
  • Wondering how topics are suggested to them.
  • Wanting mini games within the program.  Educational mini games that tie to the book topics that are suggested.
  • Wanting more choices to choose from
  • Wanting to start with broader topics and narrow down to specific
  • Wanting the tool to be available on the computer, iTuness, and Google Play
  • Wanting music and sounds

The boys found out that several of their ideas and suggestions are already being worked on, but aren’t yet available in the beta version.  I loved that these students experienced the idea of a “rough draft” from their writing classrooms and how those rough drafts are being revised several times.  I want to help them make that connection more when we meet again on Tuesday.  This was a great real world example that revision impacts more than just writing a paper for class.  It’s a big part of many of our careers.

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The powerful piece in this is that these students’ voices were heard.  Lindsey told them that every comment they made was going to be carried to the developers to improve Wandoo Planet for future users of the tool.  I am really excited about this tool because I think it is one more piece to help students discover their interests, connect to books/games/movies/sites that support those interests, and more.  As a librarian, I see this being a way to give students ideas for growing the collection to include things that matter to them.

This group is going to continue to use Wandoo Planet on Tuesday and then reconnect with Lindsey on Wednesday of next week along with Shannon Miller and her students in Van Meter, Iowa.  We can’t wait!

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