Back in early February, a group of 5th graders became beta testers for a new tool from Evanced Kids called Wandoo Planet. It is a kid-powered interest genome project similar to Spotify, Pandora, or Netflix. Through a visually-stunning, game-like interface, students train the system to understand what their interests are and Wandoo Planet offers book and movie recommendations.
Since our beta testing began, Evanced has released the beta version to anyone who wants to register for an account. The polished version will be released in summer or early fall. I thought this would be the perfect launch to summer reading. In the past, I’ve tried to get students to think about their interests and begin making lists of possible reading topics, but I felt like it was difficult to carry those initial plans into the summer. With Wandoo Planet, kids can start thinking about their interests and continue to grow and develop their interests throughout the summer and beyond. They can take the books and movies that are recommended to the public library or bookstores and gather their summer reading materials.
Lindsey Hill at Evanced began brainstorming with me on Twitter and email to plan a virtual visit right before we leave for the summer. She mailed me bookmarks, username/password cards, and buttons to give to all of the students.
We thought through which classes would come, a schedule that made sense, how to structure the virtual components, and how to best use student time in the library. We decided on having 2 classes for 45 minute intervals with a 10 minute cushion of time in between sessions. This allowed us to see all 2nd-5th grade classes.
Lindsey agreed to Skype with each group and explain Wandoo. She used this time to explain how Wandoo works as well as how to setup an account.
She also agreed to stay online all day so that students could give her feedback about Wandoo and ask questions. I loved watching students walk up and have genuine conversations with her.
The goal for students during the work session portion of the 45-minute segments was to view the “squirrel parade” on Wandoo planet and begin teaching Wandoo what they like, dislike, and love. After about 5-10 minutes, they setup an account and begin building their Wandoo tree. The tree gives students recommendations for books. If they mark a book to keep, it puts a bud on their virtual tree. After they read and rate the book, the bud turns into leaves on the tree. Students can also add interest branches to their tree by revisiting the squirrel parade or typing a topic directly onto a branch. Students had a small amount of time to do this today. I put a sheet on every table to remind students about all of the steps.
Students brought their classroom computers with them, but for 2nd grade we had to use the library laptop cart and other library computers. It was interesting to look around and see all of the ways that students were accessing Wandoo.
While students were working, we had quite an extensive team of helpers during the day. For the most part, students were independent. We scheduled helpers to assist students with typing, following directions, and thinking of feedback to go to the camera and give to Lindsey at Evanced.
During our 1st two session, we had Gretchen Thomas’s maymester EDIT2000 class. These students were extremely helpful in getting extra computers setup for 2nd grade and having individual conversations with students. Even if they didn’t feel like they “helped”, their conversations pushed students’ thinking about reading interests. I loved that these students used Flipgrid to reflect on their visit to Barrow.
We also had fantastic parent volunteers during the day that helped us as well. Having these parents seeing how kids are using technology and how we encourage continued connection over the summer was so valuable to our school and library program.
Finally, we had a great team of student ambassadors to help throughout the day. These students included my original beta testers as well as members of my student book budget group. Each student had already created an account in Wandoo and tried it out for themselves. I loved seeing their leadership as they setup computers, gently nudged peers to stay focused, and problem-solved technical difficulties.
Hosting this many students in one day in the library was exhausting, but the help of all of these UGA students, parents, and student ambassadors made all the difference in the world.
We closed each session by connecting once again with Lindsey. She encouraged students to use Wandoo all summer long and each group had a special visit from Winston, the Wandoo Planet mascot. We all had fun watching Winston’s dance moves and joining in.
After saying goodbye to Lindsey, I showed students how they can continue to connect with our library all summer long by using our digital resources. I also created a Padlet for them to post to throughout the summer. Lindsey and Winston are going to add to the Padlet too!
I also gave students a strongly worded statement that there’s not really an excuse to not access books and digital resources during the summer. We have an incredible public library system that is within walking distance of most of our students. I hope they will take advantage of our public library’s many resources this summer.
Thank you Evanced Kids for creating a great tool for kids to think about their reading interests and for listening to kids in order to improve your system. I can’t wait to see what our kids experience this summer!