Connecting with Capstone and the PebbleGo Team through Skype

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Our 2nd graders have been thrilled by all of the people voting for their Barrow Peace Prize project.  Voting will continue until February 17th, so there’s still time to take a look at their project and vote.

Today, we were fortunate to have a Skype session with the PebbleGo team at Capstone. PebbleGo is a set of databases with informational text focused on social studies, biographies, science, animals, and dinosaurs. The text is geared to students in lower elementary grades, but it is useful for students at all grades as a starting place for research. Our teachers love the accessibility of the text, how the text is broken into consistent  headings, and that it reads the text to students in a human voice. Our 2nd graders used PebbleGo as the first resource in their Barrow Peace Prize research on Jesse Owen, Bessie Coleman, Ruby Bridges, Charles Drew, Langston Hughes, and Wilma Rudolph.

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During our Skype, we connected with:

  • Tom Zemlin, Director of Software Development
  • Rachel Wallwork & Stephanie Miller, Senior Product Planning Managers
  • Amy Cox, Director of Library Marketing

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Before our session, we sent some questions to PebbleGo and they sent some questions to us.

For PebbleGo:

  • How are PebbleGo articles written?
  • What do you know about the number of people who use PebbleGo?
  • How do you decide what topics to include in PebbleGo?

For us, the Capstone team asked in advance:

  • What do you like about PebbleGo?
  • What do you wish were different?
  • What seems to be missing or what did you have trouble finding the answer to?

We opened our Skype by giving an update on the statistics from our Barrow Peace Prize Projects. At the time of our Skype, our work had been viewed in 121 different locations around the world, according to our Smore page.

The Capstone team introduced themselves and then launched into telling students the process that the team goes through to decide on and create articles. We learned that PebbleGo has been used by over 260,000,000 students around the world.

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Our students took turns lining up at the computer to offer answers to the questions from Capstone, and those comments and questions sparked additional conversation.

Our students expressed their love for how PebbleGo reads to them, has videos, is broken up into sections, and has info on lots of people.

Some of the wishes they had were to have a comprehension check at the end of an article and to include information on character traits for the people in biographies. The character trait comment launched an additional conversation with the Capstone team. We told them how our social studies curriculum includes a study of character traits woven into the people in history. This was hard for our research because we felt like character traits were a bit of an opinion based on facts. The Capstone team had great wonderings for us. They wanted to know if we thought character traits should be separate articles in PebbleGo or if they should be embedded in the biography articles. Our students overwhelmingly responded that they wanted them embedded.

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This then took us to the question about what Capstone does with all of the wishes that it gets from its users. We learned about how they keep lists of wishes and start to notice patterns of requests. When something is requested enough, it might be put into PebbleGo or it might even come up for a vote from PebbleGo users. Within this conversation, we learned that it takes several months for an article to go from an idea to the final piece we see in PebbleGo and the work happens in multiple locations including New York and India.

I loved how the Capstone team listened to our students and how flexible the conversation was with over 100 students. We were well prepared with our student comments and questions, but there was plenty of space to find tangents that revealed more information for our students.

One of the things that I heard from Capstone is that they go through the same kind of research that we are asking our students to go through. They gather their information from multiple sources, create many drafts, and review their work before it is sent out to an audience. It was important for our students to hear this from a major company and see the connections to what we are doing in school.

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Thank you so much to Amy Cox and the Capstone team for making this Skype happen for our students today. It was a wonderful addition to a project that has meant a lot to our students.

Student Book Budgets and Real World Connections: Empowering Student Voice

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We have continued to unpack our student book budget purchases this weeks thanks to generous funding from James Patterson. Each year, there are stories that rise to the surface about students who take a stand for other student requests, students who find a certain talent within the many pieces of book budgets, and students who suddenly find a real world connection through our project.

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This year as we unpacked, I was taking pictures and videos as I always do. I just happened to be near Ajacea, 5th grader, when she was setting up displays of books for people to see. She would set up some books and then take them down because she didn’t like the way they looked. Then, she suddenly decided to start putting the books on the little ledge in the wall of windows that faces the hallway. She talked out loud about how the books should face out so that people would see them as they walked down the hallway. I snapped a few pictures of her inside the library and also through the windows and shared those on social media.

Immediately, I got a tweet back from Amy Cox at Capstone Press, one of the main companies we order from for our book budget project. Her comment started a chain of events.

I loved that Amy used the word “marketing” when she tweeted back to us because it was a real-world connection to an actual career. Whether Ajacea knew what she was doing was called marketing or not, it was intuitive for her, and we were able to connect an interest she had to an actual career path that she might not have ever considered.

By the end of the day, I observed multiple students passing by Ajacea’s windows and stopping to look at the books. They were pointing, talking, and asking their teacher if they could come to the library. Most of the books were checked out from the windows in just about an hour. When I shared this, once again Amy from Capstone responded.

Ajacea stopped by at the end of the day and I told her that Capstone was impressed with her work and wanted her to be a marketing intern.  She was beaming and said they should call her. I added this conversation exchange to my post about unpacking our books, and once again Amy Cox connected with us.

I had no idea what the email would contain, but I knew it would be something special and that Ajacea would love it. Right before Ajacea arrived to unpack and display more books, the email arrived. It contained an official “honorary marketing intern” certificate as well as a personalized tour of Capstone to see just what a marketing intern would do and where she would go.

Before I presented Ajacea with the award, I was showing her places in the library where students had been displaying books while she was gone. Some of the books had been placed on tables in the center of the library. She immediately started analyzing the situation and decided that the tables were just not going to work.  “People need to use those tables,” she said. I explained that the rest of the day’s classes were working in different parts of the library. Her response, “Well what about tomorrow?” She was right of course. The next day I needed all of the tables, so she started moving some of the books to new places.

Day 2 Unpacking (15) Day 2 Unpacking (14)

Before our time ran out, I asked Ajacea to come over to the tables to see something awesome. I told her about all of the response from Capstone and that they sent her some things to see.  I presented her with her award and let her know that the Capstone team put together an official tour of the Capstone offices in the event that she became an intern with them. “They seriously did that for me?” was her response. We put the tour up on the big screen and sat together and chatted about what we saw.

Ajacea saw what it would look like if she walked in the front door of Capstone. She also got to see her desk, which she was very happy with. It was so big a spacious.

The presentation continued on with explanations of the types of jobs she would do as a marketing intern such as work on the Capstone catalog and analyze the data of PebbleGo users. She saw meeting rooms and offices of the CEO and other employees. When she saw the CEO office, she said, “I would not want to go in there. It’s scary.” We had a great conversation about what it’s like to go into the office of your boss and the nervous feelings you get even when it’s usually for something that you did that’s awesome.

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As we ended our time, we talked about what she was thinking about doing when she grew up. She told me how she wants to be a designer, any kind of designer. She loved the bookshelves on the wall at Capstone and said maybe she wanted to design spaces like that. She talked about clothes and the possibility of designing fashion. Her wheels were turning and it was so much fun to see and learn a student story that I had not heard before. It reminded of me of how much I was I had more time where I got to hear individual students stories and what I need to do to make sure I have more time to do that.

Capstone is filled with amazing individuals, and I can’t thank them enough for taking time out of their day to put this together for one student. You can tell that they are a company that is constantly reminding themselves about why they do the work that they are doing.

 

 

 

Students and Vendors: A Student Book Budget Project with Capstone Press

Jim Boon Capstone (18)

We just finished week 2 of student book budgets.  During this week, students have analyzed the data from over 300 students who answered our reading interest survey.  They used the summary of results in Google forms and also printed out a list of specific books that students requested.  They used both of these tools to create a list of goals for purchasing as well as a list of things to consider while selecting books.

This year we will focus primarily on comics/graphic novels, sports, animals, scary stories, games, and how to do things. We will also focus some on music and humor/jokes.

Goal-setting based on our survey data

We haven’t specifically decided how to split up our $5,000 James Patterson grant, but the discussion has started.  It seems like more money is going to go to our top 3 goals and the remaining money will be split to the other goals.  However, that is still being decided.

Once our goals were established, I started sending out invites to vendors to come and meet with students.  We have 3 vendors we will be working with this year: Capstone Press, Gumdrop, and Avid Bookshop (our local independent bookstore).

Jim Boon Capstone (44) Jim Boon Capstone (36)

This week, students met with Jim Boon of Capstone Press.  Jim and Capstone have been longtime supporters of this project.  Jim ships in catalogs ahead of time so that each student gets a catalog.

Jim Boon Capstone (41)

He also brings in a selection of books and divides them into fiction and nonfiction.  Most of these books meet the needs of our goals, but there’s of course a few tossed in just for fun for students to look at.  Jim usually brings in some fun posters and things for the students as well, which makes them feel very special.  This year, students are adding books to our Capstone consideration list that match our goals, but students are also able to pick one book of their personal choice to add to the library.  These books will get a special sticker with each student’s name designating who chose the book for the library.

Each grade level group came in for 30 minutes.  Jim met with them at a table first to go over things like Capstone rewards, how to use the catalog, and how to scan books from the catalog straight into a consideration list.

I love how Jim talks directly to the students instead of me.  They are the customers for this project, and he is meeting their needs and expectations.

After orienting at the tables, students start looking at all of the books that Jim brought in as well as using their catalogs to locate the books.

When students find books in the catalog that are for consideration, they fold down the corners of the pages until they can come to the computer to scan the books into our list.

Once we scan the barcode in the Capstone catalog, that entire series is added to our list.  We then take a look to see which of the books on the list we already own.  Students decide if they think we need an extra copy or if we should uncheck books we already own.  Then, we save the cart.

After one pass through the books and catalogs, our students have added 116 titles to our Capstone consideration list for a total of $2,267 .

This number will of course grow and will be added to our other 2 vendors.  Then, we’ll work to narrow our lists to meet our goals and our budget.

As always, thanks to Capstone, Jim Boon, Amy Cox, and Eric Fitzgerald for their support with this project each year. I can’t wait for the many conversations we will have about these books in the coming weeks.

Student Book Budgets 2015-16: Getting Started

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For several years, I have dedicated a portion of our library budget to be completely controlled by students.  This project has come to be one of my favorite ways of empowering the voices of the students in our school.  It’s so much more than just asking students what they think I should buy for the library.  It gives students a voice in every aspect of the decision making and purchasing process.  Each year is a bit different, so here’s a look at how we started the project this year.

Where did we get the money?

Some years our budget comes straight from my state budget.  Some years it’s part of book fair profits.  Some years it’s a grant. This past spring, I applied for the James Patterson Partnership grant where he gave $1.75 million dollars to school libraries.  I was one of the lucky libraries to receive this grant in the amount of $5,000.  This will be our budget this year along with rewards dollars that I have collected through Capstone Rewards.

How did I choose students?

This year I created a Google form and emailed it to students.  I primarily pull students from 3rd-5th grade for this project and these students regularly check their email.  I kept the form open for 5 days for students to apply.  The beginning of the form included some details about book budgets followed by a video intro.

For students who marked that they might be willing to give up some recess time to participate, I followed up with individual emails and conversations.  I accepted every student into the group unless they decided they didn’t want to do it.  I created a group of all of the students in my email contacts so that I could easily send messages to them all.  On my initial emails to the group, I included the teachers so that they were in the loop with what they were doing and why they were coming to the library instead of recess.

First Week

On Monday, students came to the library at 11, 11:30, and 12:00 depending on their grade level.  I did a quick overview of the purpose of the book budget group and the steps that we would most likely go through across the course of the project.  They also had a chance to ask questions.  Then, we jumped into the work.

Our first goal was to gather reading interests from every grade level in the school.  We made a copy of last year’s Google form.

Then, students talked about each question and whether or not they wanted to make changes to the wording from last year.  Each grade level added to and revised the form until it was ready.

They made several changes, including asking students about their preferences in types of books such as picture book, chapter book, and informational books.  They added some new categories of books and revised the language to be more clear.

During the 5th grade group, we went ahead and emailed the form out to students to begin collecting responses.  We also created a QR code so that students who were surveying younger grades with iPads could easily pull up the form.

I emailed an update to the entire group to let them know that surveying needed to begin, and they started coming in before school, during lunch, during recess, and during any extra moments of the day to start surveying.  All along the way, we could check our progress.

 

Throughout the week, I emailed updates to the group as well as sent reminders to teachers to let students fill out the survey.  We will meet one more time this week to examine our results so far and decide if we have enough data to set goals or if we need to survey more people.

I’m very proud of this year’s group already and I know they are going to do miraculous things this year!

Creating Wish Lists with Capstone Press: A Next Step in Student Book Budgets

Capstone Jim Boon (6)

Jim Boon from Capstone Press has been doing student book budgets with me since the beginning.  Each year things change just a bit, and Jim naturally adapts right along with me.  This year, we have our largest group of students working simultaneously so it gets noisy fast.  The most challenging thing is making sure that every voice is heard and that all members of the book budget group are engaged.  I love bringing in Jim because he masterfully listens to all students.  He makes connections with them and even remembers them from year to year if they have been part of the group before.  The students in turn have come to know him.  The returning students welcome him back and the new ones quickly learn why we bring him back every year.

Ahead of Jim’s visit, I email him some possible dates to visit.  We establish a time and he mails catalogs for all of the students to use on the day of his visit. Once we have our purchasing goals, I share those with him as well.  He sets up a big selection of Capstone books for students to look at that match the goals that they have set.  He even divides the books into 2 displays: fiction and nonfiction.

Jim does a very short explanation of what students have in front of them. He shows them how to look for books in the index and as well as how books a grouped together. He shows them that the displays might only have one book from an entire series that they can find in the catalogs. He shows them where to find prices for individual books as well as complete sets.  He shows them how each set of books has a barcode in the catalog that can be scanned straight into a wishlist on capstonepub.com  This scanning feature puts the entire series into the list, but then you can go in an uncheck the books that you don’t want to add.

Finally, Jim talks to students about current promotions that Capstone is offering that might stretch their budget even more. I love this part because it helps students think about how they might invest their money or how they might request extra money from me in order to take advantage of a promotion.  This discussion usually doesn’t happen on this particular day, but I always love seeing their wheels turning as they give me reasons why we should spend our money a certain way.

The fun begins when students leap into action. They take books from the display back to their tables and look through them.  They peruse the catalogs.  This is the point where it is hard to stay focused on our purchasing goals.  With a catalog of hundreds of pages, there are so many interesting books that don’t match what we said we were going to buy, and students easily slip into what they personally want to buy rather than what the whole school wants.  I don’t really worry about this very much during our first day with catalogs. Instead, I give a few reminders to think about our goals, but I know that we will revisit the entire list when we make cuts to match our budget.

As students find books that they want to add to the wishlist, they begin forming a line at my computer. I pull up a student book budget list on capstonepub.com and students scan the barcode in their catalogs.  We uncheck all of the books in the series that they don’t want to keep and then save the list.

At this point we don’t worry much about money, but when a student scans a series of 32 books and says that they want to add all of them, I do let them know how much all 32 books would cost.  Most of the time, the student is shocked and quickly narrows down to a few books that they really want to add.

Across an hour, students made a wish list with 161 titles totaling $3071.91.  Capstone is not our only vendor we are working with, so we are definitely going to have to cut some titles from this list.  We will meet 4 more times to add more titles, revisit our goals to see that they are all represented, and finally narrow our list down to the budget we have agreed upon.

We thank Capstone Press and Jim Boon for their continued support of his project.  We appreciate that this company listens to students as well as offers a rewards program that allows us to stretch our student budget even more.

 

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.

 

Skyping with Capstone Press and their Graphic Novel Team

capstone graphic novel skype (2)Our 2nd grade spectrum students have been studying graphic novels.  We started by watching this video from Capstone Press.

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Then, students started looking at all of the graphic novels in our library and noticing elements of a graphic novel.  They identified speech bubbles vs. thought bubbles vs. captions.  They looked at the inking and colors chosen as well as the layout on the page.  After several days of exploring graphic novels, students began working on their own.  They go through a process of storyboarding, thumbnail sketches, etc.

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In our library, some of our favorite graphic novels are by Capstone Press.  We can’t keep Princess Candy on the shelves.  In addition to our print graphic novels, we have several simultaneous access ebooks that are graphic novels.

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Each year we try to think about experiences that we can offer the students in this project to support their development of their own stories.  Sometimes we have a  guest speaker come in and do some cartooning.  However, this year I reached out Amy Cox and the wonderful people at Capstone Press.  Amy connected me with Bob Lentz who works on graphic novels and Ashlee Suker who works on graphic nonfiction.

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This dynamic duo put together a presentation to show our students how a graphic novel is put together from the beginning to the end.  We got to see how the story is planned over a specific number of page layouts.  We saw how text fits into the various boxes on each layout.  From this text, we also got to see the instructions that are sent to an illustrator along with research links to inform the historical aspects of a nonfiction graphic.

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Every page that Ashlee showed got several oohs and ahhhs from students.  They loved to see how a character went from a thumbnail sketch to a full color character in the book.  It was also interesting to see the initial attempt at creating a character and how that character changed.  Sometimes the final character was a combination of several sketches put together.

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Bob and Ashlee paused a lot along the way for students to ask questions.  Some of their questions were about upcoming projects while others were about where ideas come from.  I loved when students thought about specific questions that would help them with their own project.  I also loved when Bob asked the students how many pages their graphic novels were going to be.  Answers ranged from 12 pages to a full box set of several graphic novels!

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Bob and Ashlee closed with a preview of upcoming Capstone titles for the fall.  The students saw a lot of books that they want in our library.  It was perfect timing because our student book budget group is about to start and graphic novels is once again a category that they will be purchasing books in.  These 2nd graders are sending their recommendations to this group, and I’m sure we’ll see several Capstone graphic novels on our shelves soon.  Thank you Capstone Press for being a continuing supporter of the programs we offer in our library.  You are appreciated!