Barrow Students are Banishing Boredom with Wandoo Planet

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.

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.

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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.

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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!

Barrow Elementary Media Center Summer Reading

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!

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.

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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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