Athens, GA & Seodaemun, South Korea: A Global Art Collaboration

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In June 2015, the mayors of Athens, GA and Seodaemun, South Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding.  This MOU calls for both cities to exchange leadership programs in private and public sectors that promote economic development.  That basically means that our cities have a friendship to exchange ideas.

 

As a part of this collaboration, the 2nd graders at our school are engaging in a collaborative art project with students in Seodaemun.  This has been an exciting and challenging undertaking for our students and teachers, but it has been full of rewarding experiences.  The classroom teachers, art teacher, and media center all supported the students at Barrow in carrying out the project.

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In class, students read the book Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw.  This set the stage for students thinking about how our city of Athens is the same as Seodaemun and how it’s different.  My wife, Denise Plemmons, in the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Department, shared several websites with us to learn more about Seodaemun. I added some additional sites for students to visit that included resources from our state-funded Galileo databases. These were all housed on a Symbaloo page for students.

Teachers paired students within their rooms to research and create art together.  Students used a Venn diagram to write brief notes on what was the same and different between our cities. For example, students learned that we have an arch at UGA and Seodaemun has an arch at Independence Park. They saw that we go to school for 7-8 hours per day and Seodaemun may go up to 16 hours per day.  Research was done in the library, and prior to letting students search on their own via the Symbaloo, I provided some tangible examples like these to put into the diagram.

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The research was a challenge.  One reason was just the lack of resources on a 2nd grade level. The other big challenge was that students are 7 and 8 years old. There are currently studying regions of Georgia, so adding in a country on the other side of the world was hard to grasp within that context. We found that some students thought they had been to South Korea when in fact they were thinking of South Carolina. It may seem humorous, but it was valid conversation that we worked to clarify in the library, art room, and classroom.

After an hour-long session of research, students took their work to Ms. Foretich in the art room.  They used their Venn diagram to decide what art they would create that would show something that was the same or different between our cities.  One of the partners painted the Athens side of the art, and the other partner painted the Seodaemun side.

 

In classrooms, teachers continued to share maps and facts about our two cities. Mrs. Yawn, the 2nd grade team leader, worked to plan a morning of rotations for all of the 2nd graders. Some of our students are from South Korea, so she invited the parents of those students along with support from UGA to offer rotation topics on culture, games, and food.

Another part of the rotations was for each class to come to the library and record a Flipgrid video explaining what each pair of students learned about Athens and Seodaemun and what they created in their art.

Our goal is to send these Flipgrid links to Seodaemun so that the Korean students can respond back when they create their own art.

To celebrate the end of our portion of the project, the mayor of Seodaemun visited our whole 2nd grade along with members of the Athens Clarke County government.

Dr. Ellen Sabatini, principal, welcomed everyone.

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Ms. Yawn, 2nd grade team leader, explained the project to our visitors and families.

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Students shared pieces of the project that they worked on.

Commissioner Harry Sims spoke about how the students’ art work would now be a world traveler as it goes across the ocean to South Korea.

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Finally, Seok-Jin Mun, the mayor of Seodaemun, spoke to students about how we are all connected to one another because we are all mankind. Even though we have different beliefs or different skin color, we are all connected.

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To conclude the visit, Mayor Mun, teachers, and all guests explored the student artwork on display in the 2nd grade collaborative space.

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Mayor Mun pointed out his observations of what stood out to our students and clarified some facts from our research.

It was inspiring to think with him and the members of our Clarke County government about how we can continue to build upon this friendship between our two communities.

Now, our artwork is preparing to make its journey, and we look forward to seeing what our new friends in South Korea learn and draw about Athens, Georgia.  We thank the Athens Clarke County Economic Development Department for this opportunity to connect our students with our global community.

 

2nd Grade’s Black History Flipgrid Project is Ready for Your Votes!

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Our Barrow 2nd graders have been hard at work creating this year’s Black History research project.  We built upon our momentum from last year, but added many new layers.

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During the project students

Over the past 2 weeks, students have been coming to the library in groups of 4 during blocks of 10-minute segments.  During each session, I put a sign on the library door to encourage people to enter quietly.

The teachers scheduled their students on a shared Google doc, so I knew who was coming at each 10-minute interval.  This was really helpful for me to know if students really had some extra time or if they needed to finish and hurry back to class.  recording sessions

I put out a helpful list of instructions by 4 iPad stations in the library with all of the codes that students would need to get to their questions.

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Students were focused and productive as they got their work ready for the world.

Now, the students are finished with their recording and they need your help.

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They would like for you to visit their Google site and view videos about each of the 6 people.  Then, help us decide who should win the first Barrow Peace Prize.  Students decided that the person who wins should be someone who represents the following character traits:

  • Dependability
  • Kindness
  • Peaceful
  • Determined
  • Modest
  • Fairness
  • Bravery
  • Loyal
  • Honest
  • Perseverance
  • Respectful
  • Helpful

In a couple of weeks, voting will close and we will announce the winner of this year’s Barrow Peace Prize.  Thank you for taking time to view the students’ work.  If you have any comments about specific videos feel free to leave a comment or a Tweet for me to share with the students.  Also, you are welcome to share this project with other educators you know and encourage them to view and vote, too!

Visit our Google site to view our videos and vote on the Barrow Peace Prize.

Visit our Google site to view our videos and vote on the Barrow Peace Prize.

Click here to visit our Google Site and Vote! 

Talk Like a Pirate Day 2014

Our pirate map of connections

Our pirate map of connections

September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  There are so many fun pirate stories out there, and each year we seem to discover a few more thanks to the connections we make around the globe through Google Hangouts and Skype.  Planning a day of connections like this definitely takes some time but students love talking with people around the globe, sharing a story, and learning a bit about one another.  It always seems to reinforce the idea that we aren’t alone in our bubble of routines of day to day life.  There are other people out there doing the same things that we are and quite possibly they are doing those things in different ways.  I love the spontaneous conversations that take place on days like this that you could never plan through a standard or a lesson plan.  Students always bring up a question or a comment that makes the day special.

This year, 8 classes came to the library for Talk Like a Pirate Day and we connected with 6 different schools in 5 different states.

  • We connected with Edie Crook in Gastonia North Carolina to read the book No Pirates Allowed Said Library Lou.  We had a great conversation about “treasure” and students took turns stepping up to say what treasure meant to them.  We were delighted with words such as being kind, family, friends, Skylanders, and baseball.
  • We connected with Jan Pelias through Google Hangouts in Frisco Texas to read the book How I Became a Pirate.  It was fun to connect with someone in another time zone because we could talk about how time is different at the same moment around the world.
  • We connected with Melanie Thompson in Jefferson City, Missouri to read the book How I Became a Pirate.  Melanie’s students had researched pirates and they took time to share all of their facts.  This made our students very curious about pirates as well.  I have a feeling all of our nonfiction pirate books will be checked out for a long time.  I also love how Melanie embraced her inner pirate as we chatted with each other through Skype chat prior to our connection!

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  • We connected with Okle Miller in Tampa, Florida to read the book No Pirates Allowed Said Library Lou.  Tampa has a pirate festival called Gasparilla .  Students loved hearing how pirates take over Tampa during this festival and kidnap the mayor (all for fun).  The class we connected with even called themselves pirates and used the word “pirate” as an acronym for their classroom expectations and beliefs.
  • Both of our PreK classes came to the library for their first visit of the year.  In class, they made pirate hats and hooks as well as added some pirate mustaches to their faces.  We read the book Pirates Go to School and made a class video chanting the pirate chant at the end of the book.
  • We connected with Carol Scrimgeour in Essex Town, Vermont to read the book No Pirates Allowed Said Library Lou.  We noticed that all of the kids were wearing warm clothes, so we had a great conversation about how cold it had been in the northeast.  It was sunny in both places but with a very different temperature.
  • Finally, we connected with Shawna Ford in Texas and she read a new pirate book we had not heard before: No Bath No Cake Polly’s Pirate Party.  Now the students want to get it for our library.

Before each connection, we looked at a map from our school to the school we were connecting with.  We talked about distance, travel time, and also all of the decisions that go into choosing your route for a trip.  We also created a Google tour of our trip using Google Tour Builder.  After each connection, we wrote a summary together.

We also created a Padlet to write pirate sentences.  This was shared with our friends around the country and became a place to crowdsource our words.

Finally, we spent a lot of time creating pirate sentences, phrases, and even conversations and practicing them aloud.  Students had access to a list of pirate vocabulary words as well as multiple pirate stories to get ideas.

We used Flipgrid as a place to record our favorite pirate expressions.  Students also had a great time trying to imitate a pirate voice and pirate faces and gestures.  Take a moment to listen to them because they are quite entertaining!  I loved how this evolved from a sentence writing activity into a practice of fluency, oral speaking, and performance.  Again, Flipgrid became a place for us to crowdsource our voices with the voices of our connecting schools.

I love how these events connect us with new people around the world.  This year we connected with some old friends, but we also met some new teachers, librarians, and students we hope to connect with again.  I also want to continue to think about days like this to build long term collaborative relationships.

Making Our Mark with Dot Day 2014 (and I hope well beyond)

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International Dot Day is one of our favorite days (weeks) of the year.  It gives us permission to be creative and see what we can do just by making a mark.  It also connects us with so many classrooms around the world.  Classes are always looking to connect on this day, and we have made many collaborative relationships with schools because of this one day of the year.

This year, we used Dot Day as a way to explore our goal of dreaming, tinkering, creating, and sharing.  We explored Google Drawing, which was a new tool for most students.  We used Dot Day as a time to tinker and see how Google Drawing functioned as well as how to collaborate on a drawing with another student or class.

We also used colAR mix again this year to make augmented reality dots.  This year, I encouraged students to think more globally as they made their dots by embracing the them of “making your mark on the world” that is the essence of The Dot.  Students were encouraged to design a dot that represented their talents, hopes, dreams, and passions.  I loved this new twist on a tool that we used last year because it revealed so many stories from students.  One student drew a picture of an airplane flying through the clouds because of his dream to be a pilot when he grows up.  Another student drew an astronaut and UFOs because of his desire to explore space.  Another drew her whole family because they are what she loves in life.  Some students chose to highlight their creativity as a way that they make their mark by designing unusual dots with their favorite colors.  These were empowering stories because they allowed students to have a voice to share something personal about themselves in a way that they might now have shown before.

One amazing thing that happened while students were using the colAR app was how they discovered different ways to scan their dot. It started out as what some people might see as a mistake.  A student’s hand was on top of their dot while they were scanning their image, and the hand became a part of the rotating sphere on the iPad screen.  This resulted in an uproar of excitement as sharing began and the idea spread like wildfire.  Soon students were trying to put their faces on their spinning spheres.  Others stacked towers of crayons on top of their dot and tried to see if that would scan into the 3D image.  All of this happened because of an opportunity to tinker.  When we give kids a space to explore, they figure out amazing things and they willingly share and teach others what they learned.  They get excited about their learning and they want to do more.  I bet that these students would have spent an extended period of time continuing to experiment with colAR mix to see what else they could figure out, and they would have done this without getting tired or bored.  These are the things that days like Dot Day reveal.

We had numerous Skype connections.  Each one had its own unique twists and conversations between students and teachers.  In many of these Skypes, we collaborated on a Google Drawing dots after reading the book.  This included dots with our friend Okle Miller in Tampa, Edie Crook in North Carolina, and Crystal Hendrix in North Carolina (just to name a few).  Sometimes this was live during a Google Hangout or Skype and other times it was after we disconnected.  One of our hangouts was a large hangout between Matthew Winner in Maryland, Nancy Jo Lambert in Texas, Donna MacDonald in Vermont, and Esther Uribe in Texas.  It was fun to read The Dot to students in so many states at one time, but what was even more fun was drawing with all of them at the same time!  We definitely did some tinkering with this one.  Many of us learned of the challenges of younger students but found ways to involved them even with computer-use difficulties.  The students loved seeing drawings “magically” appear on our shared dot.

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Our multi-school collaborative dot

With Jennifer Reed in Massachusetts, we accidentally deleted all of our work on our collaborative dot.  The kids were in a panic, but it was a fantastic opportunity to do an impromptu lesson on the power of revision history in Google Drive.  We were able to recover our work and learn an important trick.  We even talked about how revision history is one way that work is never deleted, which can be a positive but also a negative if you have written something that you wished you hadn’t.

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Our dot with Jennifer Reed that was almost lost!

Mrs. Clarke’s class had a Skype connection, but we weren’t able to do a collaborative dot with our connecting class.  Instead, we split the class in half at our 2 projection boards and they created a dot together as a class.  They got just a bit competitive as they tried to cover up each other’s work, but even this was a great opportunity to talk about how to work with others on a doc without being disrespectful of the contributions.

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Mrs. Clarke’s class competitive dot

Some classes that we connected with had already spent a great deal of time being creative, and they shared with us dots that they are going to physically mail to us.  Jenny Lussier in Connecticut had colAR dots as well as Morse code greeting cards.  We can’t wait to decode what they say!  We also discovered with Jenny that there’s more than one version of The Dot floating around out there.

Cathy Potter’s students in Maine read the book Ish to our students and shared their own illustrations for the book.  We had a great conversation about the connections between both books.

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Students and teachers alike love this day, but I do leave this day with a wondering.  I’m thinking so much this year about global thinking and global collaboration.  This day is filled with thousands of Skype and Google Hangout connections around the world.  We connect.  We read.  We dream.  We create.  But then what?  We leave one another until the next big event.  I’m by no means being negative about Dot Day.  I’m a huge advocate, but I do wonder about why we don’t build upon these connections we make.  If we are really going to “make our mark” on the world, shouldn’t we be taking some actions together beyond connecting, reading, and creating?  I would like to gently nudge us all to think about this.  I’m just as guilty.  I connect every year and then I move on, but I can’t help but carry this on my mind, reflect on it, and consider what more we might do beyond today.  Think with me!  Let’s keep our dots connected.

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September 11th: A Global Perspective

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Each year our 5th graders take an entire day to explore the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  Each year, the students become more and more removed from the topic because they weren’t even born at the time of the tragedy.  The events of September 11 and the impact they had on our war on terrorism are part of the 5th grade social studies standards, but we also spend a great deal of time at our school on social emotional learning and how we support one another in a community.

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Each year I write a blog post about how we teach September 11th, and each year there is a new addition or a new angle in which to explore the day.  This year, students opened the day in their classrooms by talking about everyday heroes.  They shared where their own families work and how each of us can be an everyday hero.

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Then, students split into 4 groups and rotated through 4 experiences every 30 minutes which were facilitated by me and the classroom teachers.

Experience 1:  Haiku poetry.  With Ms. Mullins, students learned about the unlikely heroes of the day including dogs.  They studied the poetry form of haiku and how a brief 3-line poem with 17 syllables can magically express a feeling or an image.  They focused their haiku on heroes.  They didn’t have to specifically write about the heroes of 9/11, but many chose to.

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Experience 2:  Response to tragedy from afar.  With Ms. Selleck, students looked at how people around the country and the world responded to the tragic events of 9/11.  It was a time that people wanted to take action and do something to help.  Children wrote letters, drew pictures, and made cards.  The Maasai people of Africa offered 14 cows as a gift for America.  Ms. Selleck shared Carmen Agra Deedy’s story 14 Cows of America and students considered how people who weren’t even in our country wanted to help.  This posed an interesting question of how we might respond to the tragedies taking place every day in other countries.

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Experience 3:  Heroes of 9/11.  There were so many heroes that stepped forward on 9/11 and many of those heroes lost their lives in the process.  At this experience, students took a look at many example of heroes and read the story Fireboat by Maira Kalman.  Students learned about this old fireboat first launched in 1931 and how it was called to duty on 9/11 to help pump water to fight the fires.  Students designed a drawing to represent the many heroes that took action on 9/11.

Experience 4: The events of 9/11.  This is the most sensitive of the experiences for students because we all react differently to seeing the tragedy of 9/11.  Over the years, I’ve developed a pathfinder of sites that explore 9/11 from multiple angles.  There are interactive timelines, eyewitness accounts, actual video footage of the day, oral histories of memories from victims’ family members, virtual tours of the memorials, and cartoon videos explaining the events in kid-friendly language.  We start with a video:

This video frames that on 9/11 we remember but we also take action to create good in the world.  I invite students to view the various resources and reflect on what they might do to create good instead of evil.  At the bottom of the pathfinder there is a padlet where students can record their actions that they want to take.  During this experience, I always tell students that they don’t have to watch any of the videos.  They can also take a break at any moment if the tragedy just becomes too much to handle.

This year, 2 new pieces were added to this experience.  First, Gretchen Thomas, a UGA teacher in instructional technology, brought one of her #EDIT2000 classes to support students.  This was a piece that I’ve always felt was missing from the pathfinder experience.  September 11th is such a heavy topic, and I do worry about how kids are processing the information.  With these UGA students, we were able to pair every 5th grader with a UGA student to have reflective conversation about each website, video, and story that students experienced.  UGA students shared their own understanding of 9/11 as well as their own memories of being in elementary school when it happened.

 

I’ve also been thinking a lot about global thinking, global collaboration, and global perspectives.  This year, I decided to make a Flipgrid well in advance of today.  Through social media, I’ve been sharing the Flipgrid in the hopes that multiple people will share their own perspectives of 9/11.  While there wasn’t an overwhelming response to share stories, the stories that were shared were powerful.  The students in Gretchen Thomas’s class shared their own memories of being in elementary school at the time.  These stories included very personal connections to the tragedy such as family members who were in New York on the day of the tragedy and a student coming into New York on a plane from another country and being diverted to Canada.  Several librarians stepped up to share stories as well.  Beth Miller of Georgia shared her story of working in the World Trade Center during the bombing in the 1990’s and how she had family and friends who were in the towers on 9/11.  Her family made it but several friends did not.  Elissa Malespina of New Jersey shared the story of her husband being in New York on 9/11.  He was on one of the last trains coming into the city.  It was chilling to think how many people have been affected by 9/11 in very personal ways.  Even if you don’t have a personal connection, there are many stories about where people were when the tragedy happened.  I wish that I could talk about every story on this Flipgrid because each one is meaningful in its own way.  Please take time to listen to these stories and feel free to add your own.

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This Flipgrid was a part of the pathfinder but it was also a place that students recorded their own thoughts at the end of the day.  Students spent some time reflecting in classrooms.  Then, they came out into the 5th grade hallway with iPads to record their reflections on the Flipgrid.  Another of Gretchen’s UGA classes came to assist with this process.  I had instructions typed up with the Flipgrid code and we got as many students recorded as possible at the end of the day.  Students loved collaborating with students from UGA to create their videos.

I think that this project has such potential for a global collaborative project.  What would it be like if students in another country shared the tragedies taking place in their own countries?  What would happen if our students in the  US considered how they could respond to the tragedies taking place in other countries?  What are people’s perspectives on 9/11 from other countries around the world?  What do everyday heroes look like around the globe?

My hope is that this project can continue in some way this year.  If it doesn’t, I hope that next year’s layer that gets added on is developing a more global perspective on tragedies around our world and how we respond to those tragedies as a global society.

 

Goal 4: Supporting the Reading Habits and Curiosities of Students with Wandoo Reader

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Lindsey Hill, educator superstar from Evanced Solutions, visited our library to help us with goal 4 for the library this year, “Supporting the reading habits and curiosities”.  In fact, this goal is so important that it is a part of our school improvement plan.  We believe that one of the best ways to become better readers is to read, read, read.  More importantly, we believe that finding books that we are interested in that match us as readers is an essential part of building stamina as a reader.  This year we are piloting a tool called Wandoo Reader to see how it supports us in tracking our reading habits and curiosities.  This tool is still in development for schools so we are figuring out what works well and what needs to be adjusted.

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Wandoo reader is a “game and a reading tracker”.  It follows the story line of a robot who stumbles into a library but is low on power.  In order for the robot to power up, the robot needs kids to read books.  Students read books or really anything of their choosing.  In the online reading log, students submit the reading material title, amount of time read, and whether or not they finished reading the material.  Each time they log reading, they earn credits which allows them to purchase parts to the robot.  There are over 8,000 combinations of parts, so it’s pretty difficult for students to ever be truly “finished”.  Wandoo Reader also allows the administrator to setup incentives or prizes as well as secret codes for completing various challenges.

Our goal for Lindsey’s visit (and next week) was to get all of our 3rd-5th graders setup with accounts in Wandoo Reader.  Lindsey and I met with many classes.  I kicked off each session by sharing the news with students that we are the only school in the world currently using Wandoo Reader.  I wanted to emphasize the potential in this.  I brought in a conversation about empowering student voice in this opening (goal 3 for this year).  Students have an opportunity to test out a tool, figure out what they love, get frustrated with what doesn’t work, and point out what they just don’t like.  Each observation or failure that they make goes directly to Evanced Solutions for consideration in improving Wandoo Reader for future schools, so our student voice really matters and makes a difference.

Lindsey did a demo of what Wandoo Reader would look like once students registered.  She show them how to log their minutes, how to earn credits, and how to purchase a robot part.

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Then, we started the long process of getting students registered.  It didn’t take us long to discover that this process is not quite ready for schools and will need some adjustment.  Each student had to create a username, password, confirm password, and select the difficulty level for the game.  Then, students had to type my email address to send an email confirmation.  Each email had to be clicked on to activate each student account before they could proceed.  Bulk uploading is already in development and it is essential for schools to have this feature because the wait time students felt while I clicked on each email was too long.

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Once students have accounts activated, Wandoo Reader takes them through a tutorial which reveals the story line of the game and shows students the different buttons they will click to log reading, purchase parts, build a robot, etc.  This tutorial is text-only for now.  Some students read every word, others clicked through without reading at all, and others really tried to read but got frustrated without the support of audio or an adult’s help.  Again, this was an area where students and teachers offered feedback about their experience and observations and would really love to see an audio feature or simpler text.

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After the tutorial, students come to another screen where they have to put in their name, birthday, zip code, gender, and select their teacher.  There was a lot of learning here for students because it revealed that most students had no idea what a zip code is.  It was a great lesson, but it did slow down the registration process.  Our suggestion for this page was to cut out much of this page.  The essential information is the student name and the teacher.  These are the two pieces that will be used the most when running reports for data from Wandoo Reader.

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Once students made it through registration, the fun began.  Students practiced logging some books that were recently read, earned points, and started building robots.  Every student logged “Wandoo Reader” as a book if they read the tutorial.  There were smiles all around as each robot looked a little bit different than the next.  I loved how this feature gives students a sense of personalization, which is so important to students.  Once kids got into the program, we heard things like:

and

Students were really engaging in goal 1 from the library this year, “dreaming, tinkering, creating, and sharing”.  Of course, some students started testing the system to see how many points they could earn for more parts.  We can always clear that out through the administration portal, but they had permission to tinker.  They figured out how things worked, how things didn’t work, and also revealed to us what Wandoo Reader might need in order to focus kids on the true goal of the tool which is increasing student reading ability.

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Students were so proud of their robots

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We closed our time by talking about the importance of the data that Wandoo Reader will produce for our school.  I gave specific examples.  For example, if I see that a student clicks “still reading” on multiple books and never clicks “finished reading”, it might reveal to me that the student isn’t finding a good match for reading.  If a student reads the exact same book over and over, it might reveal to me that I need to have a conversation with that student to find similar books to the trusted favorite.  If I notice that several students are reading a lot in a particular genre, it might reveal to me that I need to purchase more of that genre for our library collection.  The list could go on and on because the data that Wandoo Reader can produce for me as the librarian as well as for classroom and collaborating teachers is something we have never had access to in a single location shared across the school.  If kids use it with “fidelity” as our superintendent says, then we can start to notice and really pay attention to the amount of time that our students are spending reading.  If we want to close the achievement gaps in reading, then one of the most important steps is getting the right books in kids’ hands and giving them time to read and have fun with that reading.  Wandoo Reader has great potential for this.

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Ms. Spurgeon record feedback for Evanced while supporting a student

Looking back over the day, there were many frustrating moments in the registration process.  In fact, there were times that it was that level of frustration where you just want to say “no thanks” and move on.  For students, there were moments where meltdowns, shut downs, and giving up could have happened.  However, the thing that sticks out to me most about the day is that there weren’t any tears.  Not a single student gave up.  I won’t pretend that they didn’t get frustrated because they did.  However, it is more important to me to see what they did with that frustration and it makes me ask “why?”.  Why didn’t they crawl under tables, cry, close their computer screens, or say I don’t like this?

I can’t prove why at the moment, but I can’t help but wonder about the library goals for this year.  We began each session by giving students permission to tinker and fail (goal 1 dream, tinker, create, and share).  We established a sense of purpose by helping them realize that their failure and feedback was contributing to the greater good of the world (Goal 2 global thinking & collaboration).  We empowered them to notice what wasn’t working as well as what they loved and share that into Lindsey’s recorder to take back to the developers (Goals 3 empowering student voice).  We talked about reading multiple kinds of text and logging everything and even gave them permission to log Wandoo Reader as a book (Goals 4 supporting reading habits).

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When I started the day, I really didn’t plan for every library goal to be evident in this one lesson.  As we moved through the first session, it became very clear to me that I needed to be transparent with students about the multiple layers of why we were using Wandoo Reader.  When I did that, the library goals naturally came to life because they are a part of my thinking every day.  If I can continue to replicate experiences like today, I feel like our students will continue to develop perseverance and stamina as well as feel like their voice matters in our school as well as the world.

Now the students who are setup are ready to start logging everything they read and building robots.  I told them to not worry about what they have read in the past but instead start with what they are reading right now.  Many will probably log minutes this weekend by visiting our Symbaloo page where we keep all of our resources.  Others will start logging minutes at school next week.  Regardless, the task now is to continue to tinker for a bit until we all figure out the best process for having kids log their minutes.  I will also follow up with teachers to see how they are feeling about Wandoo Reader and see what our next steps really are.

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Even with the frustrations of registration, I feel like we all gained so much from this day to support us throughout this school year.  Thank you Evanced for this opportunity, and we can’t wait to see the changes to Wandoo Reader based on what was learned from these first student users.

Exploring Themes & Goals at the Decatur Book Festival

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I’m no stranger to the Decatur Book Festival.  This Labor Day weekend tradition always has a prime spot on my calendar each year.  It’s not often that you get the opportunity to connect with so many profound adult, teen, and children’s authors in one location.  Each year, the festival seems to take on new life and I gain something for myself, for my own children, and for my students every time I attend.

This year, the children’s stage featured panels of authors and illustrators rather than single speakers.  Panels were organized around themes and were facilitated by a children’s author or literature-loving moderator.  I loved this revision to how the festival worked in the past because the facilitators of each panel made sure that the audience learned about each author/illustrator, each book, the process behind how it was created, as well as exploring the theme of the panel.

Here are a few of the sessions I attended.

Bugs, Birds, and Birthday Cake!

This panel was all about the fun of animals and humor in stories.  Mac Barnett shared his upcoming book Telephone.  LeUyen Pham shared her book A Piece of Cake.  Angela DiTerlizzi shared Some Bugs.   One of the quirkiest things about this panel was when each author/illustrator shared 2 truths and shenanigan about themselves.  Each author/illustrator shared some pretty off the wall examples, so it was really hard to decide which of the 3 examples was truth and which was made up.  This brought about so much audience participation and engagement, but it also revealed to us each speaker’s personality which in turn revealed something about their work as an author/illustrator.

Pure Imagination

This panel explored the power of imagination in children’s books and kids’ lives and featured Matt Phelan (Druthers), Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Uni the Unicorn), and Kelly Light (Louise Loves Art).  This panel reminded us all of the importance of taking time to imagine and dream even as an adult.  Panelists also emphasized the importance of play and tinkering without judgement.  We each hold within us the power to dream and imagine and have to give ourselves permission to let the ability continue to shine through even in constraints that we face.

All in the Family

This panel featured family teams of author/illustrators including Frank Morrison & Connie Schofield-Morrison (I Got the Rhythm) and James & Kimberly Dean (Pete the Cat and the New Guy).  It was interesting to hear how married couples collaborate with one another on a project.  The speakers revealed that it can definitely be a challenge and a blessing to work with someone that you are so close to.  Each collaborative partnership seemed to have developed strategies to push one another while at the same time respecting one another’s creative talents.  Author Elizabeth Dulemba moderated this panel, and I loved how she highlighted each creative duo equally well.  She also took time to bring up the conversation of diversity by specifically pointing to I Got the Rhythm and it’s pages where so many people can find themselves within the illustrations.  The Decatur Book Festival had many aspects of diversity represented this year.  I will nudge that racial diversity wasn’t at the top of the list.  I hope that diversity will continue to be explored at this festival along with many other kinds of diversity so that readers will continue to find themselves in the books and in the authors and illustrators in attendance.

Great Books for New Readers

This panel focused on newly released books to hook a variety of readers including Jon Scieszka (Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor), Jennifer Holm (The Fourteenth Goldfish), Tom Watson (Stick Dog Chases a Pizza), and Mike Lane (The Vanishing Coin).  This was a really interesting panel full of fun and laughs.  Each author had a unique way of presenting his or her work.  Mike Lane performed a magic trick with the audience.  Jenni Holm shared stories of how her father kept bacteria cultures in the fridge.  Jon Scieszka performed his own magic trick by growing hair on his head right before our eyes.  It was easy to see why new readers would gravitate toward these authors.  They write stories that connect with readers, especially readers who want to read about magic, fun, experimenting, and just plain silliness.

This Really Happened: Graphic Memoirs for Kids

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This panel explored how real life events can be relived in a graphic novel format and featured CeCe Bell (El Deafo) and Jimmy Gownley (The Dumbest Idea Ever).   I had already heard lots of buzz about El Deafo, but when I watched CeCe Bell stand up and share the very personal story of where her graphic novel came from, I was inspired.  To take a life changing event that some people might look at as tragic or confining and turn that story into a graphic novel superhero story is a true artistic gift to readers.  So many students will find themselves in this character and feel strength in their own disabilities.  I can’t wait to put this book in students’ hands to read for enjoyment but also as a strong example of how our life experiences become the stories we tell.

All the Girls in the World

 

This was a panel of women authors who write about strong girl characters and featured Jennifer Holm (The Fourteenth Goldfish), Laurel Snyder (Seven Stories Up), and Megan Jean Sovern (The Meaning of Maggie).  The always-profound Deborah Wiles moderated this panel with carefully crafted questions.  Her wonderings explored the true stories behind the fictional novels as well as the hard topics that each author chose to explore in her writing.  This panel was the perfect way to end my festival experience because it left me with so many wonderings as well as so much wisdom.  Multiple times kids in the audience raised their hands to express that they experience sadness in their lives and survive that sadness, which reinforced the idea that authors need to include sadness in books.  We can’t shield our young readers from a world where sadness and heartache exists.  Books can show readers how they might persevere through these trials just as the characters in these 3 novels do.

 

How did the festival inform my library goals?

My library goals for this year really are proving to be something that I carry with me wherever I go.  To me, this means that they really are goals that matter.  In the past, I can’t recall writing goals that I could recite with memory or goals that I could connect to so many experiences throughout the school year.

As I experienced the Decatur Book Festival, I couldn’t help but think about my goals.

1.  To provide students, teachers, and families opportunities to dream, tinker, create, and share

Dreaming. Tinkering. Imagining.  These words kept surfacing throughout the whole festival.  Kelly Light talked about how she let her daughter pick 2 books at bedtime as well as share one story.  She believed in the power of using the imagination to create soemthing new as well as be inspired by the stories created by others.  LeUyen Pham created individualized illustrations in each book that she signed in her autograph line.  I heard her ask one person if she had a picture of a baby that a book was being signed for.  She drew an image of the baby in the book by looking at a cellphone picture.  She made my own daughter feel like a rockstar while signing her copy of Vampirina Ballerina and drew Alora as a ballerina in the book.  Throughout the festival, there were opportunities for families to spend time together dreaming, tinkering, and making from booth with cardboard boxes and art supplies promoting the new film The Boxtrolls to the Decatur Makers booth where a variety of maker opportunities existed for families.

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2.  To engage in global thinking and global collaboration

The panels organized by themes really pushed my thinking.  As I listened, I started to think…..what if global collaboration revolved around themes?  When I think about connecting around a particiular book, I mostly think about American-published books.  I honestly have no idea about books, authors, etc from other countries.  What if we concentrated on a theme, connected with other schools around the world, and read books and created content around that theme?  I imagine that we would experience new authors, new books, and new perspectives that we never dreamed of before. I really don’t have a definite path because of this, but it has sparked something in me that is listening and watching for opportunities for global collaboration and thinking.

3.  To empower student voice

During the “All the Girls in the World” panel, a girl stood up and talked about The Fourteenth Goldfish and Seven Stories Up.  She shared how reading those stories shows her and other girls that it is ok to feel they way that they feel and that there are other people in the world struggling with those same topics.  I wish I had captured her exact words so that I could carry them with me because she reminded me of how much wisdom our students are carrying.  That panel gave her an opportunit to stand up and make her voice be heard and she reminded me that I need to continue to think about the opportunties that I’m providing students to stand up and make their own voices be heard.  So many students need so many different kinds of experiences to find their moment to speak up.  My hope is that I can maximize those opportunities for the students of our school.

4.   To support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families

Visitng this festival always exposes me to authors and books that haven’t been on my radar before.  By listening carefully to each author/illustator’s story, I have a personal experience to share with readers as they make decisions about the next book that they will explore.  Listening to each author/illustratore share they journey they have made to publishing the works that we hold in our hands makes me even more aware that every book on our library shelves holds a story of how it came to be and makes me want to know that story to share with readers.  I wish that more authors would use blogs and social media to share their stories of their journey to publication so that we could connect these backstories to readers.  Hearing these stories makes me want to dig a little more to connect readers with the stories of the authors that are hiding on our library shelves.