Celebrating Picture Book Month with the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown

IMG_4429Our 2014 Picture Book Smackdown was a huge success.  Students in 5 states including Georgia, Texas, Connecticut, Maine, and Pennsylvania shared their favorite picture books along with 2 amazing authors, Dianne de Las Casas and Anne Marie Pace.

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Anytime you host an event like this, you worry about technical difficulties.  However, today the internet gave us smooth sailing.  I do want to take a moment to uncover some of the pieces that went into making this event successful.  There was a lot of preparation that went on behind the scenes.

  • I created our Google Plus Hangout on Air event page well in advance so that we could advertise our smackdown to all of our networks.

  • All of the authors and participating schools have been communicating with one another via email, twitter, and a shared Google doc.  The doc contained tips for making the hangout run smoothly such as keeping our microphones muted unless we were speaking as well as listed the order that we would speak.

Picture Book Smackdown Notes   Google Docs

  • All of the participating schools had students prepare in advance.  Many of our students wrote our scripts or memorized a brief blurb about their books.  Some of us hosted a practice for our students to run through their talks.

  • We opened the hangout well in advance so that we could test our microphones as needed.  I sent everyone a direct link to join the hangout rather than sending everyone a G+ invite.
  • Many of us had organization to how our students came up to the microphone. For example, I setup my chairs in groups of 3 so that students were already sitting in the groups of 3 that would come up to the microphone.

  • Some of us had helpers who were assisting us behind the scenes.  I recruited a parent volunteer, a UGA student, and UGA teacher to help me.  The parent volunteer took pictures and assisted students to the microphone.  The UGA teacher created a Google doc of all of the picture books that were shared during the event.  The UGA student helped students to the microphone.  Since I was in charge of the hangout, I wanted to be able to focus on the technology and supporting any issues that came up with our event.

  • As we had time, we tweet pictures or publicity about the event while it was happening.

I hope that you will take time to listen to the archive because it truly was miraculous.  We heard from Dianne de Las Casas about why Picture Book Month was started and it was amazing to see how many authors and  illustrators she has recruited to be picture book champions.

We also heard Dianne de Las Casas and Anne Marie Pace share some of their favorite picture books.  I wish we could have heard more from them, but they were gracious enough to step aside so that students could voice their love for so many wonderful books.

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We heard titles, authors, and summaries.  One of my favorite things to hear from students was why picture books matter in our world.  To hear their own reasoning about why picture books matter was truly inspiring.

2014 Picture Book Smackdown Titles   Google Docs

Click here to see a full list of the picture books that were shared during the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown.

I would like to take a moment to thank our participating author, librarians, and schools for the 2014 Picture Book Smackdown.

Dianne de Las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month
Anne Marie Pace, author
Andy Plemmons, school librarian in Athens, Georgia
Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas
Julee Murphy, school librarian in Texas
Christina Brennan, school librarian in Pennsylvania

This will definitely be an annual event for me, and I encourage you to think about how you might host your own event like this to get kids connected and sharing their passions and interests.  Happy Picture Book Month!

Watch the archive!

Picture Book Smackdown: Celebrating and Learning

Before the hangout started, over 200 people had viewed our Smore page.

Before the hangout started, over 200 people had viewed our Smore page.

Today was our Picture Book Smackdown Google Hangout On Air.  We had an amazing lineup of schools and authors to share their favorite picture books and talk about why picture books matter in our world.  This event grew from a seed of an idea on a Google Doc into a collaborative event.  Each participant and school brought their own talents, expertise, and connections to the table to make this event successful.  This was my first leap into Google Hangouts to do an event such as this.  I always tell students, teachers, and families that we have to be willing to take risks.  If we don’t put ourselves in a place of risk, then we’ll never learn.  We don’t do our best learning in places of comfort.  I certainly learned a lot today by taking that risk.  I want to thank each of these schools for preparing their students and taking time out of their day to connect and share with the world a love of reading and picture books.

  • Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
  • Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
  • Kathy Kaldenberg, school librarian in Solon, Iowa
  • Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas

I also want to thank authors Laurel Snyder and Ame Dyckman for joining us and sharing their own favorite picture books and why picture books matter.  They both have busy schedules and it meant so much to have them take the time to join us.  My adrenaline is finally coming down from the morning and I’m pausing to reflect on the experience.

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What I loved:

  • Student voices from 5 different states were united.
  • Students were passionate about the picture books they were talking about.
  • Students had an opportunity to take a stance on talking about something that mattered to them.
  • Students were able to create an archived video that can be referenced for many purposes like inspiring readers of picture books or even showing a district’s technology department the power of Google Hangouts.
  • Authors and students had the chance to speak together on a level playing field discussing a common interest.
  • Students from multiple grade levels, backgrounds, and experiences made a connection to one another.
  • Students were engaged.  Each student had a role and purpose and were so eager to share even when technical difficulties happened.  My students stayed for a whole hour and were happy to wait and watch.
  • Even though only 10 people can participate in the hangout, we knew that many others were tuning in live or watching later, which connected us all with a very large authentic audience.

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What I learned as the host:

  • Using a Smore page to advertise the event was a great choice.  We could all advertise the Smore, and then the actual hangout could be embedded right before we went live.  The page also gave analytics after a certain amount of views which allowed us to see where people were viewing the Smore and how they were sharing it.
  • In advance, communicate with all participants about what is expected during the hangout:  order of speaking, microphone rules, etc.  Make sure that all participants are added to your circles in Google Plus.
  • Prepare students in advance and practice.  As the host, there was no time to check-in with students today to see how they were.  They had to be ready to walk in the door and go live.
  • Have someone available to either facilitate students sharing or running the keyboard.  It was hard to do both.  Someone needs to click on each person in the hangout when it is their turn to speak if you are the host.
  • If you are broadcasting your hangout over speakers, then you should mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking.  If people are unmuted, there is feedback.
  • I’m considering having my control center be in a separate space so that I can click on who is next in the hangout and have students speak in a less noisy environment.  Then, I can have viewing of the hangout in another space.
  • If you have multiple modes of communication with your participants:  twitter, email, hangout chat, etc., it is difficult to manage and host.  Perhaps over time I might be able to juggle all of those roles, but I just ignored email and twitter during the hangout today.

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What stressed me out!:

  • Feeling like everything had to be perfect and forgetting my own mantra that we have to be willing to fail in order to learn.
  • Having moments of panic when the connection was slow, the microphone wouldn’t mute, the main video wouldn’t switch to the right person, or when the audio had a lot of feedback.
  • Trying to host the event on air by verbally calling on each school.  Sometimes my microphone wouldn’t mute/unmute in time.  It was great when we got in a rhythm of our order and self-facilitated our speakers.

 

Take a look at how our event turned out, and please share your own learning about using Google Hangouts On Air in the comments below.