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Thing 17: DIY

As is wont to happen, our various readings and explorations often lead us back to the same recommended tools.   Today’s focus is one of those tools:  Kahoot, a  student learning game maker.   While working on Thing 29: Student Response Tools, I read Michael Gorman’s blog posting Free Digital Formative Assessment Tools… Important Thoughts Before Implementing (which offers an important reminder to know your district’s AUP and to protect student privacy).  Kahoot was one of the sites he highlighted and I remembered that it had also been featured in  AASL Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2014. Intrigued, I decided to find out what makes this resource so note-worthy.

Kahoot allows a teacher to give quizzes (original or pre-made), surveys and post discussions  that feel like competitive games and engage students. As mentioned on AALS Best Websites, Kahoot is “device-agnostic”  and allows students to respond with Smartphones, tablets, laptops and Chromebooks. A visible leader board lets participants watch their progress and amps up the competitive spirit.   I began by checking out the website, which is appealingly designed with simple colorful graphics, but after reading through the homepage, I still had questions.  I turned to YouTube where I found a helpful tutorial by Jason Cross.  Ready to go, I signed up with an email address and was sent a confirmation with links to an intro quiz.  The quiz had a clean, colorful design  with an embedded video and clear graphics.  It modeled the use of color-coded answer boxes, each with a unique shape included which would be an asset when working with emerging/struggling readers.  Teachers may access response reports  allowing them to track student progress and assess question strength,  This feature makes it ideal for student assessments.

I created a Kahoot to be used for library orientation/review with third grade students Rocket Library Challenge.  It was pretty intuitive and the whole process took me less than two hours (without reading the manual).  I was able to load pictures from my desktop to include with the questions  (I used the snipping tool to include pictures from my Opac). One note–no spell check feature for the questions/answers.   I then played the 20 question game on my laptop (Surprise: I won!).  I was then able to download the results of the game which appeared on an Excel spreadsheet.  The participant’s response times and statistics for each question are recorded.  Fabulous!  I am eager to try it out with students!  This could be done in a lab setting or if you are in a BYOD school, you are ready to go.

Future goal:   Create a Thinglink–This tool is too cool to pass up!  Time is running out for today but this oft-touted site would be a huge hit with students.  I would like to use it with my fifth and sixth grade students to present the results of their research projects.  They can select a single visual to represent their work that is then layered with additional text, links, videos and images.  It seems to be a more elegant presentation than  the multimedia poster originator Glogster.  I can’t wait to give it a try!


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AnswerGarden: What is your favorite cool tool?

AnswerGarden is a new minimalistic feedback tool. Use it as a tool for online brainstorming or embed it on your website or blog as a poll or guestbook.

Source: AnswerGarden: What is your favorite cool tool?

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Thing 29: Student Response Tools

Padlet + Wordle = AnswerGarden

After meandering down the AnswerGarden path, I discovered that this “minimal tool for maximum feedback” could be used as a brainstorming, exit ticket, or quick survey tool in the classroom and in presentations.  It is easy to use, requires no passwords, and provides immediate, visible results.  Because AG can be broadcast via IP/Geo location feature, a teacher could post a question that students would be able to quickly find and respond to on the network.   It is also possible to post a MicroGarden on your blog or web site which was designed for blind polls and does not show the participant’s answers.  I created this Sample AnswerGarden and was able to post directly to this WordPress blog from their site (see post above).  I plan on trying this out as an icebreaker activity with my 6th grade students next week. Favorite books, summer movie, ice cream flavor….

Today’s Meet is also a useful free tool for educators (with a bells-and-whistles upgrade available for $5.00 per month). Students don’t need to login and can jump in to a class discussion with the URL you provide.  I have used Edmodo with students and found that an online forum does help those who are reluctant to participate in class discussion.  Today’s meet would be a speedy alternative.  I would like to give it a test drive with students before deciding if it would be worth the small annual expense for the added features of printable transcripts, discussion pause, and improved access.

My primary goal today however was to embed a response form on my Battle of the Books page that allows patrons to submit book requests.  RCS uses Google Apps for Education and I created our library page using Google Sites so it made sense to create it in Google Forms.  It was a breeze to put together and gave me lots of options to customize the question format and form appearance.  Once the questions were added, I found a library-themed template to make it pop.   For the time being, I required Google log-in for submission which will limit the responses to our students.  With the simple click of a button I was able to generate a sheet to collect the responses.  I love the way the form looks….now I have to go back and fix the rest of the page!

Note:  I removed the Google log-in requirement because the widget is not visible to those folks not logged in to the school Google account.  They see an error message indicating that they don’t have permission to view the file.


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Thing 19: Social Reading

How did I miss the wonderful DayByDayNY DaybyDay NYFamily Literacy Calendar?   I love this resource so much that I have added it to the homepage as well as under the “Celebrate Books” tab of my library website.  Created by the New York State Library, and patterned after the South Carolina model, the site has an array of  engaging activities, book lists,  games, songs and videos that promote kindergarten readiness skills, literacy and health and wellness. Each day new songs and activities are featured and children can have two new books read aloud to them from One More Story and Tumblebooks.   While the site was created for families of preschool children, it is a terrific resource for teachers and librarians who work with primary school students as well.  In addition to featuring it on my site, I will be printing out the Early Literacy Bookmarks available on the site to promote it to families (and teachers) in my school community.

I joined Goodreads to explore the possibility of creating a discussion group for our Battle of the Books program.   I created a group for the HS BOB students and then went about populating a bookshelf with the 16 titles they would be reading this year.   I must admit feeling a lot of frustration today as the whole process took much longer (by hours, not minutes) than I anticipated. Although the instructions on Goodreads indicate that it should work, I was not successful in importing a csv file or an existing list from my Amazon wish list.  Grrr.  Obviously, I was doing something wrong but it would have been much faster to just type the individual titles in than to struggle with the importing shortcuts.

Not willing to move on without something to show for my work, I decided to put a widget of the titles on the library web page.  Google Sites and Goodreads don’t seem to play nice together.  I finally have the widget embedded but need to learn how to adjust the html code so that the titles appear in a row rather than in a column one-book’s width.  I don’t like the way it looks so I won’t be keeping it on the site for long.  This is what the BOB page looks like for the moment.

Goodreads may be a great resource but at the moment I am too grumpy to enjoy its benefits.

9/6 Update:  I am changing the BOB page and removing the goodreads widget so here is a snip of the widget before the change:



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Thing 6: Curation Tools

Yes, I already have a Pinterest account and sure I have explored other people’s boards but I have avoided pinning and creating my own like a chocoholic avoiding a fabulously decadent brownie overload sundae.   I was afraid I would become addicted..or is that pindicted?  Last night I decided to throw caution to the wind and jump in to the world of digital curation. I had been thinking about creating new welcome back library centers  (one of my goals this year is to expand and improve upon the library centers that I currently use).  Why not create a Pinterest board to support that goal?

Although tempted to start searching and pinning, I decided to exercise some restraint and so this morning I did some background reading on curation.  While all the posted articles were helpful in defining the topic, providing tools for curation, resources for further reading,  and motivation for getting started (especially the Valenza article quoted below), I found myself returning to Content Curation Done Right an infographic created by Heather Lister.  I like the simple, elegant way she has depicted the topic and found myself checking off the who, what, and why of my own curation goal.  Let the pinning begin!

I own Cari Young’s book  The Centered School Library Engaging Every Learner with Library Skills Centers so I began with her web site.  I then checked out Laurie Alden’s board on centers  (and tried not to get too distracted with all of her other terrific boards) and I was off and running.   Here I pin, there I pin, everywhere I pin, pin!  I spent hours searching, getting sidetracked  (I now also have a secret board of pumpkin cinnamon roll recipes), and getting excited about learning center activities.  Here is the result:  Library Learning Centers

While today’s work was done to support my goal to find, filter, organize and share resources on library learning centers, I am inspired by  Joyce Valenza who in a 2012 curation article for School Library Monthy, offered the following thought-provoking advice for librarians:

If we want our school communities to view us as information and communication authorities and information professionals, if we want our communities to understand the full scope of their information worlds, if we want our young people to grow up being able to curate their own information lives, curation is not optional.

I now feel compelled to help students curate.

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Thing 2: Photo Fun

I jumped into Photo Fun by exploring the resources and tools that Polly posted.  I do have a problem though, they are all too much fun and it is so easy to spend hours on any one of them!  Here are a few favorites:

I love, love, love Dear Photograph and immediately lost myself in the site’s funny, poignant, and fascinating stories–each told in a photo and brief caption.  The site encourages you to “take a picture of a picture from the past in the present.”  Personally, I think it would be great to get my siblings involved in a little family history project using old photos as an  80th birthday gift for my mom (my brother currently lives in the house she grew up in so there is certainly lots of opportunity).  I can also think of a few school projects inspired by the site:

  • 2nd grade (During our Caldecott unit):  Using Flotsam by Caldecott Medal-winning author/illustrator David Wiesner (which depicts fantastical worlds  viewed in photos-within-photos), have students explore telling a simple story with the same photo-within-a-photo technique.
  • 4th grade (Local History unit): Using historical pictures of the school and community, compile a digital “then and now” photo album.
  • 12th grade  (Yearbook):  A Dear Photograph style collage of graduating seniors and the school compiled for the yearbook.

If you haven’t checked out the NY times article on creating a “book face” get to it!  It would be a great reading buddy project for our students. During our annual reading celebration,  middle and high school students partnered with their elementary reading buddies could create book face photos together. A Bad Case of Stripes anyone?

I work with an ELA teacher on Battle of the Books and I can’t wait to share all the great tools that BigHugeLabs  has to offer.  I signed up and was immediately able to play!  I used the Hockneyizer to create this collage from a single photo that I had recently snapped at the St.  James Cemetary in Arlington, Vermont.


BigHugeLabs  will be perfect for 0ur 7th graders whose projects already include creating movie posters and Magazine Covers.  Perhaps we could add character Trading Cards…they could download a photo, add personality traits (but not the name)  and have others try to identify who is depicted.

PhotoFunia is  a free photo editor that is super easy to use and would be great for any age.  The site proclaims “Your Photos Could Get Awesome! Tons of Effects, Fonts, Overlays.”  It does not disappoint.  Students can upload their photos to create countless posters, billboards, cards, typewriter messages, and more.  In a matter of seconds I created this message that I can wait to use!

Welcome back Books

I confess that I am guilty of Book spine poetry envy. I first saw the idea at workshop presented by  Kathleen Odean several years ago and I have been meaning to have a book spine poetry event ever since.  OK, this is it!  I am committing to it this year–it could be done as a welcome back activity, a celebration during National Poetry month in April, and definitely as part of our Battle of the Books competition…  In the meantime, here are two examples I put together from around the house:

Book Spine poetry 001 Scary poem








What a great day of photo fun!

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I’m back!

Uhh, yeah I know… I am guilty of some serious procrastination!   I have had such fun that I refuse to feel guilty.  I have spent the summer traveling and enjoying the company of friends and family.  Cooking, reading,traveling what a wonderfully relaxing time it has been. We kicked off the summer by celebrating our 30th anniversary in Grenada.  Amazing!  Since then I have happily avoided any and all school work (with the exception of reading  a lot of YA fiction).  It is time for me to get back on track by jumping in to Cool Tools for Schools once again.  I am looking forward to being energized and inspired!

Morne Rouge Beach, Grenada

Morne Rouge Beach, Grenada

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