Month: June 2015

Video, Presentation, and Storytelling

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I must begin by letting you all know that digital storytelling is really the project that began my journey to school librarianship. When I was an undergrad at UNCW, I was asked to work on an interdisciplinary program called “Reel Girls” that planned a two-day workshop for middle schools girls to make video self-portraits. Between a handful of Women’s Studies, Sociology, and Film Studies faculty and students, the semester-long process of brainstorming, gaining video and editing skills, curriculum development, and the workshop itself, this project was an enlightening and transformative process. For me, it informed my later graduate research and project which used video interviews to explore gendered relationships. All that being said – I am a firm believer that we learn through stories, and that digital stories can be a strong vehicle for education and change.

A few of the tools in our Sandbox for this week I have used before in my Instructional Technology class last fall (Animoto, Powtoon). A few of the tools I have been on the receiving end of (Jing), and a few were new to me (Wideo, Sharalike, Pixiclip).

The one I was most inspired by was Sharalike. While I understand concerns about the limitations, I am also impressed by the ease of use. For younger students, this is ideal. You upload pictures, you choose music, you have a professional looking slideshow. As a history/art history nerd, I immediately thought about how you could tell the story of a historical event/figure with pictures and/or videos. Something about moving images makes stories come to life, so I think this would be an engaging tool, as well as an engaging product. This slideshow set-up is also an easy way to show transformation or progression, whether that’s through a group project, something they are building, etc. This is a overarching theme in many of our SOLs – change over time. I plan to use Sharalike to document my time at the ALA Convention this weekend (meaning my video will be a little late…but super fun!).

I poked around Wideo and Pixiclip, and felt somehow less connected with their platforms. First of all, my pixiclip came out ridiculous looking (I’m too ashamed to link it here). I think there is a skill level that is required that is beyond me. A classmate of mine uploaded a floor plan and explained changes in her library, which I thought was a genius use of this tool. I can also see this used for math and science courses, explaining causative relationship or demonstrating ways to problem-solve. Wideo is very professional-looking, and struck me as a moving infographic. However, I had the same sensation I do with stationary infographics – info overload. They convey so much information at once, all I can think is – do people just watch this over and over and take notes?

My experience with Animoto and Powtoon was different because they came across more as storytelling devices. I love the idea of working with students to produce something that is their own story. In my mind, this is democratic participation in a media-saturated world. My Animoto video from my prior class was assigned to be an introduction video, which I think would work for teachers AND students. Animoto is quite similar to Sharable, but with more creative options. Mine has a huge watermark across it, but I see that they have made it smaller and put it in the corner for those of us that are using it for free.

Powtoon would be fun for students who are into animation, but perhaps don’t have the skill set yet to start from scratch. It is a great story telling device, and offers an impressive array of options for free. My Powtoon video was on Digital Citizenship, and you will notice that it shares an idea rather than inundating the audience with facts and figures. Hope you enjoy it!

Digital Citizenship

Kudos & Inspo: Library Website Round-up

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Like a lot of my classmates, looking at other school library websites has left me feeling both intimidated and inspired. I checked out Library Girl’s 5 Things Every School Library Website Should Have, browsed websites, read the National Library of New Zealand’s advice for Developing Your Web Presence and watched an NZ librarian build her web presence from the ground up, browsed even more websites, and then read through Rebecca Buerkett’s (2014) Knowledge Quest article Where to Start: Creating Virtual Library Space and finally took her advice – “don’t be intimidated by all of the choices and decisions—jump in!” (p. E27).

Yes – these are all the steps I went through before I even decided on what two school library websites I would share on my blog. I had to learn what should be there before I could judge how functional they were!

This is what I found:

  • Collins Hill High School Media Center – I adore this website because it is student, parent, and teacher friendly. Many of the websites I looked at shared book recommendations or favorites, but when you add a teacher’s name to the recommendation they become human endorsers.  The tech tools are presented simply with descriptions and potential uses. The stream of “Read” posters at the bottom of the page connects to the student body because, well, they are part of it. There are easy links to involve students in events, research links and citation help, tech tools, teacher resources, and more. While I would make some changes in the visual design, the layout and information on this page are both on point.
  • Hanover High School Library – This website is so aesthetically appealing because of it’s simplicity. The top banner presents a bold message (white letters on dark background for the win). The menu above it is clean, functional, and unobtrusive to the design. There are colorful links which add the visual interest you would expect when looking at a library page, followed by subcategories which present snippets of news and events. The info on the page is heavily research-oriented, but I like that they included class projects right in the menu – no hunting around the page to find help for student assignments.
  • Lounsberry Hollow’s Virtual Learning Center – I couldn’t NOT include this site. It is busy to say the least, but I’m not hesitant to call it comprehensive. I like the use of widgets and glogster on the front page (although I think maybe it would be less overwhelming to use one or the other). This also happened to be the only site that fully stated the mission of the library, as well as explained the program/what a school librarian does. There are so many resources for teachers, links to guide ethical research, club pages, and fun web tools. Deb Schiano – major kudos! 

Hope these pages spread some light on school library web presence for my fellow 602 classmates. My weebly will be linked here when I’m finished!

References:

Buerkett, R. (2014). Where to start? Creating virtual library spaces. Knowledge Quest, 42(4). E23-E27. Retrieved from <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/knowledgequest/docs/KQ_MarApr_WheretoStart.pdf&gt;

Audio Tools

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I have been playing around with a few of the audio tools in our sandbox for this week, and Rue here was my favorite finished product (not surprising). If you can’t see her and you are on Chrome, click the little shield that appears right next to the star in your address bar.

Rue was made on Voki very quickly. The site is very user-friendly, and kind of reminded me of playing The Sims as a kid. I picked out an avatar, picked out accessories (or hair, clothes, etc. if I chose a person), and got to customize the voice and what they say. Fun! I understand why so many people use Voki – it is nice to have an avatar do the talking for you. It adds some anonymity, and can be used as a constant character/ambassador to your blog. I think it would be fun to re-enact literature using Vokis. Students could design their character and tell their side of the story in their own words, interacting by talking back to other students’ Vokis. This could make for a very entertaining blog project!
I loved one of my classmates Blabberize photos, but I didn’t have such a successful attempt. The site is honestly laid out simply and intuitively. It was almost at the point where I was confused because it was so easy. Then….I actually was confused. I couldn’t figure out how to re-orient my uploaded photo, which kind of made my image a bust. Did anyone else have this problem or a solution? Blabberize could be used for so many project and presentations, and would be completely entertaining for kids. Again – putting literature characters in their words would be pretty hilarious on this. I immediately thought about presenting famous historical figures using Blabberize. I think the site could be used by upper elementary levels, and this would work wonderfully with the History SOLS in Virginia for 4th & 5th grade. Students could rattle off background information, achievements, etc. using a painting or photo of the figure.

Vocaroo is fabulous because it (also) is EASY! No sign up, no login, just easy-access audio recording. I think the best part of the tool is that it gives you so many options for sharing: embedding, emailing, linking to various sites, downloading as MP3, Ogg, FLAC, or WAV, even a QR code link. It also gives you the option to delete the link, which is quite often overlooked. I can see this tool being used to post student book talks alongside an image (or images), or used in a Glogster to tell a story that is more easily explained that depicted. Vocaroo could also be the new tape recorder. Set up a device, press record, and you now have a free shareable, reviewable lecture. This might also be a tool to introduce students to who are practicing presentation skills (eliminating “likes” and “ums,” adding/reducing talk time, telling a clear story, etc.). I think this could work as a podcast lite – an easy recording device for younger students who may not feel comfortable producing/broadcasting a podcast, but have a story to tell nonetheless. A classmate of mine mentioned using this tool for ELL students (fabulous idea!), and I think we could build on that and use it for students that require audio proctoring for exams. Perhaps we can pre-record so these students can use headphones instead of being taken out of class for tests.

 

 

This I Believe

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I’ve tried a few times to really subscribe to podcasts that I have subscribed to. I have never quite succeeded. I have every intention of keeping up, laughing along, and making best friends with the voices coming through my headphones, car speakers, or laptop but it just hasn’t clicked with me. I don’t consider myself to have a short span of attention, but for some reason or another listening to podcasts (or audiobooks, I’m not just picking on podcasts!) puts me in a daze that ends up sounding like “Did you pay that bill? What do you want for dinner? When did you last call your dad?”

BUT! I am happy to report, I’ve found my personal key to podcast success: brevity. Audiobooks and podcasts are magical inventions that fill a space in many people’s lives. Some people learn better when they hear it, some people drive a lot, some people sit in a cubicle and would rather wear headphones than hear the clatter of keyboarding and office gossip. I fall into none of these categories, and am clearly a little self-involved so I need a podcast that can quickly captivate me, then let me roll the story around in my head.

I came across This I Believe on Tyler Nakatsu and Bonnie Lathram’s (2015) list of 60 Podcasts You Should Check Out. For me, this was just what the doctor ordered. The site produces weekly podcasts which feature individuals sharing their essays on the beliefs that guide their lives. These short, insightful narratives speak to what I believe: it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something.

Check out Madeleine McGuire’s “Getting Lost” to learn more accepting the challenge of finding beauty and magic wherever you happen to land.


I love the idea of a class podcast as a sort of “editor’s notes” feed. Teacher recaps/reviews, where to find more, what inspired the lesson, classroom challenges, etc. This gives the teacher extra classroom time without actually taking classroom time. Along these lines, individual student projects could be “presented” via podcasts (again saving instructional time). Even morning announcements could be presented as podcasts (or vodcasts).

I am a huge believer in narrative theory – or the idea that humans learn through story. This makes podcasting a great tool for creating community in a classroom, club, or school. From interviewing friends and family, to writing new stories, to using podcasts as an audio blog, I think there are endless possibilities for student connection, storytelling, and thereby identity production. Producing alternative media stories is important to me. Podcasting is an innovative way to do that for students who may be too shy to tell their story face to face.

Lathram, B. & Nakatsu, T. (2015 Feb 7). 60 podcasts you should check out. [blog post] Retrieved from http://gettingsmart.com/2015/02/60-podcasts-check/

Confession: Infographics overwhelm me.

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This is a true story: every time I see an infographic, my eyes kind of glaze over. I have a really difficult time absorbing information from them because there is just a lot going on. I’m an image OR text kind of lady, mixing both can sometimes visually confuse me. I feel like Garr Reynolds (2014) backs me up here. In Presentation Zen (2nd ed.), he spends a lot of page space discussing how unnecessary so many parts of so many designs are. Beyond unnecessary, they are distracting.

All that being said, I was a little distressed taking on this project. I knew I wanted to make something simple, not too long, not too dense, because there must be other people like me who tend to glaze. For this image, I used Piktochart. Full disclosure – I read all my classmates’ posts before diving in, and gleaned some wisdom from their experience. Piktochart was relatively easy to use, largely because I used a template. You have to create an account, or sign in using an existing account. I used my school Google account, because I think that’s what it’s there for. Piktochart is a freemium tool, meaning that parts of it are free, but some really cool parts require a “level up” (a.k.a. $). One major bummer for this is that the images you can download are limited by using only a free account. I hope you guys can read my text, because I didn’t realize how small it would be until after I finished and saw my download options.

I would love to do this project in school, but I think it would be best suited for an older audience (maybe 8-12 grades). Part of what is appealing to me is that you have to have your information organized and understand the story you want to tell before you take this on. To me, it was easy to make an image after that. That being said, had I veered off-template I might be singing a different tune. I think this would help students learn to market their message (headlines, tags, abstracts, quick pitches, etc.). This is always a useful skill – you want to be able to communicate quickly and easily, because that’s what is required now!

I used a color scheme that was gentle on the eyes, popping white text against a darker background. I used a color in the same family to emphasize and highlight, and tried to pull the same color throughout the image. This was a little difficult because the clipart images they offered were a little skimp. I’m happy with the ones I found, but it would be nice to be able to customize them. There is a lot I would change about this image, for instance – I didn’t realize what a “block” was until the end when I thought, “Oh my gosh, I forgot to cite!!” Therefore, this is a little short on info for me. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise, since I tend to be wordy.

Fun fact: I almost became a birth doula, and am still considering becoming certified in the future. I am interested in empowering women to make holistic decisions about their health and bodies, so to me this is an indispensable job. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about what doulas can do, and that this design presents that information in a visually appealing way.

Green, A. (2015). Doulas in the US.
Green, A. (2015). Doulas in the US.