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.

Image Crediting & Editing

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“Kitten-468203_1280” by Aniko Boros, licensed by CC0

I suppose that a good portion of the population is equally as captivated by kitten (and other animal) pictures on the internet as I am. Perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but come on! They are pretty adorable. Naturally, I chose this image from Pixabay.com to play with because it really resonated with my summer vibes.

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“Hockney Kitty” is a derivative of “Kitten-468203_1280” by Aniko Boros, licensed by CC0.

I have posted a few images here, because they were just too fun not to share. As a former student of art history, I was immediately drawn to bighugelabs.com‘s feature “Hockneyizer.” The editor allows you to choose whether you want the polaroid frames or not. You can even use flickr images to write on the frames. I thought this image would work great in conjunction with thinglink.com as a presentation device. While you could use the plain image to embed different links, I think this kind of broken up collage-y visual would add an element of intrigue. The editor also allows the creator to pick how many frames they want the image to divide into, setting easy limits for research projects i.e. “Use the Hockneyizer and thinglink to present 5 interesting links about your topic.”

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“Summer Kitten” is a derivative of “Kitten-468203_1280” by Aniko Boros, licensed by CC0.

Anyone else feeling this way? I actually branched out and used the imgur.com meme creator here. It is a super easy and user-friendly tool. I think meme creation can be used for SO many school projects. Memes are fun and funny. Kids like them, adults like them, they are short, sweet, and to the point. Often they add an element of humor that can be missing from everyday classroom instruction. My first thought to integrate this into the curriculum was for each student to create a meme about a historical figure. They could be serious and sum up achievements, or humorous, potentially exposing lesser-known facts about the person pictured. I love the idea of digging deeper than the average history text to learn more about renown figures. To me, this kind of project lends itself to social justice oriented work (I’m thinking minorities, women, veterans, etc.).

Design Zen

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I must confess, I have never been much of a designer. As a lover of art and student of art history, I can appreciate and enjoy great design. I can identify poor design (like most of us). But skillfully pulling together my own designs? Not my forte. That being said, I absolutely adore the book we are reading in my summer course (Production of Instructional Materials). We are using Presentation Zen Design (2nd Edition) by Garr Reynolds, who makes it incredibly simple to understand the nature of design, why we should use it, and how we can technically employ what the text is conveying.

A little insight from Chapters 1 & 2 that helped shape this blog:

  • “When you’re trying to change the world, there is no excuse for being boring and there is no excuse for poorly designed visuals,” (p. 10). Yes! Thank you for this one statement to whip me into shape.
  • Designing is essentially problem-solving. Your solution should be the clearest and most simple one available. This page keeps a simple line and tagline, with a typical blog style. The words are easy to read visually, and the layout uses clean lines to arrange posts chronologically. This follows the journey in a linear manner. Because these are the first few posts, this template seemed the strongest. As the course moves forward, I am considering shifting to a simpler, photo-driven layout that will link to posts.
  • Typeface conveys personality and mood as much as the words that are written in it. Find one that is concise but attractive. Mixing typefaces can be visually confusing, so choose a few in a font family and play with those.  I chose a template that mixes serif and san serif, but still creates clarity and harmony.

Reynolds, G. (2014). Presentation zen design: A simple visual approach to presenting in today’s world (2nd ed.). New Riders/Pearson.

AnswerGarden: A library should be……

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Add to my AnswerGarden by clicking the link and finishing the sentence below:

AnswerGarden: A library should be…….

Welcome!

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Welcome to Chronicles of an Unlikely Librarian! This is my third semester in the school library program at ODU, and I could not be more excited to take on this fun, creative course this summer.

I call myself an unlikely librarian because academically and professionally, I have kind of been all over the place. I am quite passionate about so many things that don’t always translate smoothly into a career. I have a Bachelors in Art History, a Masters in Women’s and Gender Studies, and am now working on my MS in Education at ODU (with a school library endorsement). I have worked as: a home inspector, a nanny, a (vegetarian) deli meat slicers, an Americorps VISTA community media outreach specialist, a health research recruiter, a bartender, an accountant, and a preschool teacher. Somewhere through and between these positions, I realized that it was really important to me to teach kids how to understand the media they consume, and how to participate in the production of their culture by creating their own media. Thus, this loud, passionate, gypsy of a lady has started down the road of becoming a school librarian.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you accompany me on my journey!

Cheers,

Ashley

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Ashley and her beloved doghter, Ms. Rue McClanahan