Saturday, 27 February 2010

Celebrity Sighting in Nagoya

Living it up here in Nagoya, Japan this weekend. The lovely Debbie Miller graciously agreed to do an EARCOS weekend workshop at the Nagoya International School, and many of us at ISB jumped at the chance. For me, it's a literacy dream come true as Debbie's philosophy and words have resonated with me for many years. My Reading With Meaning book is well-loved, dog-eared and has sticky notes coming out of all ends. Hence, the celebrity sighting title of this post. Debbie is so warm, so smart and so real-exactly like I expected her to be from reading her books. I feel so inspired.

A surprise for us was that a group of 2nd graders came to school to allow us to watch a modeled lesson on inferring. It was so cute to see the stage set up like a movie set, complete with anchor charts and sitting rug. And we were introduced to a great new title by Jeanette Winter, Nasreen's Secret School.

Trusting ourselves as teachers and trusting our students with their reading was the big idea of the weekend for me. Try something new with kids. Take a risk. If it doesn't work, it's ok. Sometimes it's good just to see what happens. I've got some ideas brewing, and I can't wait to see what happens...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Digital Book Trailers

So, for about forever now, I've wanted to work with some 5th graders to make digital book reviews. Problem is I could never find the time. Finally I got tired of not finding the time and made the time. In the 15 minutes of 5th grade lunch recess, I started offering an optional "How to Make Your Own Book Trailer" gathering. We started with about 12 kids but are down to 3 diehards who come everyday, ready to add a bit to their trailer (15 minutes flies by!).

Our first one is totally finished and ready for production...

Siana worked so hard on that. Beaming with pride (both of us).

Now a bit of background logistics in case anyone wants to try it.

We used PhotoPeach because it is pretty intuitive and the kids got it. At first we played around with Animoto, but it was a bit too flashy and the free ones are only 30 seconds. We needed longer for our trailers, but in hindsight it was fun to let the kids fool around with the program and see why it wouldn't work for this project.

Our goal was to be very Presentation Zen about the images we chose and the text we used. Simple, succinct and powerful. It should pack a punch when you read it. We were inspired greatly by this trailer and this one.

For images, the best discovery via Chrissy was Compfight. Just click the 'creative commons' button at the top and it only searches those images that can be used. Cut and paste the URL's as you go along on a word document.

Something the kids learned is that it was pretty hard at first to tease out the essence of a book instead of doing a book review format. Thankfully, the kids were up for the challenge and really helped each other very organically with wording and image choice.

For all those Destiny users out there, you can embed the video right on your home page. I'm going to do this to showcase one student's work each week. One whole class of 5th graders is creating book trailers for their social issues unit, so I've got lots to showcase. And you can now embed digital content right into the catalog so when someone searches the book, a link will appear to the book trailer. So much fun to see the process and the final product.

Friday, 19 February 2010


After a major remodel a few years ago, our Learning Hub is now very contemporary and funky. The hanging bubble chairs are a huge hit with students, and we have a space that brings them a lot of joy. The only job left to be completed was the signage-- we really wanted to make sure we found signage that fit the vibe of our Hub.

Enter the fabulous Kevin Hennah, library design guru (and much more) out of Australia. Kim and I hosted Kevin at ISB back in August and all the regional librarians unanimously agreed that he was fantastic. He helped us sort out our signage by brainstorming ways to incorporate our contemporary style into the design.

It took a bit longer than we thought to finally see our vision come alive, but it's all coming together this week. Since our entire space is designed to be flexible, these hollow plastic blocks slip in and out of shelves easily, and they are color-coded for picture books and fiction. They look so very professional.

The non-fiction is even more flexible in that we just slide in whatever we need with topics to guide students.
I know when I searched online for signage design ideas, I had a hard time finding something with a bit of funk to it. Hopefully sharing these ideas can fill a gap. I'm also keen to know what others use for signage to store away ideas for the future.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Thanks again to Twitter and @imcguy, the fun of Storybird has come my way.

The site provides a story template with tons of amazing artists who have created a set of illustrations to be used. Simply choose an artist (I am loving the bright colors and playfulness of Paul McDougall), drag a picture into the blank page and add text. Students will need emails to create their own account, but they can play around and create a story without signing up. Note that they cannot save the story.

My plan is to have the 1st and 2nd graders take some time experimenting with this site during our time next week, and then I'll send home a note about the site so parents can sign their kids up. I see it as a great way to be creative at home with storytelling. Plus, the inspiration from the illustrations is sure to have some kids drawing to their heart's content.

Care to read mine? Feel free.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Library Love

Yes, Wallwisher again. I'm hooked. So authentic, so easy and such instant gratification. I've been showing it to as many students and teachers as I can.
I put up this Wallwisher up on the Smartboard and had it 'open for business' during the 4th and 5th grade recess times, as well as during some of the library times. After I gave a short demo, some kids came up and added to the wall. I promise I didn't add all those comments that say 'mstara'--learning as I go and left myself logged in so the students' names came up as mine.

What a fabulous way to collect and analyze data about your library. It let me see so clearly what is working for the students, and you can't beat feeling the library love either! Perhaps the next question is "What can we do to improve our Hub?"

Chrissy, our fab grade 5 teacher and soon-to-be technology coach in the elementary, just sent me another site like Wallwisher. Worth checking out!

Thursday, 4 February 2010


I've spent the last two days at the yearly Follett Destiny workshop held in Bangkok. Lucky for me that they asked for librarian presentations this year, so I jumped at the chance to share some of the tools and activities I've been doing (or wish to do in a perfect world). Imagine the chance to actually be in the same room as 40 other librarians--it simply doesn't happen for us in the Asian region.

One of my favorite new tools that I shared with the group was Wallwisher. It's the whole 'get a sticky note, write your thoughts and stick it to the chart paper' activity but online. Brilliant! It's free, and I can keep the information archived each time I build a new wall.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a gazillion authentic ways to use this tool, and I'd be going nuts if I were a classroom teacher. I used it as an introduction activity in my presentation (but somehow forgot to refresh and so no post-its showed mantra--refresh, refresh, refresh) and asked what people like best about being a librarian. Click on the photo above to see our thoughts.

Here is an amazing selection of different ways to use Wallwisher. Imagine having it set up in your library and have kids just walk up and add favorite books each month, images included. Wow.

Monday, 1 February 2010

TechTrain 2010

Every now and then, something comes together so perfectly that it just feels good all the way down to your toes. That was TechTrain for me this past weekend. Chrissy, Kim, Dana, Dennis and I hosted a weekend workshop designed specifically for new users.

The idea came to us in a conversation almost 10 months ago: there are so many great international tech conferences out there, but they go too fast for newbies and are overwhelming. Could we provide a conference designed just for new users? Something that provided a safe, customized environment for teachers to learn the tools and spend the necessary time practicing and feeling comfortable enough to go back to the classroom and implement their learning?

Yes we could.
We just did.
And it was amazing.

From creating blogs and wikis to making slideshows and learning about the Twitterverse, my cohort of ten teachers from various parts of Asia was absolutely phenomenal. Watching them grow in confidence hour by hour throughout the weekend made me a bit giddy, and I loved watching them start to help each other with projects and how good it felt for them to be the ones with the answers.
Each of us guided a cohort of 10-12 people through the weekend, creating that safe environment for the super newbies. Those who had some experience with tools entered the application group and created a digital storytelling project for the newbie groups to view as the culmination of the weekend. This is everyone 'speed geeking' at the end of the day.Such an empowering weekend for both the participants and for me. I think it might be the beginning of a yearly event.