Sunday, May 15, 2011

The iPads Are Coming! (Part I)

This summer, I'm buying two iPad 2's to join our 4 Kindles for circulation next school year.  The Kindles have been a big hit, and I want to do a thorough job promoting and rolling out the iPads, so I'm doing my homework.

I have the main post for this partway written; however, while researching the Apps I want to load onto the iPads, I ran across these, and was so impressed I decided to blog them early.

First, two e-books that finally, finally, get what the iPad is all about and take advantage of it.  I am really tired of publishers whose imagination fails to extend beyond replacing still images with video, yet think they are being innovative.

Push Pop Press  is publishing Our Choice, Al Gore's sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, but designed specifically for the iPad. (In fact, Mike Matas, the developer helped design the iPad's interface). It is mind-boggling to see in action (video below).  I really hope textbook publishers are sitting up and taking notice, and we owe a debt of gratitude to PPP for licensing their ebook platform to other publishers, allowing them to create equally innovative texts.

One caveat, the program is so huge (over 50 mb), the download from the App store is only the introductory video. It then redirects and downloads the rest of the book.

Similarly, if not quite as jaw-dropping, Elements: A Visual Exploration,  explores the periodic table like you've never seen it.

Moving away from ebooks, I really like this nifty little app.  Frog Dissection allows student to dissect a frog virtually. The graphics are pretty realistic, as you can see in the video below, and it's cool that they can click on an organ to view it in 3D or learn more about it.  The app comes with a quiz and more information about frogs.  I showed it to our Biology teacher, and he's pretty excited about it--especially because it's hard to get frogs in Mongolia.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Assessment: It's About Keeping Your Job

I blogged a few weeks back about the need for librarians to be an integral part of assessment.  In my usual blunt and tactless manner, I wrote:  

Let's be brutally honest here:  in the educational world, s/he who gives the grades gets the respect.  From kids, from parents, even from admin.  All else gets relegated to "support staff."    

Well, here's the proof.   Buffy Hamilton just posted this article on Facebook.  Note the question asked by the attorney:

"Do you take attendance?" the attorney insisted. "Do you issue grades?"

I rest my case.  Like it or not, if you want to keep your job, you better start taking part in assessment.  I'll be blogging more about this in the next week or two,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mental Health Break: Technology, the Musical

I've said before that I really enjoy those "spontaneous" flash art thingies (and that's a technical term!).  Here's one from a tech conference in NYC a few days ago.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The 100 (no, make that 50) Books Challenge

I've mentioned before that, heretofore, I haven't done much in the library to support reading, beyond the occasional book display. I would like to start a book club, but I don't see myself buying 10 or more copies of each book, and in Mongolia, it's not like they can run to their public library.  I AM their public library!

So I've been wondering how I was going to do this, when I ran across someone mentioning their 100 Book Challenge on LM_Net.  I don't remember who it was, unfortunately, but it sounded like something she was doing herself, but blogging about it so students could follow along, and maybe even join in. 

That sounded like a good way to go; when I ran it by admin, they balked at 100 books, which is over two books/week.  Thus, we are now the 50 Book Challenge!

But how to hold the students accountable for their reading?

Originally, I thought I'd create a VoiceThread, have students upload images of their book and record a brief review.  Then I decided it would be a great way to promote more extensive use of Destiny and to use the review feature. Since I have to approve all reviews, I can keep a tally chart in Excel of the # of reviews for each student.  Now, we only have individual accounts for grades six and up; I think younger students who want to participate will have a sign-off sheet their parents can initial.

I do want to encourage parents to do this, also...I guess they'll be on the honor system!

At the end, for everyone completing  the 50 books, we'll have a pizza party and Best Book Smackdown.

Novels they read for class can count as part of their 50, and I'll put together a handout of suggestions, and have regular guest reviewers (written and video) on the library website to give other recommendations.

I'll actually start it next month, so we go from June to June, with a kick-off meeting in the library.  I've put up posters around the school, deliberately lacking in detail to raise interest (I've already had "Can I start now?" questions!) and the last week of May I'll include teasers in the morning announcements.   I'll post the handout once I've created it!

UPDATE:  I was hanging the poster in the upper elementary area.  Two of the 4th graders were watching me, asking questions, and commented that 50 book was far too easy, they'd rather read 100.  You can't win for losin'!   We are now having the 50/100 Book Challenge--and I strongly suspect I should have made it the 50/100/150 Challenge!