Thing 15: iPads and Apps in the Library

I am fortunate to have a set of 30 iPads available in the library. Although they are for the whole school, I have the advantage of storing them and hence first dibs to them. That said, I haven’t found a project that I could successfully use them with one of my fixed classes.

An app that I would like to use with my class is Socrative (which is also web-based). This app/website can be used like the SmartBoard Student Response System where students use a clicker to answer a question. I have a set of these in the library but getting students ready to use the clickers would take more time than I have each week. The beauty of Socrative is that the students only need to enter a number to be ready to start whatever activity is planned — quick and simple. Socrative allows teachers to create different types of “quizzes” which can be used to monitor student understanding, used as an exit-ticket, used to determine prior knowledge, or anything else you would like to test. I think any student could be taught how to use this app.

After attending a session on gaming at AASL, I recently purchased a game called Once Upon a Time. I recently used this game with my 6th grade students and they loved it. I had the students form groups of 2-3 and then handed them one of each of the different category cards. I instructed them to form a story using these cards; the story needed to make sense and could include information to help fill out the story. I only gave them ten minutes to write their story and then each group presented to the class. This addressed multiple standards including collaboration and public speaking. Although the stories weren’t perfect, especially when the students tried to make the story fit the cards, overall the students cooperated well and the stories were funny. I would like to use the iPads to have the students type and illustrate their stories and then publish them in iBooks using the My Story – Book Maker for Kids app. The students love writing these stories especially since the curriculum doesn’t really allow them to write creative stories anymore.

While perusing the various resources provided, this graphic really struck me. Too often teachers, myself included, focus on the technology and not why or how we are using the technology. I must keep in mind that technology is only the tool and not the reason.


Thing 14: Book Reviews

I have a lifetime membership to LibraryThing but haven’t used it since I started my job over four years ago. I liked that you could keep a running list of books owned and/or read. One of my favorites parts of the website was receiving ARC of books and posting reviews. The problem was that once I started my job, I had very little time to read and fell behind in my reviews. Eventually I stopped requesting ARCs and haven’t gone back to the website.

I also have an account on Goodreads but don’t really use it. I have added books, rated the books I’ve read, and added books I’d like to read. But that is about it. On the Internet, I am much more of a lurker than an active participant. As much as I’ve tried to change this and grow, it is something I have to actively force myself to do whether I like it or not.

One avenue for book reviews that I would like to explore with my students is adding student reviews to our OPAC. My district uses Opals and there is a way for students to add their own reviews. Earlier in the year, I had students write short book reviews using a Google Form from my website. But I haven’t done anything with the reviews partially due to the fact that many of them are poorly written. In order to have students post reviews to the OPAC directly, I would have to moderate for spelling or have students hand write them before they can type them into the program. I do want the student reviews in the OPAC because I want students to start taking ownership of the library and I think this is a great way to start. I think tomorrow I will pull out those reviews and find the ones that don’t require a lot of editing and put them up on the OPAC. Next time, I’ll figure out how to have the students do this right on the OPAC.

eBooks and their Readers

As a fan of, I gave my husband and son their own Kindles for Christmas the year it was first released. Anymore, they very rarely read a book that isn’t on their Kindle. My husband bought me my own Kindle for Valentine’s Day one year but as a librarian, I really like holding a book in my hands. I never really used my Kindle except when travelling but that all changed when I broke my arm over a year ago and had a difficult time holding open Robert Jordan’s really long Wheel of Time books. Even though we owned hard copies of all his books, I decided to purchase them for my Kindle and have never regretted this choice. Even after my arm healed, I still found I preferred reading really long books on the Kindle. Have I forsaken printed books? Definitely not. I typically only use the Kindle when I am too impatient to wait for a copy of a new book from the public library. 

Several years ago, the district that I work in purchased some Nooks to be housed in the library. I really like the fact that I can buy one copy of the book and it can be downloaded onto multiple devices. Because the Nooks are not to go home with students, circulation is limited and mostly used by teachers for small reading groups. The Nooks have provided a way to update the guided reading books available to teachers at minimal cost. Students find the Nooks a bit old-fashioned and prefer to use iPads instead. Funding has been limited for the Nooks so I really like that Barnes and Noble provides a free book and app every Friday. If only I would remember to check the website every Friday.

Thing 13: Media Skills – Collages, Quotes, and More

I have used photo collages for various projects at school — most recently for students to use to draw inferences based on what they see in the photos. I love to use Fotor because it is simple to use, free, and saves as a picture onto my computer. Below is a photo collage I made using pictures from the Library Congress Prints & Photo collection, specifically from the National Child Labor Committee Collection. It took me only a few minutes to find the pictures I wanted and I used the URL to insert the picture directly into the collage.

Child Labor


I decided to give Pixlr a try and also found it simple to use but also a lot more options — almost too many. I took a picture owned by me and first cropped out everyone but myself. I then added various effects, a sticker, a border, and an overlay. The end result is almost unrecognizable which is what I was trying to achieve.

My family transformed


My students love taking pictures of themselves and would enjoy using these programs to transform their images. I have a 4th grade teacher that used PicCollage as an enrichment project for her top students. The students typed their research and added related images in the background. What I loved about the project was that the students weren’t limited by the number of different collages they could make.

One complaint about both of these programs is that I was unable to get them to work properly in Google Chrome. Since this is the browser that I prefer, I found it frustrating that I couldn’t use it. I also used Quozio and loved how easy it was to create a beautiful picture of a quote. The downside: the picture couldn’t be saved and you needed to create an account to use the picture. It would have been great if the website provided a way to include HTML code for use on a website or blog.

My 6th grade students will be using BiteSlide to create online posters of their research information. Of course, this is only after they type a summary of their information, as required by the classroom teacher. This is their motivation to get finished so that they can have some fun and add a personal touch to their research. I found BiteSlide’s interface to be similar to Glogster but it is free to use and up to 30 students can be added to each account.