First graders doing research?

Yes, they can!  It’s been a while since I finished Coetail but I’m still putting in to practice the concepts that I learned so  I wanted to share.

This year in September the first graders did a unit on Living Things.  My preference would have been to do this later in the year when the students can read better but when you’re the librarian you don’t have much choice.  Since this is the perfect unit for learning how to do research I just had to go with it, and I’m very happy with the results that were achieved.  I think the first graders were as well.


The girls went through the whole research process from locating to publishing our information.  During class we talked about the features of non-fiction text, contents page, looking at the pictures and captions to find information as well.  The next part of this process was to give the students time to look at books on any kind of creature that they wanted – insects, reptiles, fish, birds and mammals.  They practiced using the Contents page to locate the information they needed.


The girls selected the information that they needed and recorded  it on small note-sized paper.  They recorded such information as what kind of creature it is, what it eats and where it lives.


Differentiation is a popular topic and this was a differentiated activity as you can see, because those that couldn’t read could look at the pictures and write that the creature ate plants or meat.Those that could read could get more specific in their note-taking.  For where it lived  they can write grass, ocean, tree or they could also write a country. The students were given a couple class periods to practice their skills with several different animals, creating note-cards for their favorites.  One concept the classroom teachers taught the students was to classify the animal so they also had to tell what feature made it a mammal or fish.  This definitely enhanced their learning as they thought about what they had learned in their classroom and applied knowledge to the library for their research.  One of the teachers came in to help crowd control and she remarked that it was interesting to see who understood the concepts they had taught.  I loved the collaboration.

Next the girls chose one animal they liked from the cards they had finished and then organized their information into sentences.  The simply wrote their sentences on the back of the note-cards so there wasn’t so many papers to organize and use.  They used these sentences to read for their report.


To publish their reports the girls used Chatterpix Kids.  They used this app on the ipad  to take a picture of the animal from the book and then recorded their information.  The girls liked the fact that with this app they can draw a line on the animal’s mouth so it looks like the animal is talking.  You can watch their movies here.

YouTube Preview Image

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Project 5 – Picture Book Publishers

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 7.09.23 PM

November is picture book month!  To celebrate we have a picture book contest.  In the past I have spent many months scanning the pictures and retyping the winning stories.  This year after taking Coetail I decided to offer publishing as a Gr. 5-6 activity.

My goals in offering this activity were for the students to learn the steps that it takes to publish a book after the stories and pictures are created.  The students will see that first the stories need to be edited, even though the authors believed the stories were finished.  Students learned that the illustrator’s pictures are scanned, tagged and organized to be included into the book at the right time.  At the same time students are learning the role that the computer plays in publishing stories.  This is how it works in the real world of publishing a book.

The ISTE Nets standards:

1. Creativity and innovation.    Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

         a.  students apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes.

         b.  students create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

6.  Technology Operations and Concepts   Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems and operations.

         b.  select and use applications effectively and productively.

         d.  transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies.

What tools did I use?  Why did they use this tool?  The tools they used was an app called Book Smart which is part of the website, and a scanner.  I chose because they have a basic template but students can edit the layout of each page so they can customize each page the way they want.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 8.30.43 PM

Also, the books can be published in a hard cover, paperback and even an ebook format.   I tried it last year and it turned out quite well.  The only draw back is that the writers have to have at least 20 pages including the title page and an about the author page.

How did I introduce it?  Since my activity didn’t get listed on the sign-up form I made an announcement at an assembly about the activity and the students were able to add it to the form.  Two fifth graders joined the activity.  When I asked them why they joined this activity one student said, “It’s something new so it’s fun to try.”  The other girl said, “It’s helping the school.”  The first day we jumped right in to publishing the book.

How did the students react?  Listen to the students explain the process for creating the books and what they learn in the video they created using the educreation app.

Did the students meet your goals?  As you have heard from them they have learned a lot about the process of creating the book.  Because there is a deadline, right now the students are just interested in getting the work done.  I’m not sure they are thinking about actually designing the pages, but perhaps that can be done as they review it before we actually publish the books.

Evidence of learning?  With the work that the students do the books are actually published and a paperback book is presented to the winning authors and illustrators.  In addition a hard-covered book is kept in the library for students to check out.

What would I do different next time?  What did I learn?   The first thing I think I need to do is make sure the activity gets listed on the form so that hopefully I can have at least 2 more students sign up.  I also would like to take more time to explain to the students the book publishing process so they can see that what they are doing is what happens in real life.  Although I may do this at the end of time since the activity runs until the end of the year and I need to have the books done before then.

How do I plan to share this with my colleagues?  The books will be given to the students and shared with the teachers. I will post a video on the library blog and on the school TV showing the whole process starting with the contest and going through to the publishing of the books with pictures of the authors, illustrators and publishers.

What was your greatest learning in this course?  What I learned most is that I need to stop doing all of the work myself.  By letting the students do the publishing they are learning real world experiences.  The students learn by doing and we need to give them the opportunity so they can discover their interests.

Did this implementation meet the definition of Redefinition?  I feel this does meet the definition of redefinition.  The stories that the girls were working from were good draft copies.    Students are taking those draft copies and using technology the way real publishers do to create a real product.   The result is a book that looks like a professionally published book.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Happy ‘appin


With so many apps already available and more and more being created every day just how are we to choose the best ones?  Obviously as a school we want to get the most “bang for our buck” as they say.   So, how can we ensure that we are getting the best apps?

This week I have taken the time to look up information about evaluating apps and discovered that there are a few tools out there that people have created.  Tony Vincent in his Learning in Hand blog looked at and provided several rubrics that can be used to evaluate apps including his own.

While I might take these ideas and create my own I’m not sure that I could create anything different or better.  All of these rubrics seem to build on each other and cover the same or similar ideas in just different terms.   Below you will find a summary of the information that all of the rubrics agree is necessary to think about when evaluating apps for your school.

Curriculum Connection:  How does the app reinforce the skills/concepts being taught?                                                                                                                                               Feedback:  Does the student get immediate feedback that results in student improvement?                                                                                                                                                   Differentiation: Does the app have different settings that can be altered to meet students’ needs?                                                                                                                                               User Friendliness:  How easy is the app for the student to use independently?                   Student Motivation:  Is this an app that students will want to go back to and use again? Assessment Summary:  Does the app give an electronic assessment summary/data that can be sent to the teacher or student?

Perhaps the most interesting article I found published was on Edutopia titled,  K-5 ipad Apps According to Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Diane Darrow points out that in today’s world where information is readily available at our finger tips we need to think about Bloom’s taxonomy and find apps that fit the critical thinking skills that today’s students need.  Darrow took each of the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and came up with questions to ask to evaluate apps that can be used with students in grades K-5.  BloomsTaxonomy

Here are the stages and the questions she feels should be asked when evaluating an app:

Remembering:  Does the app help the user, define information; recite information; list facts or details; recall facts or ideas?

Understanding:  Does the app help students interpret relationships; paraphrase information; predict consequences; retell information or events; determine importance?

Applying:  Does the app demonstrate methods and procedures; use ideas and knowledge; discover a new purpose for knowledge; employ knowledge to new situations; adjust or experiment with concepts in a new context?

Analyze:  Does the app help the student discriminate between fact and opinion; relevance; understand relationships; organize or outline content?

Evaluating:  Does the app help the user check for accuracy; evaluate procedures; critique solutions; check the probability of the results?

Creating: Does the app help the user compose ideas; produce hypothesis; produce solutions; brainstorm solutions; design products; assemble plans or imagine possibilities?

Along with these questions Darrow also suggests some apps that will help students use these skills.  Most of the Apps she suggests cost anywhere from $0.99 to 14.99.  For this post I am only going to list the free ones but you can go to her blog as there are many she suggests that sound very good but cost.  I skipped the Remembering stage because I think that there are numerous apps that ask students to recall information so they aren’t as difficult to find.


Bluster  – Helps students develop their vocabulary while they work on word structure.


iPrompt Pro – develops reading fluency as it works like a teleprompter.   It can also be used for reading scripts, giving speeches, etc.

Kickbox – a multistep thinking game where you have to help a little penguin named Jiji get across the bridge by putting the lasers in the right place.


Videoscience – 80+ hands-on science videos that show science experiments students can recreate.  Great for second language learners.


Side by Side – Helps see multiple articles side by side so students can evaluate two different articles at the same time.  They can detect inconsistencies, question the reliability of a resource and check for accuracy an the documents they are reading.

Moment Diary – A free calendar with a lock for journaling.  If you want students to keep track of foods they eat or hours spent studying, etc. this would be an app they could use to record such information .


Toontastic – Students can draw, animate and share their own cartoons with anyone around the world.

Storyboards – Students can plan their movies using this app that allows them to simply move the characters around.   Students can create 2 storyboards with up to 10 frames.

Tinkerbox HD  – This app is a free physics puzzle page full of science facts that teaches basic engineering concepts.

123D sculpt – Students can start with an image (human, creature, or vehicle) and push and pull to create their own images.  With them they can take photos or create quicktime movies.

Taking the ideas from the rubrics above and combining it with the questions Darrow asks in regards to Bloom’s Taxonomy when considering purchasing an app  should help to find the best apps.   Kathy Schrock has a form called Critical Evaluation of a Content-Based ipad/ipod App.  This checklist uses all of the ideas including Bloom’s Taxonomy.  There are numerous lists out there of the best apps, but it is best to think about what you or your students’ needs are, so I hope this helps.  Happy appin’ everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Administrators – Technology Takes Time!

Dear Administrator,


Rather than going somewhere to hear a speaker, sometimes the best PD day is just having time to work with a colleague to explore the tool you are already using.  That is the time I had recently when many of the teachers were off to the JASCD conference.  The High School librarian and I each sat in the library at different computers and just took the time to explore more of our library program.  We explored and shared what we discovered just like you might do in class with your students.  When we got our library program we only had time to learn the basics just so we could do the day to day operations – check-in, check-out, cataloguing etc.  But, we discovered that there is more to the program than we were taking advantage of.  The program we use is Alexandria by Companion Corps.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 9.44.03 PM

In our quest to bring as much information to the students with the fewest number of clicks we were interested in what we can do.  We realized that we need to take time to put more websites into our catalog so that when students are searching they have not just books but websites that will be useful to them.  We can create pages to go along with units but why do that when everything they need could be in one place?

We also discovered that we should be able to have students write reviews about the books they have read.    By using this it provides the teachers a chance to have all of the the students learn to write reviews on a platform that perhaps aren’t ready for public viewing yet.  I always feel that the library catalog is a great first place for students to use and explore before going out on to the huge world of the World Wide Web.  It would be great for our students to see what their peers have thought about the books that our school owns when they are looking for it.  Hopefully, we can get more discussions about books happening and what a great way for librarians and teachers to collaborate.

We also discovered that we can do some of our budgeting needs on this program.  We used a remittance form made on an Appleworks Database which is so out of date.  In fact, when we tried to update our Mac we had problems running the Appleworks.  So now that we see that our library program can take the place of Appleworks we will be able to get rid of Appleworks all together (yeah!).

Another realization that I have discovered is that if you invest in a program, or even if you can see the potential of a free program take the time to contact the maker with suggestions.  I have started doing that with Alexandria and with Educlippers.  If someone is truly invested in their product they welcome your suggestions because they need to know what they can do to make their product better.

So, in conclusion, anything worth creating or using takes time to make the program the most useful it can be.  My suggestion for you administrators is, instead of sending people off to workshops or scheduling meetings on PD days, just give us time to find a colleague to work with so we can find a program that we both want to learn to use.   Let us sit down and explore everything we can  about the program so we can use all of the functions it has to offer.   Yes, we can have students figure it out for us, but wouldn’t it be nice for us to do it as well?  We can’t do this in an ordinary school day as their are just too many interruptions.   Sometimes it just takes time!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Web 3.0 Capturing information

Ok, so I’m thinking out loud here.  As we incorporate ipads and 1-1 computers into the classroom I am again thinking about my role as a librarian.  At a recent IT meeting at our school a teacher mentioned how he is creating videos of his science lessons for doing FLIP classes so his students can spend more time doing experiments in class rather than listening to lectures.  Another teacher mentioned that as more teachers start to do this we should make a Youtube channel just for storing these.

This is where my thinking is going into play.  I’m thinking do we need to create a new Youtube channel or is this something we can put in our library catalog?  The catalog should be used by the students to find everything the school has on a topic including teacher made lectures.  However, while I thought I was being very clever, I then remembered an email I received recently that was talking about the librarian as a curator.  So, I decided to look into this concept more closely.    

An article in School Library Monthly by Joyce Valenzza points out why it is important for Librarians to be curators.  With the amount of information out on the web there needs to be someone to sort through it all and pick out the best information that fits the needs of your community.   Valenzza also points out in her article Content Creation (found on a curation tool called Learnist) that another reason curation is important is because it limits copyright and plagerism infringement, because sources on these sites must be cited therefore they can be verified by its users.  While I’d like think this has been done through library websites there are an abundance of tools available for doing this now  and we are ready to move on (and so are our students) to the next level in searching.

One  curation tool for librarians that I had heard about at a librarians’ meeting is Libguides.  Libguides to me seems like an organized website but you do need to pay to use it.


The nice thing about Libguides though is that you don’t have to subscribe in order to search what other librarians have created.  For example, I can go to the site and type in a topic or a school that I know uses it and I can see what other librarians have created on different topics.  Students also could search on Libguides for information they can use for their research topics.

Because of that meeting I have to admit I started curating resources for the grade level units by just creating a webpage using  But, I have discovered that there are so many more tools out there now that are just as easy to use.  Well, I guess they might have been out there awhile I just didn’t explore it enough until now.  Now, however I have learned a lot and need to rethink what I’m doing.

A free tool that is similar to libguides is Livebinders,.  Like Libguides, Livebinders lets people curate their own resources while also seeing what others are creating.  It seems very easy to use and again looks similar to a website with tabs.


Pearltrees is another interesting tool that is a visual mindmap on the web.

YouTube Preview Image

For those people who like the mind map type of organizing information, Pearltrees may be just what you are looking for.  You can add pearls that contain, images, websites, files just like Livebinderss.

Another new one that I found which was created by a teacher in 2013 and looks easy enough for elementary, is Educlipper. They have it set up specifically so teachers  can create class accounts.  One thing I particularly like, is that students can not only upload pictures and websites but they can also upload things they have in their GoogleDrive so. Below is a video explaining Educlipper.  There are several other videos teaching how to use this tool on the website.  Since they are relatively new and want this to be a helpful tool they seem to be very open to comments and suggestions.  Please watch the video to learn more.

YouTube Preview Image

While I may be a little bit behind the game when it comes to curating it seems that Web 3.0 is all about teaching students to be curators.  Any one of the tools listed above can be used by students to visually organize their research information while searching for more information. Web 3.0 is here!  As Google is getting too big for students especially elementary students, it is important to find places where students can search.  Why not let them search in places where people are curating the best of the web that others have found?  Curation sites seem to be the new Google and the new search tool.  As more of us introduce these tools to our students think of the wonderful resources we can all have.   I now have one or two more lessons I can teach my students.  How fun!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ipads – √ – now what?


Ok, we have the ipads now what should we do?  There are so many apps out there that it is difficult to know which are the best and most useful apps to get?   In thinking about the library and what is going on within our school and the push toward technology I also am trying to sort through what I can do with some ipads.  This is what I”m thinking about for the next school year.  Right now all I have to teach lessons are 8 desktop computers (unless I am able to reserve some of the laptops which are in high demand) and a regular old white board.  I have an LCD projector and a screen but it is difficult to be interactive.  In looking at articles for this post I have come up with some solutions to what could make my library lessons more in line with today’s standards.

Since I don’t have an interactive white board or much space to put one I think the best thing I can do is get a flat screen TV and an Apple TV with some ipads.

YouTube Preview Image

The article Apple TV in the Classroom explains the benefits of using an Apple TV in the classroom.  He states that it is more cost efficient and it provides a way for the instructor to circulate the room and monitor the students.   In the article he is explaining why an Apple TV might be a better investment than an interactive white board.  But for my needs it is a way that I can get a tool that students can interact with that can fit in my space and make my lessons more interesting and interactive. So, in my dream world I have an Apple TV, and students have access to ipads, now what can I do with them?  Looking at the blog Class Tech Tips I would like to try to turn some of my “old school lessons” into more tech using lessons.

Since librarians support reading instruction by reading to students an app called Frolyc can have the students do activities that check for comprehension, cause and effect, sequencing and even note-taking.  Using this app and the ipads I can have all of the students engaged in doing the activity rather than just a whole group discussion with me taking notes or doing the writing and a few students answering.

Right now for note-taking lessons I have made a presentation from an encyclopedia article and put it up on the screen.  Then we read it together and take notes.  BORING! While it is a necessary skill to learn and it teaches them about getting basic facts from an encyclopedia it is hard to hold their attention.  Nearpod is an app that will let me take this lesson, put it on an ipad so all of the students can read the information and underline the answer for notes at the same time.  Then I can use Paperport Notes to share what the notes they have taken so all students are participating and accountable for learning the skill.

Or perhaps  by using Educreations which turns an ipad into an individual interactive whiteboard I could put the article on each ipad and have the students work together in pairs to underline the notes and they could record the reasons why they underlined it.

Tiny Tap is an app that would let me create games that students can use to practice their alphabetizing skills for how fiction books are organized or for putting books in order using the Dewey numbers.

Chatter Pix Kids would let the students write a book report from a character’s point of view.  They can create or find a picture of the character and then record themselves telling the story.  They can do this about an animal, insect, explorer, artist or inventor after researching.

If I am teaching students to organize ideas I can use the app GRID by Binary Thumb.  Students can do some research and then collect pictures and words to organize their topic.

Other ideas for using an ipad might be to create some QR Code scavenger hunts.  These can be used to tie in with locating information for the classroom units or it can be tied to the Sakura Medal program or even to introduce new books.

I have the apps and the vision now I am ready to explore, create and  make this a reality!  We’ll see what happens.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Love Your Library Day

I have to admit since being in Japan I am not a big fan of Valentine’s Day.  But, did you know that February 14th is also Library Lover’s Day?  Since everything was going digital librarians in Australia started this in 2006 to promote libraries and it is continuing to spread around the world.

Library Lovers Day

Unlike Valentine’s Day you don’t need to work too hard to celebrate it.  Just a simple visit to your library is all it takes.  Why should you celebrate it?   The Resource Link blog by the Brisbane Catholic Education and Information Resource Centre gives you three good reasons why libraries should be celebrated.

1.  Libraries (especially school) provide information that your teachers and students need.  While there is an over abundance or information available librarian find and curate the information to fit your units.  We give you access to all kinds of materials from print to digital collections through the library catalog and website.

2.  Libraries provide access to materials that may not be practical to purchase.  Libraries can purchase and store materials that may be too expensive to purchase for every room.  So purchasing one for the library that everyone can use and keeping track of it benefits everyone.

3.  Libraries provide space to meet, collaborate, research, learn, share and relax!  21st Century libraries are no long the no talking zones that they used to be.   While librarians try to make it a space everyone is comfortable they are a very happening place where students can read, study, recommend books to their friends, check out books they are also places where students can meet to play games together.

Librarians,  here are some ideas you can use to promote Library Lovers’ Day taken from the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).

1.  Print out the poster and have patrons write what they love about libraries on paper hearts and post it around the poster.

2.  Hand out bookmarks and chocolate to library customers.

3.  Wrap up a book and give it to a student for a “blind date” with a book.  Here is a great idea from the Salt Lake County Library.  They have wrapped up a book with a short message, posted it on Pinterest so that when patrons click on the picture it links to the library catalog to find out the title.

So this year, even if you don’t have a significant other to celebrate Valentine’s Day with do not fear – celebrate Library Lovers’ Day.  All you need to do to celebrate is walk into your nearest library.   Find a new book that you haven’t read before (ask a librarian for a suggestion).  Pick up an old favorite book (even from your childhood days) and reread it just for fun.  Visit your school’s library webpage and see what’s there that you might not have discovered or explored yet.    Happy Library Lovers’ Day!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Unit 4 Final Project – Research Through Guided Inquiry

Research.  It’s easy to assign to a class but more difficult to actually do with elementary students.  It takes a lot of hard work on the students’ part but also on the teacher’s part when you have a whole class doing it.  There are so many steps to research which is why I advocate guided inquiry for elementary students.  As this link points out when young students are researching, especially on the internet, they can drift from link to link but not get anything done to answer their inquiries.  That is why for this unit I guide the third graders through the steps of the inquiry process starting from the very beginning.  In the past the technology that was used was just the library catalog.  Now, I am hoping to take it a step further to the presenting stage by having them create the flow chart with  It will be interesting (and challenging for some, I’m sure) to see how they get on with this.

Defining – Thinking about what you already know, what you are looking for and deciding on keywords that will help you locate information.

The students in grade 3 are studying Production and Consumption in their class.  One of their inquiries into is:  How are things produced?  I have several books on this topic so I have created papers with pictures of the product that the books are about.  They range from food items: chocolate, cheese, ice cream, to clothes:  sweaters, t-shirts and even transportation and things needed for transportation:  cars, airplanes, gasoline so there is a real variety.  To define, the students learn how to choose good keywords by using words that are synonyms or even adding an s to the word.  As an aside they also had a grammar lesson on what are a countable nouns versus uncountable nouns.  For example:  “jars” of honey not honeys.

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 5.17.29 PM

Locating – Students are taught that their keywords can be used to search on the internet but we are going to start in a controlled environment with our library catalog.   It is a good place to practice searching without getting a lot of advertisements and unnecessary items (distractions).  They try the different keywords they wrote and then do a subject or all words search to see how many items they pull up.  When they type in their keyword it can pull up both fiction and non-fiction books from any of our libraries, high school, elementary and kindergarten so this teaches them to narrow the search by trying a different keywords.  Or teaches them that they have to think about, or define what they need to decide which book will be best for them.  Then they have to write down the call number and title of the book so they can find it on the shelf.

Selecting/Analyzing is a big, difficult process because this is where they put their reading skills to work.  While these non-fiction books are written on a average second grade reading level  but because it is reading non-fiction and they are selecting important information they still have to “read, think and then write”.  Many of these books have a title on the page which is the main topic but then they have to read the page to add the important details.

Recording – The students will record the information in a flow chart so the space they have to write in is limited.  That is why they need to think about the important words to create their original sentences.

Synthesizing – This part of the process will be harder for some students than it is for others.  Students that have copied too many words from the book will have to highlight the important words to make it into fewer words.  This will help them put it into their own sentences.  This is important for the presenting stage which will now be done using technology.

Presenting – In the past I have ended the unit with the students creating this flow chart with paper and pencil.  This year I will try to have them look at the hard copy of the flow chart and make an infographic using  The students have a limited space which is why they will have to make sure they have written the steps concisely.  Besides the writing they can also search on the internet for pictures to go along with their process.  They will have all the information they need so when they get comfortable with the tool it should be easy. is fairly easy to use once you learn how to write the text to fit it in the space.  Adding pictures is also quite easy.

The students will have used technology for locating and creating.  All of the skills they have learned in this project can be applied to searching on the internet or to other programs for creating as well, such as how to upload pictures.

As you can see there are so many steps when students research.  We adults can do the process without thinking, but students need to have projects where they are guided through each step.  To let a young student just “do research” can be difficult.  Research is a process and whether we are doing project based learning or challenged based learning it is important that we clearly teach students the steps for research.  To learn how to do research we need guide them through the steps and let them know what step they are working doing.  That is how we create life-long learners!

The planner is below.




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To E or Not to E (book that is)

As a librarian I have been working hard to keep up with the latest technology by offering e-books to our students – having them in one easy place for accessing.  I have a webpage that is part of the school’s website.  One whole Books page is devoted just to e-book sources and book quizzes.   We belong to several e-book services but I’m not sure how much they are being used yet.   I’m not saying students aren’t reading e-books but many people are buying books for their kindles instead of using the free books that I offer.  That said I am continuing to explore and promote the ebook sources that we have but I need to do more as I don’t feel they are really being used enough yet.  To do this I have created a PYP Units Help page for each grade level where I list books both fiction and non-fiction that can specifically be used for their units of inquiry.  I’m hoping that will help the students use these resources more as well.


At my school we started out with Tumblebooks.  What is great about Tumblebooks is that they have some of the same picture books that we have in print.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.06.06 PM

Another great feature is that students can read or listen to the book being read to them and follow along.  They can take quizzes, write book reports, play games.  There are even lesson plans for teachers.  This is especially great for grades 1-4, although they have also started including several National Geographic videos that are good for even upper elementary students.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.07.57 PM

Follett Shelf

The next source we tried for e-books was Follett shelf.  Follet is a good resource especially for non-fiction books for research.  The good thing about Follett is that there are some titles that we can get multiple copies for so we can order multiple use copies of non-fiction books.  It is great when you have several classes doing the same unit because than more than one student can use the same book.  Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.20.35 PM


There are some great features in Follet e-shelf.  Students can give the book a star rating and they can write reviews for the books.  When a student has checked out the book in their own account there is a feature where they can highlight in the bookScreen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.33.13 PM


and take notes.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.36.13 PM

There is great potential for using these books but I think I need to take some time to teach the students how to use all of these features better.

There are drawbacks as well because the books that I am most interested in buying are the ones that are only available in the U.S. and Canada.  So access to books in international schools is limited.


The last e-book service that we purchased is OverDrive.  The layout of the e-books is more attractive to the students than Follett so they prefer to use this.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 9.24.05 PM

Students just have to type in their account number, choose a book and they are ready to go.  The wonderful thing about OverDrive is that I can order some titles before I leave school and by the time I go back the next day the books are there.  There is no service that provides books as quickly except Amazon Kindle.  The drawback is that these books are more like an online subscription for a webpage.  We purchase the titles we want, but once we decide not to pay the yearly fee we will lose all the books unlike Follett shelf, which we keep until we decide to discard them.

Lastly, on that page we have a free service called International Children’s Digital Library.  The nice thing about this site besides being free it has folk tales in many different languages.  You can choose a country or a language and the the titles will come.  The drawback is the books aren’t as attractive as Follett or OverDrive, When you open a book it looks like a scan of a page.    But, it is free and a great way to get books in different languages.

The last option that we are looking at is loaning out cheap Kindles with books on them.  Many schools already are doing this but we haven’t started yet.  I did purchase one and let a student borrow it with a book bowl book on it and it seemed to work fine.  While it is a quick way to buy books as well, since just like OverDrive I can get a title right away.  Another good thing is that like Follett we will own the books although not every title that we want is available through Kindle as well.   E-books still have a long way to go.

I have to say I read the Sakura book A Monster Calls on my ipad and I enjoyed the book.  This was a book with pictures and I really wasn’t impressed with the illustrations.  In fact I wondered why they were included since they didn’t add much to the story.  Then a student returned a print copy of the same book and opened it up to tell me about something she noticed in the book and I saw the illustrations.  I was amazed at how vivid and enjoyable it was to see the illustrations.  While e-books are great as far as reading stories, if the book has illustrations I don’t think you can truly appreciate the whole book in an e-book format.

Certainly e-books are great for non-fiction but  I think fiction books in print versions at least those with illustrations will be around for a while yet.  At least I hope so.  E-books are beginning to take off, but we need to get the publishers convinced that it is worthwhile.  Or perhaps it isn’t advantageous to the author.  I’m not sure.  It’s a beginning but there is still more that has to be done to get more titles into the hands of elementary students.

Just to add:  Today a very tech savvy student came in asking for a particular title.  When I told her the print version was checked out but she could get the e-book her response was, “No that’s OK.”  When I asked her why she replied, “I prefer the print because if I read it on my ipad I get distracted by games.”  I thought that was interesting.  So are tech breaks really necessary as in Could Checking Facebook in Class Help Students Focus?  Or would it be a disruption?  Hmm….


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

MOOCs for Elementary?

What are MOOCs?  This video explains what a MOOC  is both clearly and briefly.

YouTube Preview Image

MOOCs are a great way for  people all around the world take advantage of courses from well known universities.  They seem to work well for adults and college students and have real potential for even high school students taking higher level courses.  For the student who is motivated, MOOCs can assist them in meeting their goals.  But, how does this transfer to elementary students?

One advantage of using MOOCs in elementary/middle school is for those gifted students who need more enrichment.  They can take courses that challenge them since they already have knowledge on topics that interest them.  Another advantage is that people from anywhere in the world have access to classes being offered at top notch schools. A 12 year-old Pakistani girl, Khadhija Nazi, who is interested in astrobiology and is thinking of being a physicist some day.   By using MOOCs she can get access to classes that might never be available to her through prestigious universities. such as Stanford and MIT.    She is on her way to reaching her goal already even before she becomes a teenager.


While most MOOCS are being used by high school and above, Amazing Grace School in Seattle, WA has a teacher that is using MOOCs from top level universities with grades 5-8.   Amazing Grace School is a private Christian school that has only 175 students from grades K-8.  This school uses a project-based and constructivist method  where technology is at the core of their  learning.  They have done several University courses through Duke, Princeton and the University of Virginia.   The students take the class and the teacher supplements the course with activities that help the students so they can do the course work.

 One of the reasons  it seems to work at Amazing Grace Academy according to this article, Elementary School Uses University MOOCS for Blended Learning, is because the teacher is doing the course right along with the students.   The teacher is there to lead discussions about each lesson and to plan activities that are age appropriate.  The teacher can guide the students while they are being challenged in their thinking to do the assignments.

So, can MOOCs be used for Elementary?  The potential is there for using the curriculum offered by a university MOOC and then building on it to fit your students.   With guidance it is definitely worth looking into especially in areas where there is a shortage of teachers.  Because students are doing it online it can also be a way to offer a motivating, economical education to all students.

This can be the future of education and you can make it happen.  Dr. Robin Worley has created a website where teachers can submit MOOC courses for various grade levels at K12 Massive Open Online Courses.  It is just in the early stages so there isn’t much there yet.  With your help MOOCs may become a reality for elementary as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment