Serendipity is a wonderful thing.
Late last spring, I saw a post in one of the ISTE PLN's about an intriguing project that incorporated critical thinking, real-world problem solving skills, and 3D printing. Coincidentally, our engineering room had just gotten a Makerbot 3D printer, and Rachel (my art teacher) and I were on the lookout for a collaborative project for 3rd grade.
I explored the program some more and shared my thoughts with Ginny and Rachel, who both felt it was a great idea. Over the summer, Rachel and I met to plan the unit, figure out the logistics, and get a crash course in how to use Tinkercad, the free, web-based 3D printing creation tool that allows you to create files for the Makerbot that can then be printed. School started, and we chatted again about how we wanted to start, when Ginny hit upon the idea of having the kids get a "taste" of Tinkercad before we started the project, with the thought that we would give them a more in-depth introduction once they were ready to transform their clay prototypes into 3D printed designs.
We settled on having the 3rd graders create keychains - Tinkercad used to have a great tutorial on how to do this that disappeared between July and September, but since I'd done it before, I simply re-created each step and made a flipchart to show kids how to do it.
It was a success.
With a full 40 minute period, nearly every student was able to start, create and finish their 3D printed keychain design, which was then exported to the Makerbot software and printed out after the fact. The kids felt like they had accomplished something and were excited to hear we would be doing this project, and they couldn't believe that at the end of one class period, they had created everything they needed for a keychain (neither could we - we had budgeted two class periods for this).
It was also a good test run for the teachers to see how the kids responded to the software, what pitfalls we need to be on the lookout for, and which kids can serve as "helpers" when we get to the more complex stuff since they picked up these instructions so quickly.
Part of the risk in trying something new is that you might realize it isn't going quite the way you planned, accepting that, and figuring out a way forward.
Two years ago, I began the process of "hacking" my NF collection by adding real-language descriptors to the Dewey Decimal System, and categorizing books by these new categories instead of in strict DD order. In some cases, this tracked pretty closely with Dewey (Animals), but in others, it pulled together wholly unrelated books (People/Places). However, last year, as I began to teach the new system to kids, I realized that I had made some sections overly complicated or unclear for a kid to understand. "Boredom Busters" was pretty straightforward, but "ELA" (English Language Arts) caused a great deal of confusion.
And so, here I am, redoing certain sections. We are simplifying, down to just the category name and at most one sub-category (so Animals - Dolphins instead of the current situation of Animals - Sea Mammals - Dolphins), and some sections are disappearing completely (ELA is going to become Poetry, Myths/Legends, Folk/Fairytales, and a few other small categories). It'll take time, but I remain confident that it will pay off and make it easier for kids to navigate the library independently.
We had a funny back to school schedule this year, with kids coming for the first two days of school followed by a four day weekend for Labor Day. I wanted to do an activity with the classes I saw on Wednesday and Thursday - something quick and easy, but also relevant to library-related topics and a way to get them thinking about themselves as readers.
Just before school started, I saw posts floating around Facebook from Cari Young about emoji book talks. I used her form as inspiration for my own, and an idea was born. After doing a welcome-back read aloud (My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown), I introduced the kids to emojis. Many of them didn't know that the smiley faces were called emojis, but as soon as I showed them my slide, they knew what I was talking about. We ran through all the different emotions, and then I showed them my sample emoji book review:
(Translation: the story was funny, it made me think, and it was scary. I liked the book.)
The kids loved the idea and spent 20 minutes happily occupied with their reviews. My 2nd graders did get a little confused by the "the story was" line, but once I re-explained it to them, they were good to go. The best part? I now have a bulletin board that's all ready to go for Back to School night that also serves as a place for kids to get book recommendations. Win-win!
Over the summer, I took a course on app smashing for professional development. As I quickly realized, I'd been doing app smashing without realizing it, but the class pushed me to try new things. One app that I'd always wanted to try is Aurasma, so I used this as my excuse to jump in. Today, my augmented reality orientation went live, and it was a hit.
To get started, I filmed little videos in Tellagami to introduce things I wanted the kids to pay attention to - not just the different sections of the library, but also our Awesome Box, the library catalog, and the"What is Ms. Bery Reading?" board. For the MCBA shelf, I used Animoto to make a book trailer for the titles I'd purchased.
The next step was exporting my videos and then adding them to Aurasma - the app did not play nice for this, so I wound up doing everything via my laptop, which was a bit frustrating but not the end of the world. I selected a trigger image (something that will make the video start playing) and uploaded the videos to each "aura."
This morning, I printed out signs with the trigger images on them, put them around the library, and got ready to start. Kids worked in pairs with our brand new iPads, and I gave them a checklist to make sure they'd visited every "station." It worked beautifully. Kids cooperated and had fun, hopefully they'll remember things more easily, and I got the slightly surreal experience of hearing my recorded voice in ten different spots around the library all at once!
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also review children's, middle grade, and young adult books on Instagram.
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