Saturday, April 21, 2018

Our Skype With A Teen Author

Over the past few years, some of the most exciting activities we have held in the library have been Skype connections. From Mystery Skype to virtual tours of national parks, our teachers and learners never seem to get tired of connecting to distant places. One of the most recent connections was with a young author in another state!

How We Connected

I remember running across teen author, Ashley Royer (@RTFbook), on an Internet search last year as we were looking for potential connections for our students. After reading about her, I discovered she had accumulated lots of fans on Wattpad and later became a published author. Her book, Remember to Forget, has been in publication since 2016. I decided to connect with Ashley via Twitter during the spring of 2017 to get more information about her book. She actually signed the copies we purchased. Since the end of the school year was quickly approaching, we were never able to connect her with our students.

This school year, we discovered several students that are interested in writing. I shared Remember to Forget with some of these students and told them I had communicated with the author last year. They indicated they would like to speak with Ashley, so I reached out on Twitter to see if she might Skype with us during lunch. It turned out Ashley was on spring break from college, and she agreed to connect during lunch. The students were so excited that they were going to get to visit with a teen author! 

Student Questions

I used a collaborative document to have the students submit questions for our connection. Below are the questions we all created together.

  1. How old were you when you developed a passion for writing?
  2. How do you get an idea for a book?
  3. How did you develop your writing style?
  4. What was your experience with Wattpad?
  5. What are the biggest challenges for young authors to get published?
  6. What advice would you give young authors?
  7. How old were you when you began to write Remember to Forget?
  8. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
  9. How many hours a day do you write?
  10. Do you have any people that help you with editing or coming up with ideas within your stories?
  11. If you could meet any Author in the world, who would it be?
  12. What author did you idolize/look up to as a child?
  13. Where do you get your inspiration for writing books?
  14. What was the hardest scene to write for you?
  15. How long on average does it take you to write your books?
  16. Do you believe in writer’s blocks?

The Session At Lunch

Our students were very excited to get to the library on the day of the connection. We invited students that had submitted questions to come to the Microsoft Surface to be on webcam as they visited with Ashley. During the session, Ashley told about herself and her love of writing. It was very inspiring to our learners. Afterward, they wanted to know when we could Skype with an author again. They began listing names of authors they wanted to contact. It was a great day!

Student Reflections

"This author meet impacted me because I am a young writer myself and getting to connect with Ashley helped me understand how to write better and have a better outlook on writer's blocks, and other things like that. It was very fun and I was glad that I had experienced this unique moment. It definitely helped me become a better writer and encouraged me to become an author." - Dekotah

"I really enjoyed getting to meet the teen author Ashley and getting to ask her some questions. It was a great experience and I hope to be able to do it again."- Sarah

Next Steps

This activity was an excellent reminder to me that Skype in the Classroom has many resources for connecting. Previously, I wrote a blog article about some of these tools. In the future, I need to look on their site for additional author connection possibilities. I encourage you to look for authors that are willing to connect via webcam. These types of experiences may help inspire your learning community. Who knows... it may inspire a future author!

Other links that may interest you:
Social Studies Maker Project Part 1

Social Studies Maker Project Part 2

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Social Studies Maker Project (part 2)

In a previous blog article, I shared about the planning stages of a maker project initiated by two of our 8th-grade social studies teachers. If you haven't read it, you might want to start here. The first day in the library was spent showing students all of the maker tools we had available in the library. These included  Legos, K'nex, our Makerbot 3D printer, Unity (a 3D game creation tool), Makey-Makey, Green Screen, Oculus Rift devices, and Minecraft.

The Instructions & Rubric

The teachers provided the following instructions and rubric to their students on Google Classroom (see below or click here for the document).

Maker Collaborative Project

Wed, Jan 10th: Student Intro Day to Maker options (Library)

Fri, Jan 12th: Brainstorming / Research day in class
Wed, Jan 24 - Fri 26: Library days to work on Maker component
Tues, Feb 6th: Presentation Day

Project Guidelines:

For this assignment, you will work in a group of 3-4 students to complete a project
that consists of multiple parts, including historical research, a “Maker” component, and a
video documentary of your research project. Project topics should relate to the themes
of U.S. History during the 1800s. There is a topic list included below, but it is not meant
to be a complete list of your only choices. You have a wide selection of options for your
project’s Maker component. You should communicate with your groupmates and decide
on a Maker that would complement the historical topic that you choose. Get creative
with this part and have some fun with it, but be sure that there is a clear connection to
your content topic. Lastly, your group will need to document your work and research by
producing a 5-minute documentary that will (1.) provide a short lesson on your topic of
choice, as well as (2.) showcase your Maker product, its connection to your topic, and
your process of creating it. This documentary will be shown as your group presentation
on Tuesday, Feb. 6th in the Library.

Makers Options:

3D Printer
Green screen / Feature length documentary (10+ minutes, separate from your presentation)
Makey Makey

Unity 3D software
Oculus Rift VR

Video Resources for Maker Project (what we showed you in the Library)

Parts to be graded:
1. Research thoroughness (kept on a Google Doc shared with group members and Instructor)
Each person needs to select a color font (all darker colors- ex: do not select pink or yellow
{light colors as they are harder to read} Identify the persons name and color using. Ex: Coach
Lawson - Blue / Mr. Lee - Black on your Google Doc
2. Maker Creativity / connection to topic
3. Video Documentary Presentation   
        editing / effectiveness
Grading: (See rubrics at bottom of document for detailed grading requirements and scores)

  —Overall Group Grade— (50% of final grade)
1. Peer evaluation of parts 2 and 3 / audience rating each Group’s final project/presentation
2. Instructor's evaluation sheet of parts 1, 2, and 3 (30%).
 —Individual’s Grade— (50% of final grade)
3. Each participant rating their fellow group member’s performance/contributions (20%)
4. Instructor’s evaluation sheet rating individual performance (30%).

*So each gradebook score will be comprised of a total of 50% overall group grade and
50% individual grade.
*Students will combine for 40% of the final grading (20% overall group + 20%
individual) and the instructor’s grades will combine for 60% of the final grading
(30% overall group + 30% individual).
*Students will receive a rubric with various component breakdown/scoring for each
group, AND a separate rubric for evaluating their own group members).

Student Responsibilities breakdown (All this should be labeled and defined within the Google
Group Leader- keep everyone on topic and organized
Time Keeper - maintains time on task in class and even when components are due and
available time left to work on things
Notes (every member should be contributing to the Google Doc- have them select colors to
type in so at a glance we can see who has completed what towards the topic / research)
Video Person (able to edit and put all segments together in a documentary style video- this
records all components- not necessarily having to video everyone but combining and editing all
video segments into one finished product).
Creative Maker- (if choosing an item that only one can work on)

Topics I would like covered are ones that we should address in our unit (Manifest Destiny) and
other upcoming units that play an important role from 1800 to 1900; also feel free to add to the list.

Units (include anything from these Units that apply in the project):
-War of 1812
-Women’s Suffrage
-Immigration / Ellis Island (etc)
-Slavery (plantation life, harvesting time (tools/ machines)
-Industrialization (new inventions, social patterns, etc within the time period)
-Manifest Destiny topics (Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark, Oregon Territory, Mexican
Cession, Texas Annexation, Northwest Ordinance, Gadsden Purchase, Mexican-American War,
Seward’s Folly {Alaska}, and these trails… Trail of Tears, Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, & Sante Fe)
-Civil War (be selective and only 1 group per class unless can justify the difference and its
-Reconstruction Era and Jim Crow
-Spanish-American War / American Imperialism

**Project topics can be very specific within these eras/themes**
**Topics not listed may be accepted by instructors if your group can justify, be able to research,
be able to create- be ready to answer questions for the instructor to justify topic**


The following rubric will be used by the instructor to grade your group’s final project (30%):

The following rubric will be used by students to grade other group’s final project (20%):

The following rubric will be used by your instructor to grade you as individuals (30%):

The following rubric will be used by your groupmates to grade your performance (20%):

What Happened

Students were given 3 weeks to complete the maker project. We provided the space and tools for classes to work in the library. If they needed any assistance (technical issues or questions), we were available to help each day. At the end of the project, the presentations were shared in the library.

Student Products

Mr. Lee's class had the following products. (Click on the link for his document with video samples).

Below are a few highlights from Coach Lawson's classes.

Teacher Librarian Reflections and Next Steps

After seeing the student products, we realize there are many opportunities for additional instruction. Next year, we can offer to share information about citing sources in their video or presentation credits. We can also have discussions about copyright and the use of music or images. This collaboration corresponded with several Future Ready Librarian components: Designs Collaborative Spaces, Builds Instructional Partnerships, Empowers Students as Creators, Curates Digital Resources and Tools, and Facilitates Professional Learning.

Next year, we can share these student products with other subject area teachers and try to generate interest in more maker collaborations. Together with these two teachers, we have opened up many additional possibilities. Have you had successful maker projects with your teachers? Share your stories in the comments below.

Other links that may interest you:
My table of contents for the blog is here!

Our First Book Tasting Event

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