Sunday, November 4, 2007

ToonDoo project for Block Eight

I have already created a wiki for a grade nine class to share their ideas about the Snow Willow Award nominees. This is a project which uses some Web 2.0 tools to “foster active student engagement, discussion and creative outputs” as asked for in Block Eight, The Screen Writer. I am anxiously waiting for the teacher and class to be ready to begin the project with me. Therefore I am not going to design another project with the books we read earlier in this class. However, the site I used for the project I am going to talk about could easily be adapted for a “revisioned” book report or book talk.

While waiting to begin my wiki project, I have worked with another class of seven grade nine students in our learning disability program. They had just completed a study of short stories. They had learned about the parts of a short story and analyzed several. One of the sites their teacher had found useful with them is the plot diagram tool on the Read Write and Think site.
As well as plot, they learned about theme, setting, and character. The teacher was looking for way they could demonstrate their learning without having them write a short story. I introduced her to the online cartoon making site ToonDoo and she jumped at the chance to use this with her students.

For the first lesson we studied the graphic novels in our library collection and learned basic terminology like panels, gutters, and text. We looked at the different ways to show motion and time passing. Next, we studied the ways to add text as speech, thought, narration and sound effects. Then we examined different panel layouts. Finally we looked at the variety offered by the “camera angles” that are used: close ups, over the shoulder view, bird’s eye view, bug’s eye view, long shot, medium shot, and extreme close up.

The second step was for the students to set up an account on ToonDoo ( using a pseudonym or pen name. I gave a brief explanation the features on ToonDoo and then they were allowed to explore and play for an extended period. They were excited by what they discovered and created and were constantly sharing, comparing, and showing each other how to work the program. It was important for the next step that the students be familiar with what was available for backgrounds, objects, characters, etc. in ToonDoo.

For the next session, I prepared a graphic organizer for the students to plan their ToonDoo cartoon. They had to describe the time, place, and atmosphere of the setting, name and characterize the protagonist and antagonist, and diagram the plot with the opening, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. This was difficult for the students but a necessary step to get them beyond just playing with three panel cartoons to developing a “ToonBook” or full length story told in cartoon format.

They were very happy to get back onto the computers and create their cartoon stories. I gave reminders to employ the techniques we had talked about earlier like different camera shots and ways to use text. The program is limited in the shots that can be created but we did achieve some variety.

The students have very much enjoyed this project and are very close to “publishing” their final project after five one hour sessions.

One of the features of ToonDoo is that you can comment on other people’s creations and rate them. You can save your own and others as favourites in “galleries”. There are sections for ‘Most viewed”, “Editor’s picks”, “Most argued”, etc. This encourages an online community commenting and collaborating about cartoons. Students are publishing their creative expression in a public forum, receiving feedback and critically evaluating others’ work.

Students found this project enjoyable and motivational. The teacher was delighted with their engagement, creativity and demonstration of learning from their short story unit. I was pleased to be able to incorporate an introduction to our graphic novel collection, knowledge I have gained through this class, and just plain fun in this project. One final note I could make is that a Mosaic Down Syndrome student is integrated in that class with and assistant and he experience great success with this project. I highly recommend this project and the ToonDoo site for which I see endless educational applications.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Comment's on Doug Johnson's slide show

Doug Johnson is way more articulate than I will ever be so I don't think I can add much information to his warnings about online safety. However, I can add a couple of anecdotes that illustrate his points.

What you put on the internet can indeed be more harmful to you than what you read or see on the net. A few grade seven girls having a sleepover were playing around with their techno toys and posted naked movies and photos of themselves. Needless to say, word spread like wildfire and those images were viewed by other students from their school.

Two students at my high school impersonated two teachers on MySpace. They posted photos and comments and interacted with students as if they were the teachers. The two male teachers were horrified when they found out and wanted to go public to denounce this and to reassure other students that they had not really been chatting with them online. Administration and police convinced them to keep it under wraps to avoid copycat situations. One of the teachers was especially worried what his female students must be thinking of him and how they were interpreting his actions in class and "his" messages online. My own son, who has had that teacher for classes, just scoffed at the whole situation saying students would realize that it wasn't really the teacher on MySpace. I disagree. Teacher/student isn't an equal relationship in power, age, authority, maturity, etc. I think there is a huge amount of room for misunderstanding.

I think back to my first weeks in this Meet the Stars course when I was reading Star Signs by Shelley Hrdlitschka. One of the themes that jumped out of that book was a warning that people are not always who they appear to be on the net. Characters in the book misrepresented themselves to the main character and she was hurt by their betrayal. Some people argue that the net is a great equalizer. People can interact without consideration given to their physical appearance, race, handicaps, age, sex, etc. Although this can be a great equalizer there are also dangers inherent in interacting with someone who may be concealing part or all of who they really are. It cannot be stressed enough to students that they must not reveal personal contact information online.

While at an elementary school I used Blackboard, available through SaskLearning Centralischool for my students to discuss, interact and post online. I liked it because it was password protected. Many of the tools we have learned about in this class are out on the world wide web for all to see and read. I am hesitant about using some of them. For one thing, most of them (as Jane found out) require you to sign up for accounts and passwords. I'm not sure I want to require that of students. Also several of the tools had students posting photos of themselves on the net, like the assignment to illustrate vocabulary words with photos. I don't want to seem like a ludite here but I think some caution is needed. This year at school we had to have parental signatures on a media release form to even have students pictures included in the yearbook and student directory. I'd definitely ask for administrative permission before I'd put student work out on the net.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fan of Citation Machine

I used Citation Machine regularly when I was taking my Masters classes. One son uses it for his undergraduate classes and the other for high school assignments. Rather than dreading making my bibliography like I used to and procrastinating until the very end, I now start it first using CM and add resources to it as I use each new resource. The APA Handbook was always on my computer desk as I wrote my thesis and was checked constantly.

I have introduced CM to teachers and students at my high schoool over the last year and a half. Many teachers are delighted to have students use it. However, there is a core group of teachers who say students should have to learn how to make a bibliography from scratch. I don't personally believe students need to learn all the formating and punctuation. What they do need to learn is to respect copyright and cite their sources. They are far more likely to do this if they have a user friendly tool like CM.

I notice that many resources, especially online ones, provide a formatted citation for use. I like CM instead because you can choose APA or MLA style, it offers many different types of print and non print resources. It will also generate a citation even if you don't fill in all the spaces or if some of the information is missing.

In order to use citation generators like CM, students still need to be able to find the needed information on the title page or verso of books. Other forms of print resources like magazines and encyclopedias are more challenging but if the generator is used it prompts them what to look for and how to type it in (example: author first initial. only) Non print resources present their own challenges. Students need to be taught how to truncate, find home pages, read the "about us" pages, etc. to find copyright info like dates and authors. Another huge advantage of copyright generators like CM is that it is simple to copy and paste long, complicated URLs directly into the format.

I find Citation Machine an excellent tool and have encouraged students to use it by linking it to my library website.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Considering Copyright

Only a few short years ago, breaking copyright was much more difficult. Students had to copy out of books and encyclopedia by hand or at best type text out on a typewriter. Teachers could defy copyright with the use of a photocopier. Homes did not contain photocopiers so breach of copyright occurred mainly in schools, libraries and businesses where photocopiers were located. Other types of media were also difficult or imposible to copy. In my high school days, cassette tapes could be made from record albums or the radio.

Nowadays, people have ready and immediate access to the same type of media as the original so copyright is extremely easy to violate. A CD or DVD can be burned or ripped to another disque. People readily own the equipment to do this in their home. Because of the amount of print information available on computers, students can copy and paste "stolen" text into the same medium they use to do homework and hand in assignments. No transposition is required. Many students do not even understand what plagerism is or what to do to avoid it. Many teachers do not have a good grasp of it either or what copyright regulations and laws really allow and prohibit.

I find a lot of confusion between what is allowable under 'fair use' in the U. S. in comparison to Canada. It is difficult to keep the two separated and straight. I use to console my conscience that I could use anything for educational purposes as long as I credited my sources. Sort of an It 's-all-so-complicated-but-at-least-I'm-making-an-effort attitude. Not very responsible I'm afraid.

In my work in the library, I find it most difficult to deal with student use of images and pictures. They seem more willing to try to understand copyright when dealing with text - take jot notes, try to substitute their own words, credit sources, etc. But images and photos are used willy nilly for art projects, added to reports, used on posters, added to PowerPoint presentations, and so on. This week I have added a link to my library home page offering copyright friendly images (a link to our class wiki amoung others!). I am pessimistic it will see any use - Google images is just too easy and what repercussions does the student ever experience anyway?

How do we instill a "copyright conscience" in teachers and students?

Reaping the benefits

Well, that didn't take long! I have checked my Google Reader twice and both times hit gold. I read the blog of a colleague who spoke about Comic Creator on the Read Write Think site. I have been planning to use Comic Life with a grade 9 class at school and was able to add this online program to my tool bag as well, thanks to the posting. Comic Life is a much more versatile program and students will be able to develop a richer product. However, it is only available in the one multimedia lab (Apple computers) in my school. I think students will be keen to play around with comics from home as well and for that they will be able to use Comic Creator.

Tonight I read about Wiziq for the first time. It was fun to tour around and play with the demo even on my own. It would be much more fun to have a buddy to try it out also. Wouldn't students love doing group projects with this tool?!

The other day I learned about Jing from a classmate's blog, Tanya. (I'm still waiting for a microphone to try it out.) There are so many new tools available and so much to learn. As Donna said we will never learn it all, it will always be changing and messy. But unless we open ourselves up to the possibility of learning new things either by blogging, following rss feeds, starting a reader or account, or taking a class like this, we will never even hear of innovations let alone use them!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Social networking in schools

I was reading a couple of articles in SLJ today about using social networking on the web for educational purposes. In the first article a librarian noted that she has had little success with Facebook as an "outreach" tool. It seems students are not interested in using Facebook for educational purposes.

This reminded me of an experience I had with a group of students who are avid graphic novel and manga readers. I showed them samples of graphic novels I had been sent by Scholastic and some publishing companies. Famous events in history had been retold in the graphic or comic book format. The kids were immediately scornful. They didn't want a medium that they know and like to be used to sugar coat school content. They criticized the poor artwork and felt the poor quality writing and art was an insult to good quality graphic novels.

The other article
reported the results of a survey that said 60% of polled students reported using social networking sites for educational purposes. I would like to see a definition of or examples of "educational purposes". The same study said that 52% of school districts block social networking sites.

What educational defensible uses can be made of social networking sites in a school setting? Do school districts need to rethinking their blocking software?

Friday, October 19, 2007


Hi everyone, I am still catching up on last week's activities. I have created a list of bookmarks on delicious this evening. I cleaned up my Favourites on Internet Explorer on my home desk computer and now, thanks to the power of delicious, I will be able to access them from whatever computer I am using. I still have another folder of miscellaneous "stuff" to sort. Many links are so old they have rotted or I no longer use them, so I need to go to each one and decide whether to keep or to throw out. Hey, it's like cleaning closets out!

I am stuck on one thing so if any of you conquered this before me perhaps you can make a suggestion. I have the notification for my bookmarks on my blog but it is not linked to my delicious account and the five sites which were to be listed aren't. I have watched Donna's Screenomatic several times and am no wiser how to solve my problem.

Perhaps Friday evening after a long, tiring week is not the time to solve this. Tomorrow morning perhaps with some help!