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!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Comparing Search Engines Google and Ask

One thing that I immediately notice when I tried out Ask was that it is constantly suggesting search terms as I am typing my request. This helps very quickly to narrow one's search. I think it would be especially beneficial for students who don't tend to type in any more than one term or two at the most or for anyone who has difficulty thinking of search terms. Ask also offers to expand or narrow my search at each step. I got helpful results as I searched terms pulled from Sun Signs like astrology, horoscopes, etc. However, on a personal note I checked out tickets to Stomp performances in Las Vegas and got many results that had nothing to do with Stomp but only to Las Vegas. Checking out the help section tells me you can use questions, natural English, word strings, etc. to search. It mustn't use the same search logic as Google to provide results.

KartOO made me feel old!! The sprinkly lights zooming around to highlight my search on the web were very distracting. I was very overwhelmed by my results when I tried the same search terms as I did for Sun Signs above. However, searching a topic I had used in grade three, burrowing owls, did bring up several of the sites I had found previously and used. I think it would be interesting to watch students play around with KartOO and see how they search with it. I didn't feel it was my "style".

I realize what a rut I've been in always using Google as my seach engine. Is it worth the effort to learn another one? Hmm.....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Articles on the advantages of blogging

SLJ chats with Diane Penrod about Using Blogs to Enhance Literacy

In this short article Diane Penrod challenges teacher librarians to use their tech knowledge to help bring blogging to K to 12 school students. She explains many advantages to students in using this Web 2.o tool.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wiki ready to discuss 10 Snow Willow nominees

I thought some of you might be interested in looking at the wiki I prepared for the grade nine class I will be working with. I finished reading my last of the 10 books on the weekend. Here is the address:

There will be three kids reading each title. They choose and respond to 5 of the discussion questions. Also they are required to repond to at least 3 postings by other people who read the same book. I tried to avoid strictly factual questions about the book in favour of comparing books, extending their learning, making decisions, etc. We'll see how the students respond to this style book project. Their teacher says we won't likely start until first of October. I'm getting anxious!

I also have a friend who teaches grade six who thinks she will use the ideas (although maybe not all the books) with her class. I simply asked the good folks at Wikispaces to make a copy of my wiki before the students started responding. So likely I will be able to compare the interest of another age of students at another school with mine. Should prove interesting!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Floor plan for Kaleigh's bedroom in Sun Signs

So... this was more fun. There are more options and control on Gliffy. I watched the video first before proceeding and then had few problems operating.

Mind Map for Sun Signs

I found this mind mapping tool,, very rudimentary. I have used the software Inspiration and Kidspiration a lot with students and find it much more versatile and satisfying. I will head off and experiment with some of the other online tools mentioned as well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You Oughta Be In Pictures

Here are my attempts at linking to photos on Flickr, imbedding a photo, using two image generators and creating a character trading card related to Sun Signs. What a process! Now that I have my assignment posted to this blog, I am anxious to browse other blogs to see the creations made by my fellow classmates.

My dog Abby is posing with Sun Signs. She sat on my lap at the computer desk while I did this assignment.

For the flickr photos I took pictures of the Snow nominees in crazy places in my house.
My Flickr Page

I made the horoscope in the newspaper using Image Generator I made the comic about Mr. Selenski in Comic Generator.

For the image to represent the book, I made the trading card for B. A. Stargazer from Sun Signs by Shelley Hrdlitschka in flickr toys.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Logistics of a blog or wiki for class use

Now that I have a goal in mind my brain is whirling around some of the practical, logistical aspects of setting up online chatting for a class. I plan to collaborate with a grade nine teacher, have each student in that class read a Snow Willow nominee, and respond to the book through guided questions on either a blog or a wiki. Once again, I am appealing to your collective wisdom to learn how best to set this up for easy teacher and student use.

If I make a wiki, there could be a section for each book and a page for each question. Students would edit the page and add their response. Everyone's response would be threaded along in order on the same page. They would each be able to read all other responses. They would have to sign their posting in order for me to know whose comment was whose to grade them. They would each have to join the wiki. I would have to visit several pages looking for a student's postings in order to grade his/her work. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this format for the type interaction I am hoping for?

If I made a blog, students could comment on my blog. They would have to get an account first. Or they could each make their own blog. If they make their own blog, they don't see other people's responses unless they visit other blogs. It would be easier grading for me if they had their own blog but not great for other students visiting to read about the Willows or to link to my library website. Would I need a blog for each book? If I had just my own blog, how could I set up the 10 books and individual questions in a practical way?

As you can see, I am struggling with how to organize this type of assignment for students and have more questions than answers!


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Out of Focus by Margaret Buffie

  1. Beginning writers are always told to write about what they know. Look at Margaret Buffie’s biography on her website. What information there tells you she writes about what she knows in the book Out of Focus?
  2. Do you have any experiences you would like to share about a friend or family member with an addiction problem? Please do not use real names.
  3. On page 113, John tries to give Bernice a warning about Tony. What advice would you give Bernice about Tony?
  4. Celia’s alcoholism affects each of her children in different ways. How is Jojo affected by her mother’s alcoholism? Give examples from the novel.
  5. Celia’s alcoholism affects each of her children in different ways. How is Ally affected by his mother’s alcoholism? Give examples from the novel.
  6. Celia’s alcoholism affects each of her children in different ways. How is Bernice affected by her mother’s alcoholism? Give examples from the novel.
  7. How does Bernice use photography to connect with her life? How does she use it to escape or avoid her world? Give examples from the novel.
  8. Discuss how the author uses the idea of photography to link the characters and the story in Out of Focus.
  9. Which character in the story are you most interested in and why?
  10. Check out the Alateen website. Answer the 20 questions found at Is Alateen for you? as if you are Bernice. Do you think Bernice would be helped by attending Alateen meetings? In what ways?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Encouraging student participation in blogs and wikis

(I had originally posted this question on the discussion on the Introduction page and then thought it might be easier to discuss here.)

Hi everyone,
I have just spent a pleasant hour browsing everyone's introductions and looking at members' blogs and wikis. "Chapeau" to all your efforts!

Last year was my first year in a high school library after 3 years as an elementary TL and teaching experience K to 8. I looked into both blogs and wikis last spring and started a wiki on graphic novels for my extra curricular group that met to discuss manga and graphic novels. Students were finding it hard to get together because of demands on their time. We thought a wiki might work as people could "chat" as they found time. The wiki never really took off and students didn't contribute although they said they would like to.

Last year I also had a reading challenge based on the Survivor theme. Students read from the twenty books I featured and book talked in all English classes. As they participated their names were entered in prize draws. We voted books "out of the contest" until we were left with winners. Students were happy to read the books but were not interested in meeting to discuss them. They talked extensively to me when they returned them. I wondered if they might contribute their comments to a blog or wiki if I had a similiar reading challenge with a different theme this year.

I am appealing to your collective wisdom. Do students participate voluntarily on their own time to blogs and wikis you establish? Does this need to be linked to class assignments and class time provided in order to get participation? Any tricks or suggestions for me? I have worked with classes during class time using Blackboard (which facilitated discussions like wikis and blogs do) and been very satisfied with the level of participation and comments.


Posted Yesterday 7:00 pm

Sun Signs by Shelley Hrdlitschka

Here are some of my ideas to get students commenting on Sun Signs:

1. Read a copy of your horoscope for yesterday in the newspaper or online. In what ways was this prediction true or false according to the day you actually had yesterday?

2. What are the characteristics associated with your astrological sign? (Check a book or Internet site for these traits. Is this an accurate description of your personality and character? Why or why not?

3. Tell about an experience you had with a Science Fair project or using the Scientific Method for an experiment.

4. Kleigh, the protagonist in this novel, takes classes online because she is undergoing cancer treatments. What other reasons might someone take classes online rather than in person? What do you think the advantages and disadvantages might be of studying online?

5. Pg. 48 Read Mr. Selenski's message again. Do you believe babies are born a "blank slate" or that humans have some fixed personality traits and characteristics at birth? Explain.

6. Pg. 54 What came first the chicken or the egg? Do horoscopes come true because "we subconsciously look for incidents that would fit the prediction" or do "horoscopes appear to come true because we read and act on them"?

7. Do you think a positive attitude can help to cure a person with a serious illness? Why or why not? Is there anyway this could this be studied scientifically? Peek ahead to pg. 136. I wonder if this is a real study or invented by the author.

8. Can you really know someone you only meet online? Who do you agree with and why?
  • Kaleigh pg. 78-9 you can get to know someone without the physical getting in the way
  • Mr. Selenski pg. 76 you need the visual clues that meeting in person offer you
  • Blondie pg. 88 "If you take the physical appearance quotient out of a new relationship, people tend to be more comfortable with themselves."

9. Kaleigh feels that astrology can be a positive influence in lives. How has this book changed the way you feel about astrology?

10. Do you think the English language is being positively or negatively affected by instant messaging? A quick Google search shows over two million hits for "instant messaging shorthand". What are some short cuts you enjoy using?

11. How do you feel when you have been lied to? Is lying ever justified?

12. "Make believe", "charade", "made up", "lies", "role-playing" and "fantasies" were all words the distance learner buddies used to talk about the dishonesty that happened in their online interactions. Have you any experiences you can talk about involving you and/or others posing as someone they are not online? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of behaviour?

13. Do you have any personal experiences with cancer or people who have cancer that you want to mention? Check this website for information about the kind of cancer Kaleigh had.

Inital foray

After browsing many of the hyperlinked sites in the course materials last night, setting up a blog this morning, emailing Carlene for confirmation of the assignment today and reading Hrdlitschka's book this afternoon, I still don't feel ready to make my first post! Where is my confidence? I guess I just need to do it! I can't visualize an end product in my mind, but this is about process, right?

I would like to interest one of the grade nine English teachers at my school in collaborating with me on a Snow Willow project. I would like students to read the nominees and comment on them on a blog. I read Sun Signs today and jotted down some stimuli to get the students started.

Do you realize that Shelley's name starts with four consonants in a row, only has two vowels and in the middle has five consonants in a row!?