Showing posts with label technology tools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology tools. Show all posts

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Social media & engaging teen readers: Goodreads & Pinterest

It's no secret that many teens love social media. They want to know what their friends are doing, liking and sharing. At Berkeley High, we've been using Goodreads & Pinterest to engage our readers, encouraging them to find more books to read. Goodreads is a social media site for readers, letting you mark books you've read or want to read, add reviews and share them with friends.
BHS Library on Goodreads
While reading might be something you do alone in your own head, its true power comes from sharing the experience. What do our friends think of this? Have they read it, or does it remind them of something like it? If I liked this book, is there another one that I might like reading?

Key to this process is valuing all of the books our students are reading. The masterful teacher Donalyn Miller writes passionately about how we must value and encourage our students' choices in what they read.
Using Goodreads has let us honor and value our students' reading choices, whether they love horror graphic novels like Tokyo Ghoul, powerful nonfiction like The 57 Bus or contemporary YA like Libba Bray's The Diviners.  Each reader is different, with different tastes, preferences and interests. I have loved the conversations that come from learning more about what they like.

Yesterday, I was talking with a freshman who liked reading Nightfall, by Jake Halpern--an intense action-adventure story that kept him up all night reading. When I read his review, it made me think of how much I had liked reading Gary Paulsen's Hatchet. So I built a Pinterest board focusing on wilderness adventures. My student said to me, "Wait, you created this just because I liked Nightfall? Just for me?" It was a powerful moment--and he left the library with a new book to read: Trapped, by Michael Northrop.
Berkeley High Library's Pinterest page:
Survival & Wilderness Adventures @ BHS Library
The true power of using social media to engage teen readers is that it lets our students develop their own authentic voices. I have loved working with fellow Berkeley High librarian Meredith Irby to focus on how we can encourage teens to write authentically about their reading experiences. I so appreciate how thoughtful she is, helping teens develop their writing styles. This type of writing is actually a lot like the personal essays teens will write for college applications. As Donalyn Miller writes in Reading in the Wild:
“If we really want our students to become wild readers, independent of our support and oversight, sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way.”
Follow Berkeley High Library on Goodreads & Pinterest  to see what our teens are reading and what we love sharing with them.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Storyline Online: a great resource spreading the joy of reading (ages 3-8)

I love reading stories aloud to children, but as a busy mom I know there are times my kids want to listen to a story when I just have too many other things to do. This even happens in the library! At Emerson, we have loved showing kids how they can listen to stories on the computer through Storyline Online. While this doesn't replace reading stories with our kids, it's a wonderful resource to know about.
Storyline Online
free website & videos
produced by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation
ages 3-8
Storyline Online is easy for young kids to use -- just click on a book cover, and then click the play button. Our students are really enjoying listening to these stories, and we've been really pleased with the quality. What we love about it:
  • terrific actors that bring warmth, joy and feeling to these stories
  • fantastic selection of stories, both old and new
  • nice balance between the actor reading aloud and views of the picture book illustrations
  • easy to use site -- kids can navigate it by themselves
  • engages children in a rich story experience, but satisfies their yearning for screen time
Here's one of our favorite stories: The Library Lion, by Michelle Knudson, read aloud by Mindy Sterling.

Come check out our redesigned Berkeley Public School Libraries websites. Anyone can access them, making resources easily available from home or school. Storyline Online is just one of the many resources available through our websites. Here's what Emerson Library's website looks like:
Emerson Library website
Let us know what you think of these resources. We'd love to know resources your kids enjoy using at home. I want to say special thanks to colleagues at BUSD DigiTech's team, especially Becca Todd District Library Coordinator, for helping marshal such a terrific collection of digital resources for elementary children.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tech access in our libraries: making an impact on a limited budget -- #ALSC14

As a school librarian, I love helping kids and teachers discover the opportunities that technology offers for learning, creating and engaging with the world. Whether it's through the power of creating a multimedia presentation about a book they've loved, or the fun of competing with friends while kids play math games online, technology offers our children opportunities to learn in new ways.

Many schools are offering "one-to-one" programs where each child has their own personal computing device, whether it's a laptop, iPad or Chromebook. But in California, we operate on a very limited budget. So my question has been: how can I make an impact as a school librarian by looking for smaller funding opportunities? How can I increase access to technology in smaller, incremental ways?
With this in mind, I am presenting at this year's ALSC Institute a session called "Tech Access on a Budget". This conference is for children's librarians across the United States, through a division of the American Library Association called ALSC: Association for Library Services to Children. I wanted to share our presentation here.

I am presenting with three other dynamic, smart, passionate women and have learned so much creating this presentation. Talk about the power of technology -- we had never met in person before we showed up 30 minutes before our presentation! All of our connections had been through email, Google video chats and conference calls.
Cen Campbell is the founder of, "a crowd-sourced, grass-roots professional learning network that works to develop promising practices for the incorporation of new media into library collections, services and programs for families with young children." This is a terrific resource for librarians. I first reached out to Cen because of her work with young children in a public library setting, and I wanted to combine our school and public library perspectives. Cen was a member of ALSC's Children and Technology Committee and I'm a member of AASL's Best Apps Committee.

Suzanne Flint is a child development expert who works for the California State Library, helping administer the federal grants provided by the Library Services and Technology Act. She has provided an invaluable perspective both as a funder and as a child development expert. Suzanne and Cen have worked together developing the initiative: Early Learning with Families 2.0.

Claudia Haines is a children's librarian at Homer Public Library in Homer, Alaska, in rural south-central Alaska. Integrating interactive digital media into offerings like storytime is part of Claudia’s efforts to inspire kids to use a variety of tools to create and explore at the library. Definitely check out Claudia's blog, Never Shushed.
We had our first presentation yesterday and are presenting again today. We know that many librarians cannot travel to the ALSC Institute -- please share this with librarians you think would be interested. And I know we would all be happy to answer any questions you have about our experiences increasing children's access to technology in developmentally appropriate ways.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reading Online: How will it affect developing readers?

I read with interest a recent New Yorker article, Being a Better Online Reader by Maria Konnikova, and I would love to explore my thoughts on this article. We all are reading much more online than we did ten years ago, but how is this affecting the way young children are developing as readers? How is this affecting the way teachers and librarians help students learn to read, discover a love of reading, and develop their critical thinking skills?

Over the past several years, I have observed these changes:
  • most adults read for work online -- mainly on desktop or laptop computers
  • many adults read for pleasure using digital devices, like the iPad, Kindle or Nook
  • most children (ages 7-12) read primarily print books when reading for pleasure or school
  • students are learning to research online, starting at about age 8-9
  • standardized tests are shifting to online assessments
I feel very strongly that if we are going to start assessing students online, then we need to provide specific experiences and instruction for reading online. Explicit instruction is crucial -- it is unfair to assume that our children are "digital natives" and learn through osmosis how to read online. If we make those assumptions, we will simply reinforce the digital divide that is created by unequal opportunities and access.

Konnikova points out that the way we read online is different than the way we read in print. She steers clear of passing judgment, but rather ponders how this affects the way we acquire knowledge. Konnikova writes,
On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.
I would argue that this skimming is an essential skill for coping with the huge amount of information we have to sift through online. We need to teach our students how we skim effectively. But we also need to talk with them about strategies for when we discover a nugget -- how we need to consciously slow down to digest the information.

Later, Konnikova looks at research that has explored this point -- that we need to teach our students explicit online reading skills:
Julie Coiro, who studies digital reading comprehension in elementary- and middle-school students at the University of Rhode Island, has found that good reading in print doesn’t necessarily translate to good reading on-screen. The students do not only differ in their abilities and preferences; they also need different sorts of training to excel at each medium. The online world, she argues, may require students to exercise much greater self-control than a physical book.
I have noticed this with my own daughter, whose high school is now one-to-one iPad. She likes reading her English texts online because she can annotate them well, but she prefers to read in print if she is just absorbing and enjoying a book.

Schools must specifically teach students in 4th grade and above how to apply their reading skills to digital reading. Starting in elementary school, they need to practice researching online and teachers need to talk about how this might be different from reading a print book. It is essential that our schools invest in technologies, so that teachers and students can learn these skills. But I would also argue that it's essential for schools to invest in librarians who understand this intersection between reading, information and digital experiences.

Adults often ask me if kids will continue reading print books. I believe the answer is absolutely yes. First of all, there's access and quantity issues. Children in first through third grade need to read 10-20 short books every week. They want to browse through physical copies. Schools, libraries and families need access to inexpensive paperbacks. Even highly digital affluent families are reluctant to continue purchasing ebooks at this rate.

I would also argue that there is something more tangible, more comforting, more reassuring for young kids holding print books. Konnikova quotes Maryann Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, as saying “Physical, tangible books give children a lot of time." Young children need that time. Families need that time.

It is interesting that I read this article online, following a link suggested by KQED's Mindshift blog. But I returned to it several times, reading it in different chunks, rereading it, skimming it again. This type of repeated reading might be what our students need to get comfortable doing, taking the time to dive into ideas and ponder them.

As you watch your children and your students, are you noticing that they are reading digitally more than they were a few years ago? Is the way they are reading changing? The digital world certainly brings more opportunities within easy reach for many students, but how are we preparing them to take advantage of those opportunities?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Using Goodreads: Building my reading life

I read ten or more books each week. They feed my soul. But they also start swimming around in my mind like minnows in a stream. So how do I keep track of the books I've read, remember those I've liked and recommend books to friends? I have used Goodreads for over five years, and I love it.

Here's my shelf on books to recommend for Women's History Month, with just five of the books I've recently added. Click through to Goodreads to see more!

Mary Ann's bookshelf: women's history

Michelle Obama
4 of 5 stars

1st, biography, picture-books, preschool, kindergarten, nonfiction,...
Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies
4 of 5 stars
1st, 2nd, 3rd, biography, history, picture-books, and women-s-history
Through Georgia's Eyes
5 of 5 stars
As a young girl, Georgia knew that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up, but few women could pursue that dream in the early 20th century. “Georgia sees life differently. She paints and paints. Hours pass by. She wonders if she can...
women-s-history, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, biography, history, parents-press-2...
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World�s Fastest Woman
5 of 5 stars
No one expected Wilma Rudolph to survive her difficult childhood. My students are continually amazed at how Rudolph not only learned to walk after having scarlet fever and polio, but joined her school’s basketball team and then her colle...
2nd, 3rd, 4th, african-american, biography, women-s-history, pictur...

When I'm doing a blogging challenge or planning a teaching unit, Goodreads helps me remember books I've read -- kind of like browsing the physical shelves in my library. How do you keep track of the books you've read and those you want to read? Do you like keeping this list to yourself, or do you like sharing it with friends?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, March 14, 2014

Digital projects to celebrate Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women

Emerson students are having so much fun creating projects to celebrate amazing women this month. Some are researching pop stars, others are celebrating their mothers or teachers. I'm excited to share two digital ways to create projects.
Animoto is an easy-to-use online video creation site that you can use to create short, dynamic slide shows. Kids love the music and movement. I love that you can add just a few words with the images to really communicate your ideas. Plus, it's free (for short videos)!

Here's an Animoto I created to celebrate Gabby Douglas, Olympic champion:

Our 4th and 5th graders are also learning how to use their school Google accounts, and some are taking the challenge to create a Google Presentation. Again, they love using images! For many kids, this is much easier than creating a poster board.

Here's an example I created about Jane Goodall. I really tried to show the kids how one simple picture with a short caption can communicate a lot of what you admire about a person. We talk about how this presentation doesn't have much of a conclusion, that I could have put in more of my own ideas.

I'm excited to see what projects the students create! Are your students creating anything using new digital tools that they love? There are so many to choose from!!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wilma Rudolph: inspiring Olympic Champion (ages 6-12)

Throughout Women's History Month, I share with students stories of women who inspire me with their determination and courage. When I first read about Wilma Rudolph, Olympic champion sprinter who overcame incredible odds to win victory, I was awe-struck. My students sit in rapt attention each time they hear in Kathleen Krull's picture book biography Wilma Unlimited.
Wilma Unlimited
How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman
by Kathleen Krull
illustrated by David Diaz
Harcourt Brace, 1996
your local library
ages 6-10
No one expected Wilma Rudolph to survive her difficult childhood. She not only learned to walk after having scarlet fever and polio, but joined her school’s basketball team and then her college’s track team. Through sheer determination and hard work, she went on to win three Olympic gold medals. My students cheer for Wilma at every turn in this inspiring biography.

If your children are inspired to learn more about Rudolph, I'd recommend two websites: and ABC Sports. You'll find historic film footage and photographs on, the official website for the Olympics. I like the way it combines brief facts, compelling images and a short biography that students can read for more information.
The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Time for Kids: Online resources to celebrate Women's History Month (ages 7-10)

Elementary school kids are interested in exploring the Internet to learn about the world around them. But parents and teachers need to direct kids to finding sites that are interesting, informative and accessible. Kids ages 7-10 are not ready for general searching, but they love exploring what the Web has to offer.

Time for Kids celebrates Women's History Month with a dedicated mini-site-- I'd recommend this as a good starting place for 2nd through 5th grades.
Time for Kids mini-site to celebrate Women's History Month
Kids can easily navigate through different sections, whether they start with modern professionals who might inspire them, background of the holiday, or an in-depth interview with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Kids will like the abundant photos with brief chunks of text. I really think we read online information differently than print sources. We like highly visual sites with brief chunks of text. Time for Kids keeps readers engaged, prompting them to click from one picture to the next. Here, actress Miranda Cosgrove tells about how she's been inspired by Rosa Parks:
Time for Kids mini-site to celebrate Women's History Month
Time For Kids also introduces different historical milestones in Women's History. For example, there's a short article on the suffragist's movement, The Fight to Vote. I like sharing this type of journalistic writing style with kids, getting them primed to read newspaper articles in middle school.
Women suffragists marched in the streets across the nation.
I can see using this site to get kids interested in a topic and ready to learn more. Is there a website you like to share with kids to get them engaged and interested in learning more?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Finding great resources: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 6)

Just look at these kids on the computer--they are totally engaged in doing an activity together. I want to help create situations like this. But it isn't just a matter of putting a computer in front of kids. You need to bring the right media experience as well.

Children at school, Lucélia Ribeiro, Flickr
Technology is changing so quickly that it’s hard to figure out what’s engaging and what is just a marketing drive from another tech company. Parents and educators face a huge array of digital media claiming to be the next best thing.

My first advice is to listen to friends and family--get their recommendations about quality books, apps and sites. Talk with other parents about how they navigate this digital world with their kids.

Also listen to kids--they love talking about their favorite new websites and games. Ask them about what they find really engaging. Talk about the difference between mindless fun and problem-solving, creative games. See what they recommend and think is really interesting.

Look to Children’s Technology Review to learn about a range of different media, from digital games to apps. I value their thoughtful analysis and focused reviews.

Also check out Common Sense Media for a range of different media reviews. The excellent design of this site lets me find exactly what I'm looking for, from reviews of current movies and video games to their take on different websites for specific ages. For example, here's my search on math sites for ages 6-9. Each website review includes an age recommendation, quality rating, learning rating, and a short review focused on what parents need to know.

Definitely check out Great Websites for Kids, put together by the American Library Association. I especially like the way this site is organized into different topics kids might be interested in: animals, the arts, history, literature, math, science, social sciences and general reference.

I've really enjoyed the blog Little eLit, which shares many creative ways to engage kids with digital literacy, especially in the library. The Fred Rogers Center consistently puts out interesting articles on young children and media -- a recent blog post focused specifically on Technology and Family Life.

Are there any sites that help you find great digital media to use with your children? This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating together: using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 5)

Photographing nature, via USDA, Flikr
Kids love to create, whether it’s digging in the sandbox, making a paper collage, or creating a digital calendar. Think about how your kids can use digital cameras or mobile devices to create their own media. Take this example from Let’sPlay. Look for an old digital camera or flip-style video camera.
Take (digital cameras) to the park with you and put them in your child's hands—or on their helmet, firmly secured with duct tape. There's something about being able to document their own footage that brings out the adventurer/daredevil in kids. That's a recipe for awesome—and YouTube bragging rights at school.
Older children love creating their own mashups, learning how to digitally edit photos. This sort of active screen time is far different than passively watching TV.

One of our favorite apps is Toontastic (free with in-app purchase of puppet sets, or $19.99 for an all-access pass), created by Bay Area startup Launchpad Toys. This app encourages kids to create their own animated stories. It guides young users through breaking down a story into five basic steps, then adding cartoon scenes, music and characters along the way. You narrate the scene while moving characters with your fingers. Kids absolutely love it, and there’s a great guide to help parents, encouraging collaborative play between grownups and kids.

I love the way Jennifer Reed, a dynamic school librarian, is using an online story creating site Storybird with her 5th graders. She's showing great examples of "hooks" and stories her students have created. These kids are completely engaged in the creative writing process, in large part because they get to use digital media to publish their final products.

As you think about digital media, think about the way children are engaging. Are they passively consuming media, or are they creating something while they use it? I've seen kids learn essential digital skills while doing something as fun as creating a birthday invitation on the computer. What can be better than learning through play? Our role as parents is to create these opportunities, think outside the box and see what creative ways we can engage our kids while introducing them to new media.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 3, 2014

#cslacon14: Best Apps for Teaching & Learning

This week, school librarians from all over California are gathering in San Diego to share about ways to engage students, develop critical thinking and promote literacy. I'm excited to present the AASL Best Apps for Teaching & Learning.
Please share this with anyone you know who's going to the CSLA conference this weekend. Here are the details:
AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning
California School Librarians Conference
San Diego, CA
Saturday, February 8th
8:00am - 9:15am
Ventana Room
I'll be presenting with a great team of school librarians from Northern California:
  • Allyson Bogie, Portola Middle School, West Contra Costa Unified
  • Trevor Calvert, Marin Academy
  • Brian Thomas, Saint Mary's College High School, Oakland Diocese
  • Adoria Williams, Jefferson Elementary School, Berkeley Unified
Hope to see you there! Follow the conference hashtag #csla14 and the Best Apps hashtag #aaslbestapps to see what people are saying.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, December 16, 2013

Robert Paul Weston visits to talk about The Creature Department (ages 8-12)

Last week, our students were so excited to visit with Robert Paul Weston, the author of The Creature Department and Zorgamazoo. Over 60 fourth & fifth graders came to have lunch in the library and have a live video chat with Mr. Weston. You see, he lives in London but he wanted to share his fantastic books with us. Once I showed my students the videos from The Creature Department website, they were hooked!

I invited a good friend Shannon Miller and her students from Van Meter Community School in Iowa. Friends LOVE sharing books they're excited about, something I always model for students!

Kids crowd into the library at lunch to visit with Robert Paul Weston

The Creature Department is a fun adventure fantasy book that's getting great early reviews from our students. Elliot and Leslie, two kids who see themselves as outsiders at school, end up having to save DENKi-3000—the world’s eighth-largest electronics factory. But it isn't just that DENKi-3000 has come up with amazing inventions like wireless breath mints; Elliot and Leslie discover that DENKi-3000 is home to The Creature Department, a group of fantastical creatures who are as wacky as they are creative.

My students love all the different creatures in the book, like Gügor, "a creature that resembled a muscly eight-foot salamander—if salamanders grew sloppy dreadlocks, walked around on their hind legs, and had enormous knobbly hands." One of their favorites was Harrumphrey Grouseman. Weston described coming up with his name from the way he always says "harrumph" and grouses about complaining.


Weston actually created his creatures in tandem with Framestore, the amazing special effects studio behind movies ranging from Gravity to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Framestore animators created some of the visuals for the story brainstorming with Weston as he was writing. Usually, authors complete their work before illustrators are ever involved. Weston talked about how this made the process so much fun, but also a little challenging managing a story with so many characters.

Over 60 kids came in during lunch!
At our visit, Weston shared how he loved listening to audiobooks as a kid (he laughed with great appreciation when my students told him will still have a big collection of books on tape, yes cassette tapes!). I piped in that I think this really shows up in his writing, because it is great to read aloud.

Students asked many questions, ranging from how long it took Weston to write his books to what stories he liked reading when he was their age. They wanted to know whether he went to college (yes!) and what he studied (film studies, among other things), and whether he likes learning about real life animals as well as fantastical creatures.

Big smiles as kids chatted with Weston

Most of all, I think our students liked connecting with an author. Many kids wanted to come up to to share the Japanese they've learned with their Dojo at their martial arts classes. They wanted to say HI! They loved knowing that the books they love are written by real people who struggle with writing each day, just like they do in the classroom.

Many thanks to Robert Paul Weston for taking the time to connect with our students and spreading the love of reading. So many kids are clamoring to read his books now. Hugs to Shannon Miller and all her students at Van Meter for joining in and sharing their love of reading. If you want to learn more about video chatting, definitely check out Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Penguin Young Readers and Razorbill. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, September 22, 2013

AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning: News-O-Matic (ages 7-10)

I often wonder about how to encourage my kids to learn more about current events. We don't watch the TV news in the evening the way my parents did, and I primarily read the newspaper online. At school, they read the Scholastic News but it doesn't really engage them. So I've been super-excited to see kids' reactions to a new app: News-O-Matic -- a daily news app for kids.

News-O-Matic, named one of the Best Apps for Teaching and Learning in 2013 by the AASL, presents the news specifically written for kids ages 7 to 10. It's an engaging, interactive digital newspaper for elementary school kids. Each day, they publish five articles on the day's news. My students feedback: two thumbs up!
Daily Reading for Kids
developed by Press4Kids
available for iPad
ages 7-10
app is free
weekly, monthly & annual subscriptions available
for schools $29.99 for one year (2013-2014)
The writers at News-O-Matic really understand kids. They know that kids want lots of funny, interesting news articles, along with some what adults might think of as "real news."

Take a look at a page from last week: it's fun, colorful and draws you right in with engaging images. They have mixed high-interest articles on sports with international events in Italy and Kenya.

News-O-Matic, September 17, 2013

Each news article is written specifically for kids by the Press4Kids writers. It's clear and engaging, but I particularly noticed how the articles are age-appropriate for elementary students. For example, you can see here that they write about national tragedies like the recent flooding in Colorado, but they focus on rescue attempts. Each article is reviewed by child psychologists before publication to ensure content is age-appropriate.

News-O-Matic releases a new issue each day. As a teacher, I subscribe to their PDF edition. My daughter will often say to me, "I want to check the news today." I'm happy as can be that she's wanting to read the news, even if she's drawn to the silly, goofy articles as much as the tragedies -- that's absolutely what I'd expect from a nine year old!

I've noticed that kids are much more drawn to this interactive news app than the traditional news flyers distributed in the classroom. They love the interactive map with quirky facts. They like being asked to rate articles. And the additional layers of photographs and videos are a big draw.

This app is one of the twenty five selected by the AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning, 2013. I have loved participating with this committee. If you're interested in apps, definitely check out their whole list of recommended apps!

I've been very impressed with Press4Kids' technical support as I've worked to get my apps working at my school site, dealing with the frustrations that web filtering can cause.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning: SimplePhysics (ages 8 - 16)

The kids at my school library have loved exploring new math and science apps. They love the ways that these apps build in game experiences to make learning FUN! I love how engaged the kids are with thinking, problem solving and learning key concepts and facts.

One of our favorites has been SimplePhysics. It's hooked kids who love puzzles, experiments and building things. Check out the whole list of AASL's Best Apps for Teaching and Learning to find out about all of the science, technology, engineering and math apps that our panel recommends!
by Jundroo, LLC
available for iPhone, iPad & Android
currently $1.99
ages 8 - 16
SimplePhysics lets you design complex structures for everything from tree houses to Ferris wheels. Verify the structural integrity of your design with a stress test. Great engineering is not enough, however -  you have to keep your project under budget to win the game! Don't use too many resources, or you'll blow your budget.

Here, you can see one of the first challenges: building a tree fort. The goal is to build a stable tree fort that will hold enough weight, with only using structures attached to the tree. After you build your structure, you get to test it with the four weights and see if it will hold them. This allows kids to really see the results of their buildings, and see which joints are strong and which are weak.

This is a more complicated challenge, requiring kids to build a bridge across a canyon. It has to hold the weight of the freight train. Kids love testing their creations and seeing the train crash to the bottom if their bridge isn't strong enough!

This is a screenshot when kids are testing the strength of their creation, in this case they are building stairs. The stairs must withstand enough weight and pressure. The app shows the load bearing of the different beams.

And this might have been my students' favorite challenge. They had to build a structure that protected the dummy against an explosion. You can guess how much fun they had testing it! One of the things I liked best watching kids use this app is how much talking occurred as they were using it. Three kids would gather around the iPad and talk about what they were putting where, why it was working, which option they should choose. They could test out their theories and quickly adjust them.

Head over to AASL's Best Apps for Teaching and Learning to discover more great apps for engaging kids with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Time Magazine's list of 50 essential iPad apps

Time Magazine recently published an article "Fifty must-have iPad apps". I know that I usually write about books and apps to share with children, but today I'd like to share apps that I am finding myself using to conduct my professional life. I am actually finding that tweens and teens are starting to use these apps as well.

Check out the link to the article for the full list. Here I am going to share 5 apps I've been using regularly that are on their list, and 5 apps I plan on checking out soon.

Five essential apps I've loved using:
  • Dropbox I use this constantly to access documents on the go, to backup and store files, and to share documents with others. Great, smooth interface. 
  • Feedly: I have switched all my blog reading over to Feedly and am loving the iPad app. In fact, I'm reading more blogs than ever now with Feedly. Love it!
  • Flipboard: I used Flipboard more before I started using Feedly, but I still switch over to it for accessing Twitter and other news in a visual way. I'm intrigued by SLJ's Digital Shift article on using Flipboard for students to create their own customized, curated digital magazines.
  • Paper: This app lets me doodle, draw and brainstorm in such a creative, intuitive, beautiful way! I just love it. Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes first turned me onto Paper, and then it was recognized by Apple as the App of the Year.
  • Waze: This traffic app helped us navigate our way through LA traffic maze last summer - with  my 13 year old navigating and me at the wheel! Waze identifies optimal routes, taking into account traffic, hazards, and blockages as well as simple navigation.
Five apps I want to check out:
  • Blogsy: I have not written blog posts on my iPad yet. I'm wondering if any blogging friends have done this much. Every time I try, I find it clunky and difficult. Hoping that Blogsy has a better interface!
  • Comics: Love my first look at this interface. I'm curious to see if this app has many comics for kids.
  • Newsy: I'm interested in Newsy's video approach, and want to see if it's sensationalized or straightforward. Time writes that it "features professional anchors who deliver the news in easy-to-digest, no-fluff snippets," which sounds good to me.
  • Pinnacle Studio: I'm interested in moving toward video editing on the iPad. I love taking videos of student performances using the iPad, and am curious whether this app can give me similar control and options as a desktop video editing tool like iMovie.
  • Tweetbot: I use Twitter throughout my day for professional connections, resources and learning opportunities. I'm curious to see if Tweetbot provides a more streamlined, reliable app than the Twitter app.
What apps do you consider essential for your professional and personal learning? Do you see kids starting to use these? Are there any you'd add to Time's list?

I've loved being part of the American Association of School Librarian's task force choosing the Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. I can't wait to share our recommended list this June at the ALA Annual Conference!