Friday, October 21, 2011

Banned Book Movie Trailers and QR codes

About a month ago, Karl Fisch sent along a tweet from a librarian in Grand Junction, Becky Johnson.  Becky was creating QR codes to go along the spines of books in her library. The QR codes linked to YouTube videos students had created based upon the books.

After expressing my interest in building from Becky’s work, Karl contacted her to gain more information about the coding creating process and help us get started.  I thought I would pass along Karl’s questions as well as Becky’s responses:

  1. What site are you using to generate the QR codes? I know there are a bunch, but thought if you had one that worked well, we'd use that.
    1.  I use Kaywa QR-Code Generator<> - No registration or download needed, just paste the link to the site you want to generate the code for, choose the size and click generate.
  2. Any advice on printing? My concern is getting them small enough to fit on the spine of a book but still be a functional QR code.
    1. Printing is easy.  Copy (copy image) the code and paste into Word or a Google Doc.  Resize to fit the spine and print.  I've made them as small as a half inch square and never had a problem scanning them. Just make sure you re-size proportionally.  I use the ScanLife app on my Android phone, but I've seen kids use other apps and the Google Goggles App works too.  I just print them off on a laser printer and fix them on the spine with book tape.
  3. Did you do book trailers at YouTube, or did they create a site to host the videos, or what? Any links to samples you might share?
    1. I've got kids who've created videos in Animoto<>, FlixTime<>, Photopeach<> and Photostory.  It always works better if they can be exported or saved in a format that can be uploaded to YouTube, however I've included some examples that play in the native app, like Photopeach and FlixTime.  I sometimes create codes linked to student blog post book reviews, so I've included some examples of those.
  4. Anything else we should ask but I haven't thought of?
    1. 4. Problems encountered:

       *   As long as kids have devices with 3G or 4G access, Android or Apple, they can view YouTube videos and they always load quickly and play well.  My district's wi-fi blocks YouTube (grrrr), but the kids tend to loan devices to each other to enable scanning.  The QR codes are fairly new and I don't have a lot of them on books yet, so it is the geeky kids that are accessing them right now.
       *   Animoto is my favorite site for students to create book trailers, but I can't get codes linked directly to the Animoto site to play on some devices, so I always export or upload to YouTube. Using the Animoto Educator Plus Account<> allows students to make videos with no length restrictions and they can be exported directly to a YouTube account (if the student has one) or saved as an mp4 file, which I can upload to my YouTube account.
       *   I've tried uploading to SchoolTube.  The codes and links work fine, but the videos take forever to load and tend to look wonky on a device.
       *   The flash-based videos in PhotoPeach and FlixTime don't show on Apple devices.
    2. Samples:
During the month of October, along with our study of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, we read banned and challenged books. The kids print off a permission letter from our webpage getting their parent’s approval on a banned or challenged book they wish to read.  In year’s past, we have had the kids complete a banned book project where the students create a visual on their desk space presenting the book, the research on why the book was banned or challenged, and then, take a stance on whether or not they agree with the banning and challenging.
After hearing of Becky’s school’s work, I threw out the idea to Maura Moritz( my partner in all things 9th grade Honors)of our kids making movie trailers for their banned/challenged book. The kids were ecstatic about the thought of creating a movie.  We worked with the original rubric for the project, and adapted the rubric to fit our new idea. The kids wanted a lot of freedom in determining what parts of the project could be video and what parts could be still written. I thought this was important since some kids didn’t want to publish to the world their belief on whether or not a book should be banned or challenged.

To make this new project even more serendipitous, at parent teacher conferences, one of my student’s mom happens to be a creative director who has created a number of commercials and worked with movie trailers as well. Mrs. Friskey offered to come into class and help the kids think about movie trailers offering up her feedback to the kids. This was an amazing opportunity.  It helped the kids and myself refine the project even more.  Here is the new rubric based upon her suggestions and tips to the kids.  Also, here is some of her sage advice to our classes:
Mention/present your product and share its information/benefits in the best creative way to garner the desired response.
What Makes a Movie Trailer? (think of a movie trailer as a tease)
(Mention Product) The name of the movie (book)- this often appears at the end of the trailer. 
(Info/Benefits)  Plot points or cool prestige elements such as the director’s or actors’ names. Be careful not to give away whole story.
(Creative) Exciting editing, clever copy, memorable scenes or dialogue, compelling music. Most important to storyboard out idea.  Think about using catch phrases (powerful quotes), use imagery (taste, touch, see, hear, smell), LESS IS MORE
(Desired Response) TICKET SALES! Money? Get people to read your book?

She is also offering to stay in contact with the kids while they are working on their movie trailers. They can even post questions to her.

We watched some movie trailers in class today ( and to stimulate our thinking towards creating movie trailers.  Next week, we have one day in class where we will be solely working on the movie trailers. Other than that day, the kids are completing these projects outside of class.  The kids can use any video production software they desire. We have flip cameras available to them for check out as well.  Some kids are using my Animoto educator account to create their films; others are using MovieMaker, iMovie or Photostory. 

We plan on having a movie watching day with a special award for best trailer.  Karl and our library/media specialist, Mr. Tracy Murphy, will help the kids create the codes.  The kids are submitting all their projects through a Google Form to easily collect their masterpieces. I will post our results as well as feedback from the kids when the projects come in on October 31.

Moving forward with PLNs

My all boys’ class has been writing up a storm this semester with our work on PLNs.  We have moved from the first 6 weeks of each writing their own response on a selected post/ blog:
Tony Wagner’s “Rigor Redefined” portrays how the youth of the twenty first century is not prepared for the largely evolving work place. Throughout his article he asks CEOs about the youth they hire and how efficient they are. They all explained that the youth they hire are great at the bases of their job, however as they increased into the higher level requirements and more detailed work they just couldn’t process it. This makes me wonder, is the job marketplace evolving too fast for the schools and colleges to keep up. If you ask me, I believe that schools are not improving what they teach simply because the leaders of education are lazy. They don’t want to respond to change. However if a small group of teachers tried to push that change into action I believe that my generation would be much more prepared for the future. In the world the younger people that are trying to get jobs are having a hard time because employers are no longer looking for the blunt man or woman that can do the same thing all day long. They are looking for the person that thinks at a different level of thinking, a much higher one that can ask questions and be focused on a broad topic. It explains in his article that people are working as teams to finish goals but those people don’t even know each other or even work in the same country. People are being brought together through a global conferences and connections online. But those people aren’t the young ones that have just been employed it’s the veteran that knows what he or she is doing. I believe that between now and my generation graduating from college there will be enough time to improve on education as a whole and complete the goal of preparing us for the jobs they may not exist. However there is also time for the job marketplaces to grow even more and exceed a milestone that was never thought possible. But as time goes on its hard to depict what will happen in the future. Many of the CEOs said that the main problem with their young employees was that they couldn’t focus or bring their ideas to a conclusion. Which brings me to ask like Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” has the internet made our attention span much lower?  In the case with the employees not being able to focus that problem is only found in the younger employees rather than the older ones. The problem with them not being able to focus may be because of the younger generation’s deeper connection to the internet. As we move forward into a different type of work ethic; do you believe that changing the goals we learn in school will make us more prosperous in the work place? I believe it would make the next generations to come much more ready to succeed and be able understand what they are doing. So as we move forward into the future I just hope that schools and colleges can catch back up to where the workplaces advanced to.
Then we moved towards writing on others’ blogs:
Mr. Stager:
I was intrigued and entertained by your article and Silvia’s videos but I disagree with some of the points you made. I watched Silvia’s videos and was very impressed as I could not see my self, a ninth grader at Arapahoe High School doing something that educational or high quality for a school project let alone in my free time. I am usually worried about a hockey game the next weekend or the cheerleader in my science lab, not learning how to use an Arduino or a new computer program to do something productive. This sentence from your article really struck me “While you bathe in the warmth of your PLN with self-congratulatory tweets, Sylvia is sharing serious expertise with the world.” The fact that I am currently doing a PLN(Personal Learning Network) for my english class makes me think if you are calling out my teacher. PLNs are the first time I have been exposed to blogs and all of the blog posts we have had to summarize are sending the same general message of improving education with technology. 
 I respect Silvia’s devotion and love for what she is doing but she is one of few in our current education system. I, like many others in my class have just started to understand the art of blogging and personally I am pretty proud and then there are the kids like Sylvia who are clearly a level head and shoulders above kids like me when it comes to lust for knowledge. There has always been people like Sylvia who are fortunate enough to come form such supportive parents and has a love for learning and we call people like that over achievers or active learners. Its not meant to be an insult in fact the opposite but it helps show there is another side of the scale. Kids who come from divorced parents living off lower wages who cant afford home computers and struggle in school and life in general. We have to give both an equal opportunity for an education. Should we send them to different schools, or should take away Sylvia’s opportunities and give the challenged kids the same attention Sylvia needs or vis versa.   
And to the blogger responding:
Greetings from South Korea!
Thanks for reading my work and for taking the time to write. My article is indeed an indictment of many educators who fail to seize the remarkable capacity of children and help them go farther than they could have gone on their own. It’s not an attack on specific teachers, nor does it negate the value of blogging, although blogging is just a new place to write.
I don’t understand why you think that all kids could not profit from the experiences afforded Sylvia? Is it fair to blame kids for their parental involvement? Is that really determinative of a kid’s educational aptitude or achievement? As I said in the article (above), the reason we have school is to democratize such experiences and let more children benefit from them.
Few parents are chemists or conductors or sculptors or authors. School assembles people with a variety of expertise and makes them available to more kids.
Each Friday, 6 boys present on one selected PLN to the entire class. The presentations work on using good speaking skills:
  • Stand in the front of the class with your blog projected on the screen behind you
  • Present your blog entries
  • Talk about what you are reading, what matters from it, how does it connect to what we are doing in class, and how does it relate to the world around us?
  • Presentation must be organized- Use an organizational strategy to keep your presentation on track without reading from notes or the screen.
  • Make eye contact with audience
  • Must be creative and interesting: use attention getting opening and conclusion to tie ideas all together
  • You are not allowed to miss on your assigned presentation day!
  • Stand up straight
  • No fidgeting: keep arms and hands in good speaker positions
  • Referenced blog postings- connect similar blog postings under one thematic idea
  • Asked question of audience at end of presentation

During the presenter’s presentation, the classmates are giving feedback on the presenter’s individual blog.  Once the question has been asked at the end of the presentation, the gentlemen answer the presenter’s question while the presenter facilitates a group conversation.  We have conducted about 6 weeks of presentations.
This week began a new venture for the PLN presentations on Friday.  We Ustreamed out the presentations for the presenter to be able to self-assess and for others to watch what we are doing. 
The gentlemen had trepidations today knowing that others were going to watch what we were doing, but I think for our first go around, they did a good job.  We will see how the rest of the semester goes and carrying over this idea into second semester.  Here are some samples from today:

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

This I Believe Goes Global 2011

For the past four years, I have had my classes write their versions of National Public Radio’s “This I Believe” segment. I was introduced to this idea by a colleague and have been always impressed by what my students hold as their personal values and beliefs. Writing these essays has allowed for them to do something they don’t get to do all that often at school - express their heartfelt beliefs.

After writing the essays the first year, we submitted them to NPR, but we also decided to podcast them ourselves – no need to wait to see if NPR might choose to broadcast them. The writing was good at expressing their values, but once their voice was added to their written expression, WOW, it simply transformed that personal essay. Instead of the words simply being words, the words conveyed deeply held emotions. Now, this is the standard.

Here are some previous class examples:
Period 2 06-07
Period 5 06-07
Period 3 06-07
Period 2 07-08
Period 5 07-08
Period 3 07-08
Wiki 09-10
Wiki 10-11

We are approaching that time of year, when I am going to start the kids on this writing adventure, but this year I wanted to invite you in the blog-o-sphere to join us again. I want “This I Believe” to go global. I want my students to benefit not only from knowing what their peers believe, or what the other AHS classes believe, but to hear and see what the world values. What do kids elsewhere in the U.S. believe in? What do kids elsewhere in the world believe in? What do some of the learned professionals that I know believe in? I want my students to walk away from this experience realizing the power they have as professional writers as well as connecting to other teenagers and adults from around the world. I want to see them exchange ideas, foster relationships, and appreciate the variety of perspectives. Maybe you can challenge your principal, your school board members, your local politicians, heck, maybe your entire school. Maybe we can even get our President to write his own “This I Believe.”

So, how do we accomplish this? Karl Fisch, of course, is willing to be my master facilitator. He has set up a wiki (still a work in progress) that will provide the guidelines for the classes to follow. I am making Maura Moritz’s classes join us again, so there will be five classes (ninth grade, 14 and 15 years old) from AHS writing and podcasting their essays: Moritz 2, Moritz 4, Smith 3 and Smith 5. We are hoping to attract at least four other classes from around the world, one each to pair up with each of our four classes. If we get more than ffour classes that are interested, then we will try to pair up any additional classes with another class somewhere in the world.

If your class(es) are interested, please complete this Google Form with some basic information (your name, your email address, school name, location, grade level(s)/ages, how many classes, number of students in each class, and time frame that you’d like to do this) so we can setup those partnerships. (Our thinking is that pairing one class with one class will keep this from becoming too overwhelming for the students, although of course anyone can read/listen/comment to any of the essays on any of the wiki pages).

We will create a wiki page for each set of paired classes and each student will upload their written essay as well as their podcast (the podcast can either be uploaded directly to the wiki, or you can use a variety of other services for that and then link to them). Each pair of classes will be in charge of their own wiki page and we’ll use the discussion tabs on each page to give feedback to the students.

If you are an adult interested in writing a piece yourself, simply add them to the “adults” page on the wiki. I am hoping to get some notable edubloggers as well as my superintendent, CIO, and others to participate. It would also be helpful to include a brief bio so the kids can know who they are reading about.Obviously you don’t have to do this with us or on our wiki, you can create your own. But we thought it might be interesting and helpful to have one wiki that aggregated all these essays/podcasts, one place that students (and others) could visit to learn about beliefs all over the world. Wondering where to start? NPR has a number of education friendly links to help you along the process:

For Educators
For Students
Essay writing tips
How to contribute an essay to NPR

Timeline: For our honors classes we are going to start writing our essays, October 27th with a final due date of November 7th for their essay.  The week following their due date, they will begin podcasting their essays. The paired classes don’t have to match this timeline exactly (although that would be great), but we’re hoping they can have theirs completed by Thanksgiving so that the students can start commenting on each other’s essays /podcasts.But for other pairings you can set whatever time frame works best for you – that’s the beauty of the wiki, it’s a living document with no “end” to the assignment (although that’s why we need you to include your time frame when you email us so that we can try to match folks up). We would really appreciate any feedback (now or as this progresses) to make this an experience that is truly relevant and meaningful for these kids.