Tuesday, January 25, 2011

App Store Vent

Just a quick vent: I'm annoyed at Apple's App Store.

When I'm searching for apps, I want to be able to sort by rating. I don't have time to click through thirty different Spanish translator apps to find the one that gets the best reviews. Apple --  make my life easier!!! Let me sort by rating!

Okay, I'm done now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

App Update

It's been another month, and it's time for an app update! Here are the apps we're using on our iTouches and the ways we're using them:

8th Grade Social Studies (American History)

Puppet Pals ($.99) allows users to create and record animations in a snap. It can be used for a huge variety of curriculum. Our 8th grade social studies teachers are using it. The students will create animations where one character interviews another character (in this case, a famous reformer from the Progressive Era). It's great because it's so simple! Students hit record, then move the characters around on the screen and speak into the little headset microphone. The app records their actions and voices, and saves the animation in a movie file for easy playback. It is a little bit easier on the iPad with the bigger screen than the iTouch, but it should work. We also sprung for the "Director's Pack" - an in app purchase ($3.99) that adds a host of new characters and backgrounds to animate.

8th Grade English

"The Poetry Foundation" app (Free). We're using it for a poetry scavanger hunt. Hundreds of class and contemporary poets can be browsed in a "slot machine" type format. Pick a theme a the top - like "passion," "enthusiasm," and "optimism" and match it with a subject - like "nature," "youth" or "family" to find poems that match your mood. For example, selecting "passion" and "nature" returns 11 poems, including A boat beneath a sunny sky, When I was fair and young, and I saw in Louisiana a Live Oak Growing.

  • Poetry Everywhere app (Free). More scavenger hunting. This app from PBS features videos of famous, modern poets reading their work aloud.
  • America Poetry app ($.99). Another scavenger hunt app. It contains a database of American poetry organized by poet.
  • Poem Flow app (Free). Scavenger hunt. The app shows poems in animated lines of text.
9th Grade English

  • Romeo & Juliet 2.0 app ($.99). We'll be using it for their Romeo and Juliet unit. It's a parallel translation of the play. It also has a great "theme tracker" feature that shows when the plays' various themes are at work in the text.
Romeo and Juliet Audiobook app ($.99). Another one for the Romeo and Juliet unit. This is just a simple audiobook version of the text, but it does the job.

Special Education - Life Skills Classes

  • Produce Guide ($1.99). The life skills class started a unit on vegetables. Their reading level is low, and it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to find good web information about vegetables written at an appropriate level. The answer? An app! This app is the perfect reference guide for fruits and vegetables. The list is organized alphabetically with both words and photos of every entry. When you select a fruit or veg, it provides a description, tips on eating a story, nutrition facts, and information on seasonality. It's very brief and straight to the point -- perfect for these learners!
  • Fruits and Veggies Memory Game ($.99). A simple memory type game. Flip the cards over and try to match the vegetables. Can choose from three levels - a great way to differentiate "reward" activities based on ability level.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Downhill Slide

This is what our circulation statistics look like for the past three years (as long as I've been working here). The y axis is total number of loans for the month (excuse my lack of proper labels).

Humm...there seems to be a trend! We start off strong in September, and then it's a downhill slide from there. What gives? Is it the enthusiasm of new school year? Students getting bogged down with homework? Teachers lending books out of classroom libraries?

Whatever the cause, the results are a little disconcerting. I want those high numbers ALL. YEAR. LONG.

My goal: Get February's numbers back up. Probably not easy, considering it's a short month, and we miss a week of school for break. We'll come up with something, though.

Anyone else see a similar pattern in your school libraries??

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wii Fit Fridays

January is Wellness Month in our junior high building. The library is embracing Wellness month with displays, like our carrot character at the circulation desk, books, and activities.

As far as activities go, we're celebrating every week with Wii Fit Fridays. We hook up two Wii's in the library - one to a tv, the other attached to the LCD Projector. Students who visit the library during study halls and lunch time can use the Wii to play games like Wii Sports Resort and Wii Just Dance.

For the most part, it works out really well. The kids are excellent at taking turns and sharing. We've only had one minor incident over, of all things, Wii bowling, but ultimately not a huge deal.

At the end of the month the whole building will participate in a Wellness Day with activities like Zumba, yoga, ballroom dancing, and snowshoeing. Also, kids will meet with a panel of nutritionists and participate in a healthy food taste test.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

iTouch Mania

  • We've spent the last month experimenting with a **BRAND NEW** iTouch cart. I forgot to take a picture, but our cart looks exactly like this (image from Mindshift). The cart is stocked with 20 32 GB 3rd generation iTouches and a MacBook Pro for management.

I'm mostly happy with the set-up, though the cords connecting the iTouches to the hub aren't of the highest quality. We spend a lot of time wiggling and giggling to make sure they're connected for charging and syncing.

In addition to the twenty iTouches on the cart, I sometimes supplement them with two library iTouches and a library iPad, bringing our device total up to 23.

Whenever we roll out a new technology, it takes a while to figure out exactly how to use it with classes. Honestly, integrating the iTouches has been almost pain-free. They seem to work themselves seamlessly into our lives, and I'm not quite sure how we ever survived without them.

Here's a list of the things we've used them for over the past month:

• In Global Studies teachers are using an app called “Hokusai HD" ($.99). The app allows students to access hundreds of original works by the Japanese painter Hokusai. Students are examining the paintings to draw conclusions about Japanese geography, religion and culture.

• In 8th Grade Science, teachers are using the “Periodic Table Explorer” app (free) and the “EMD Periodic Table” app (free) to first presearch, and then research an element for a project.

• In 8th Grade Science, students will "Ragdoll Blaster 2" ($2.99) to complete a physics lab.

• In 8th Grade English, students are using the apps “WDYK: 100 Influential Black Americans” (free) and “Then and Now: Black History” ($1.99) to presearch and then research a famous African-American. This is part of a long-term blogging project.

• In Global Studies teachers are using the iTouch’s bookmarking features and image capturing capabilities to explore contributions from Ancient Greece.

Stay tuned as we continue to find new uses for this great technology.