Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Process for Reviewing Educational iPad Apps

Recently I kind of fumbled my way into reviewing educational iPad apps made by children's authors and indie developers, as I'm sure many of you have noticed the reviews I've posted on this blog. Whereas I'd never set out to do reviews for apps, I'm pretty happy now that I am. It's developed into kind of a hobby, if writing reviews could be considered a hobby. In any case, I thought it might be wise to share the process I go through when reviewing apps.

There are several steps to the process which I will list here, then discuss in more detail.

1. Acquire the app.
2. Test the app.
3. Read the About or Information section of the app.
4. Look for video reviews or demonstrations on YouTube.
5. Find the app on iTunes or Google Play.
6. Brainstorming ways to use the app in an educational setting.
7. Write the review.

Now, the details.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Storybook App: Grendel's Great Escape by Michelle Anaya

Grendel's Great Escape is a storybook app for both iPad and Android by children's author and creator of Blue Sandpiper Imprints, Michelle Anaya (@bluesandpiper).

Book Review: The Ninja Librarians by Jen Swann Downey

When I got my ARC of The Ninja Librarians by Jen Swann Downey (@jenswanndowney) over the weekend, I was thrilled. It seems like I waited forever to get approval for the ARC. I must admit, it was the title itself that attracted my attention. Ninjas are awesome! Librarians are awesome(r)!  Put the two together, and it’s an explosion of awesomeness. At least, that’s what was going on in my mind as I requested the preview of The Ninja Librarians from NetGalley.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My 2013 in Review

I don't normally reflect on the end of the year, but this year has been different for me. So I guess, in a way, taking a different approach to the end of the year by reflecting on it seems fitting.

During the course of 2013, I became more and more involved in social media for professional purposes. I threw myself into actively participating in Twitter chats with other librarians, teachers and ed tech specialists. These chats showed me how far behind I was regarding trends in education and technology. These conversations also allowed me to I develop more professional connections, with a few of them turning into friendships. In return, the new connections opened many doors for me, and I tried as much as possible to "pay it forward" by sharing with others when possible.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Book Review: Suitcase of Stars

Suitcase of Stars (La Bottega Battibaleno #1)Suitcase of Stars by Pierdomenico Baccalario
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley for a review.

I really enjoyed reading Suitcase of Stars. It's an interesting tale about a boy, Finley McPhee, who gets caught skipping school and must spend the summer working around his village as restitution. While working as a postman, Finley meets Aiby Lily, a girl surrounded by mystery and secrets.

Book Review: West of the Moon by Margi Preus

West of the MoonWest of the Moon by Margi Preus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of West of the Moon by Margi Preus from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

It almost feels like Preus wrote this book just for me. She took several of my favorite topics -- folk tales/fairy tales, religious and medical history, and historical fiction -- and wove them all together into this one amazing book.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We StayAnd We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book has really confused me when it comes to what rating to give it. Some elements of the book were great, some weren't so great.

Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Defy (Defy, #1)Defy by Sara B. Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not an avid reader of fantasy so I'm unfamiliar with other books in this genre. Therefore I can't compare it to other fantasy books. But overall it was a good read, though some elements of it need some work in my opinion. For example, it seemed like Alex/Alexa was strong as long as she thought everyone thought she was a boy. After that, she became very fragile and her peers felt like she needed to be protected.

There's a lot of talk about physical attraction from the main character when she sees her peers shirtless which gets a little tiring after a while but perhaps that's the author's way of portraying the main character's struggle with her identity as a girl pretending to be a boy.

The plot has lots of twists and turns which I think is great for keeping the reader going, wanting to find out what happens next.

From what I understand, this book is going to be part of a series. I look forward to reading more in the future because I'm interested in seeing how the story plays out. But I hope Alex/Alexa is stronger in future books.

Like I said, I'm not a real reader of fantasy, so I don't really know what to expect from this genre. But I probably would purchase this for my library's collection for those students who do enjoy fantasy -- because I'm sure many of them would be interested in this book.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 23, 2013

App Review: Roxie's Doors by OCG Studios (Plus a Giveaway!)

A few weeks ago, I just happened to be in the right place (Twitter) at the right time (Sunday, 8:00 p.m. CST) and stumbled across #storyappchat. Like the description says on its website, #storyappchat is a weekly chat on Twitter for people who are interested in making interactive storybook and ebook apps for kids. One of the participants was Roxie Munro, author and illustrator of several children's books.

An Early Christmas Present for Me...

Christmas came early for me today as I opened my email and saw a message from Discovery Education titled "Your DEN Star Application Status information."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

App Review: Boomer's Birthday Surprise by AlphaJade

Boomer's Birthday Surprise is the first in a series of  upcoming interactive story books from AlphaJade based on the Cheg and Boomer (@ChegandBoomer) characters. Best friends, Cheg and Boomer, are cute dinosaur-like characters, and we know how much kids love dinosaurs! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Reflecting on the Hour of Code

Now that book fair is over (and it was a very successful book fair!), it's time to reflect on library activities over the past couple of weeks, which included the Hour of Code (#HourofCode) and Brad Gustafson's (@GustafsonBrad) World Book Talk (#WorldBookTalk). This blog post will focus on the Hour of Code, while a separate blog post will be dedicated to the World Book Talk.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Giddy about Getting Book Into Readers' Hands

It's been a while since my last blog post, but at least I have good reasons, in my opinion, for falling behind. You see, the students and I have had a very busy month. We've been working on coding, making video booktalks to inspire others to read (I will blog about both of these projects later), and most importantly, enjoying our book fair.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Motivating Students with Movenote

Movenote  (@Movenote) is a pretty cool app that lets the user present slides and, at the same time, give a video presentation. I learned about Movenote from Rafranz Davis (@rafranzdavis) and I have it installed on my iPad. But I just recently found out that Movenote also lets you create presentations on the desktop. It's easy to see how Movenote lends itself to flipped instruction, but my friend and colleague, Jo Anne Reed (@JoReeding) has an even more innovative way of using Movenote.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Read Read Read a Book

Sung by 2nd Graders this morning in the library!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Informal Assessment and Creative Student Work with Apps

Inspired by some innovative librarians and technology specialists across Texas and the United States, I took advantage of some cool tools and let students get creative in the library this past week. I'd like to share which tools the students and I used, and how we incorporated them into library curriculum.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Owls, books, and research - oh my!

It's December, and that means it's time for students in all grade levels to prepare for the upcoming research project. But I'm adding a new twist to the introduction to the research process this year that will hopefully make the experience more enjoyable and meaningful for the students. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How Jeff Kinney Helps My Children Experience New Things

My son loves Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Absolutely loves it. He's only 8 years old, but he's already read all of Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid books. I love watching him read the books. As a librarian, I'm absolutely thrilled when he shares something funny from the books because it shows he's really engaged with the writing. My daughter is older and has a fondness for dystopian literature, but she still enjoys reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid just as much as my son does (or I do).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Audioboo in the Library

Over the past week, I've been playing around with all different kinds of apps. Audioboo was one of those, and I'm excited about the possibilities.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thankful for my PLN

I experienced something wonderful earlier this week, and it happened because of my Professional Learning Network (PLN). 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Some tips for beginning Flippers


This weekend I'm wrapping up a presentation about flipping the school library that I'll give to librarians in my school district next week. The presentation begins with the message shown here on the left. I chose to add this slide because, as a recently "flipped" convert, the memory of being overwhelmed and confused by all the options that technology offers is still pretty fresh in my mind. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Making Connections

Some of the books students explored in the library during National Picture Book Month. 
October was Connected Educator month, and you might be thinking about that when I mention the word "connections," but I'm actually talking about a different kind of connection - the kind we want our students to make with books. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Poverty vs. Technology

Web 2.0 technologies have been around for a while. Business and bloggers, for example, have been reaping the benefits of interactive platforms on the Internet for a few years now. Savvy educators are taking advantage of unique learning opportunities provided by Web 2.0 to help their students develop critical thinking skills, and the Flipped Classroom approach to instruction is revolutionizing traditional learning methods. Some schools are lucky enough to have a mobile device for each student in a classroom.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The EdCamp Experience

Yesterday I experienced my first edcamp.

For months, I had heard bits and pieces about edcamps from people I follow on Twitter, and the people who shared their edcamp experiences sounded excited, even (re)invigorated after having attended it. Naturally, their tweets piqued my curiosity. I started looking for edcamps in my area because I had to know what all the hype was about.