The Sharing of Digital Science Books, part one

Today, I am going to begin sharing out a few of the digital science books my students have created over the last few weeks. I’ll also work on a final reflection later this week. Basically, students had to use the theme of Cell Mitosis (the science connection) and an adventure story genre with Powerpoint to create a digital book. I have taken a few of the books and converted them into video for easier sharing. (I use a paid software program called PPT to Video that converts powerpoint and maintains all transitions, sounds, etc.)

This book actually had some video embedded but that did not come out. I guess the conversion program has its limits.

Here is the first:

Peace (in the books),

Gathering Feedback on Digital Science Books

I had my students take an online reflection last week as the final stage in the Digital Science Picture Books (on cell mitosis) after we shared the books with other students. We may yet do more sharing next week. Here are some of the results of the survey. These questions tried to get at the use of technology in creating a book project.

Click on the image to get a larger viewing.

My own interpretation is that my students are becoming much more adept at using the technology to create the books and much more comfortable. I had more use of audio and more use of embedded video, and more ease of these tools than in past years. It may be that I am getting better at structuring the lessons, or that they are more comfortable with the tools, or that they are unafraid to try new things. They seem pretty fearless, for the most part, when it comes to using the computer as a tool for composing a book. I like that and wish more teachers were like that, too.

Peace (in the results),

The First of the Digital Science Picture Books

This week, our digital science book project will be coming to a close as deadlines loom (and get extended). This is the first book that has been completed. The audio is not online, but it is a good example of some of the work being done by my students as they create digital books with cell mitosis as a theme for adventure:

Peace (in pictures),

More from the Digital Book Project: The Mitosis Rap

So, as some of you know, we are in the midst of writing and creating digital science books on the theme of Cell Mitosis. I keep extending the deadline, but early this week, the completion date will be final. It’s an odd balance of pushing them to keep making progress and leaving enough time for good quality work. I want them to be proud of what they are creating, but we can’t take months to do it. (Technology almost always adds a time element that is difficult to judge).

One group has been working on a rap song video, which they will be embedding inside their book to be viewed by the characters of their book. I was hoping more groups would move in this direction, but not too many have done so (more time?). Many are adding audio elements to the books and there is plenty of animation going on (more than in the past).

I have a Google Form that they will be using as their final reflections and then we will work on sharing the books with other students in our school (at least other sixth graders and maybe we will invite in fifth graders too. These books are not for younger students, however. The science is too complex, I think).

So, here is the Mitosis Rap from two very creative girls — take a listen too:

Mitosis Rap

Little Johnny fell down
And scraped his knee
Started screamin’ like crazy
Sayin’ someone help me
Sure his mama patched ‘im up
With some tape and glue
But the mitosis part is up to you

Let’s here you say!
Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase,
Anaphase, Telophase, and somewhere
In between comes Cytokinesis

You’ve spent most of your
Life in Interphase
Floatin’ around
Duplicatin’ DNA!!!!!!!!!!
P-P-P-P Prophase
It’s the time when the
Nucleolus disappears Along
With the nuclear membrane!

Let’s here you say!
Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase,
Anaphase, Telophase, and somewhere
In between comes Cytokinesis

After the spindle fibers
Start to form
It’s time for Metaphase to
Come on strong
Linin’ things up like a
Drill Sergeant

Peace (in cell division),

When the teachers sing … in protest of tests

The other day, I shared some lyrics I was writing for our school Talent Show. Each year, a bunch of staff members get together and perform. I re-wrote the words to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” to become “I’m So Bored” to offer up some solidarity to our students now in the midst of many hours of state testing.
We performed last night. Here we are (that’s me, with the soprano sax):

If you want to read the lyrics I wrote, here they are.

Peace (in protest),

ToonDoo Comics for Education

ToonDoo - the online comic cartoon strip creator!I have written about the ToonDoo comic site before, but they are now experimenting with a beta version for students. It is a closed-off classroom site and this morning, I got my administrative information and I am in the process of setting things up for my students to use. I imagine it will be a fee-based system later, but I love the many aspects of ToonDoo and see many possibilities.

Here is my classroom ToonDoo site — — and as I progress with it, I will report out on how it is going.

One of the things I like about ToonDoo, besides its simplicity, is that it is more than just a comic creation site. You can alter photographs, create your own crop of characters, re-edit your comic (or a friend’s comic), and think about art and writing together in new ways. ToonDoo is not the only site doing this, of course, so you may want to explore around a bit. My complaint with ToonDoo has always been that I did not want kids to be able to search around the public forums for adult comics (not that I ever found anything inappropriate, but still …) and this walled-off community for just the classroom seems like a good answer.


Peace (on the virtual funny page),

A Music Video Look into Digital Science Books

I had my students upload some of their illustrations from their developing digital picture books on cell mitosis into a class account and then I grabbed the pictures and put them into Animoto for a neat little music video. I love the characters they are developing (and see if you can spot the “fork in the road” that will force a cell character to divide – ie, mitosis — and take both paths on their adventure).

Peace (in the class),

PS — It occurs to me that I should also be promoting the new book collection that I helped to edit with some distinguished professors. It is called The New Writing: Technology, Change and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom (by Teachers College Press and NWP) and it looks at writing, technology and assessment in the classrooms Kindergarten through college. I mention it here because the chapter I wrote is all about the digital picture book project.

Observations from the Classroom

My students are hard at work on their digital science picture books (a fictional journey adventure story with the theme of cell mitosis) and here are some observations from yesterday:

  • I’ve been doing minilessons around powerpoint and animation so that they don’t feel overwhelmed by the technology and I am trying to listen to their questions and then create the lessons around those concepts (sort of backwards design lesson planning). One team asked how they could create a television set with moving video, so I showed all the students how to use a Flip video and embed the video, using Paint to create the actual television set.
  • When I realized that one group is really interested in singing songs and basing their story on High School Musical and Grease, I took some time to show everyone how to use Audacity. You can do audio right in powerpoint, but the quality stinks. Audacity for some of the projects where audio is front and center is a much better choice.
  • One facet of the project is to link their book to the web, so we went over how to search for science-related sites and how to link to those sites right in their book. I then explained how you could easily create a Follow the Adventure story, with parallel story lines and paths right in powerpoint. I saw a few light bulbs go off, but I am not sure if anyone will give it a try.
  • I need to remind them not to spend all of their time with the illustrations. Some of the artwork is fantastic, but we don’t have months to work on this project. Some students will get so caught up in the art that they lose track of everything else.
  • Yesterday, my colleague Gail (who teaches kindergarten) brought in an end of the year book project from when my students were in kindergarten, and it was a nice connection to how we use art and stories for literacy. They got a kick out of seeing their old work, particularly in light of what they are doing right now.
  • The storyboards have proven critical to keeping focus on the work. And I am having them write their draft of their stories in Word, so they can easily proofread and edit the story, before copying-pasting the text into powerpoint. A side benefit is that they always have a master file of their story in case something happens to the powerpoint book.
  • I’m watching the students who have teamed up with others on this project. I warned everyone early on that they should not choose a partner who will be a slacker, and they did a good job. Two of my students who have proved themselves to be detrimental to group work this year were rejected (I monitored it closely), went off by themselves, only to be invited into a team by someone else. The surprise is that these two are working harder than I have seen them work all year, perhaps grateful to be asked into a team and realizing that their goofing off and inability to focus on work has a negative impact.
  • I’m already thinking of more extension activities: using Voicethread to create an alternative version of their book (without the animation, so it will require some editing for a new medium); creating a webcomic review of their book; and …. any ideas?

I am going to try to collect some of the digital artwork being done and create an animoto video montage — should be fun.

Peace (in the books),