Sunday, October 28, 2012

SLJ Summit 2012 - resources to follow

This past weekend the School Library Journal held its 5th annual SLJ Summit. This year's theme was Advocacy and the e-volution: Creating stronger schools through stronger libraries. I followed the conversation through Twitter posts and was very happy that SLJ has already started posting resources to share with the broader world.

I am particularly interested in how librarians can be at the forefront of the Common Core conversation. My own elementary school is very interested in how the CCSS will be adopted locally, particularly in math. Our district recently adopted the TCRWP curriculum for reading at the elementary schools, and so there is a general feeling that the CCSS does not add much new. But I think that it will ask elementary students to continue focusing specifically on the text as they draw conclusions about their reading. There will certainly be continued focus on increasing our students' nonfiction reading at the elementary level, preparing them for moving into strong nonfiction reading at the upper levels.

The SLJ Summit had a special focus on Saturday, the "summit within the summit" on librarians at the center of the Common Core. On the resource page, SLJ includes an interesting handout from Dr. Mary Ann Capiello on Nonfiction at the Fore of the Common Core. Dr. Capiello is a professor at the Graduate School of Education, Lesley University and she is one of the authors of the Classroom Bookshelf Blog. She is also part of the blogging team at The Uncommon Core, another blog I am adding to my blog reader. This resource is an excellent snapshot of ways we can get the word out to teachers and our learning communities about using high-quality nonfiction trade books to support Common Core State Standards.

Two other resources I want to mark to follow up at a further point in time are:

Considering my own perspective

I so appreciate the chance to connect with classmates and hear their own perspectives on the reading and learning we are doing. We are starting to converse more fluidly about our reading in our small group. But I am also reading other classmates' blogs. I particularly appreciated the perspective shared by Allyson B. in her blog post on MLIS Musings.

My class on research methods is challenging me quite a lot right now, with a heavy dose of social science research outside of my comfort zone. I am so rooted in my own particular perspective as a school teacher and school librarian, that I find it very difficult to imagine doing sociological or ethnographical research of the sort described in our reading. One researcher pretended to be a kindergartner for an extended period to try to understand the social dynamics of these young children. Another researcher is trying to understand the ways teens interact on internet chat sites, and so is lurking on sites, trying to be accepted as a teen.

Allyson talked about how researchers bring their own perspectives to research, and this can influence the way we see data around us. For example, Allyson is very excited about the prospect of convincing school leaders that students should be able to use their own personal devices to further their learning. But this enthusiasm might influence the way she goes about her research. As she notes, a thorough, well-balanced literature review can help the researcher approach the subject more neutrally. She was interested in an article that noted that increased expenditures in technology have not necessarily meant increased student performance, if they were also combined with decreased staffing or poor teaching.

I also am prone to suffering from similar enthusiasm with technology. I'm very excited by the opportunities for reading iPad book apps that combine many types of learning: print, audio, video, and interactive features. I love watching students explore these different types of book apps. But I need to think critically about what they bring to students' learning, and not just embrace them as a new shiny toy. I am hoping that my literature review will encompass studies of CD-ROMS and older forms of multimedia learning.

Bogie, A. (2012). "Research journal - reflecting on personal bias." MLIS Musings. Blog post on October 20, 2012. Retrieved from

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thinking about my research question

I am wrestling with my research topic for my literature review and research proposal for my Research Methodologies class at SJSU. I'm fascinated by the way that iPad book apps combine many types of reading and learning. I would like to delve into understanding how children respond to digital reading, especially multimedia, multimodal types of reading. But this research is just beginning to emerge. So for my initial literature review, I've had to broaden the scope of my topic to investigating digital reading more broadly.

I'd like to keep in mind the key questions that Dr. Josepch Stetar (2009), of Seton Hall University, posed in his Slideshare "Developing Research Questions".

Criteria for identifying research problem:

  1. Must be interesting enough to hold my interest 
  2. Must be within my range of competence. 
  3. Must be a manageable size 
  4. Must have some basis in theory—ie, topics found in the lit review 
  5. Must have the potential to make an original contribution—can’t be a duplicate of something that’s already been done. 
  6. Must be based on obtainable data—research plan must be viable and practical. 
  7. Must permit me to demonstrate my independent mastery of both subject and research method

Clearly, I have a long way to go. At the moment, I am interested in seeing how I would extend on the research started by the Cooney Foundation (Chiong, et al., 2012), but extending it to school-aged children. The Cooney Foundation research focuses on children ages 3-6 and how they read book apps with their parents. I'm interested in how children ages 6-10 read book apps, the ways that they absorb information, interact with the digital elements, and comprehend the story/information. I really want to know whether book apps appeal to children because they seem so much like games and movies, or if they are drawing children into a book-like experience.

I wonder if Slater would argue that my topic is still too broad, that I need to focus it down more to just one or two variables. I suppose the Cooney research from 2012 (Chiong, et al., 2012) did this by comparing comprehension from a print, ebook and enhanced book app for similar books. I can see doing this with the Magic School Bus: Oceans book, which has a print and excellent iPad book app - perfect for a 6 to 9 year old.

The dilemma that I'm facing is that there is very little research out there right now on this specific topic. So to meet the literature review element of my assignment (15 or more scholarly articles), I need to look more broadly at digital reading. One of the aspects I will examine is how other researchers have structured their investigations into students digital reading, say with Kindles.

I'm curious if theoretical articles that define and identify issues within this area are a part of the literature survey. They are not other studies, per se, but they lay an important foundation, especially in this developing field.

Ahh, much to ponder. But it's certainly holding my interest!

Chiong, C., Ree, J., Takeuchi, L. and Erickson, I. (2012). Comparing parent-child co-reading on print, basic and enhanced e-book platforms. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Spring 2012. Retrieved from

Stetar, J. (2009). Developing Research Questions. Slideshare. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Toontastic: a pilot study examining creative play with an iPad app

My kids have loved playing with Toontastic, an iPad app that kids use to create their own animated stories. We only played with it in the early days of the app, and it's grown by leaps and bounds. I was very interested to read a new pilot study by Launchpad Learning, the company behind Toontastic. Andy Russell, one of the co-founders of Launchpad, and Alicia Chang, a Cognitive and Developmental Psychologist working with Launchpad Toys to research how kids are learning through cartoon creation, wrote about their study on the Joan Gantz Cooney Center Blog.

It's interesting to see the nonprofit Cooney Research Center is writing about a company's research, but I think it shows how seriously Launchpad Learning takes its focus on educational creative play in the digital age. Launchpad Learning developed a two-pronged study, both examining over two million cartoon created on Toontastic by over 600,000 kids, and examining semi-structured play sessions in a fourth grade classroom.

In the semi-structured play session, the fourth graders were divided into small groups of two or three students and asked to create a story about peer relationships over the course of one week. The study resulted in several observations, notably:

  • Students used recurring characters more as the week progressed, suggesting that they developed a sense of cohesive story arcs and character development over time.
  • As the students spent more time on their stories, they explored more emotional highs and lows, adding more depth and color to their stories.
  • Students used more descriptive language and distinct character voices as time progressed.

All of these results reflect what I've observed with this app. It is not a quick and dirty app, but one that works best if kids have more time to develop their stories. If kids just have 30 or 40 minutes to work with it, they'll certainly have fun manipulating the puppets and recording their voices. But it's hard work making a cohesive story! It takes time, experimenting, and creative thinking.

Russell and Chang conclude by connecting the key components they've studied to the standards set out in the Common Core State Standards Initiative. I completely agree with that. I'd love to figure out a way to have our students be able to use this app. But a huge barrier in my experience is having the time for students to plan their stories, experiment with the app, and then craft their final products. Time is precious in a classroom, and there is never enough of it.

Russell, A. and Chang, A. (October 4, 2012). "Pilot study: Creative play with Toontastic." The Joan Gantz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Blog. Retrieved from

For more information, see:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Action research - using a wiki to collaborate and gather information

I do find the idea of action research the most intriguing and appealing of the different approaches to research I've studied so far. I know that other qualitative and quantitative approaches are important, but I cannot imagine going down those routes myself.

Shannon Burger and Mary Ann McFarland, from Southwest Middle School,Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, had very interesting comments on their approach to action research. As Burger and McFarland (2009) write, "Action research can be used for the analysis and reflection of everyday problems in the practitioners specific situation versus traditional research, which aims to formulate general statements that are broadly applicable." As a teacher librarian, I think action research is part of my daily life on an informal basis. I'm always trying to put together my thoughts on what works and what doesn't. The problem is that I don't often have - or take - the time to write down my observations and solidify or extend my thinking on them. So these in-the-moment observations can get lost in the hustle-bustle of daily life.

Burger and McFarland describe the way they used their wiki to collaborate on their action research. The wiki gave them a shared space to record their observations, gather linked resources, and comment on each other's work. As they note, by sharing information on the wiki, they were then able to use their time in face-to-face meetings much more effectively to problem solve and brainstorm.

I have used PBworks, the wiki that Burger and McFarland used, for several projects both for work and for SJSU classes. But I had not thought of these wikis quite so formally as a way to gather and share data on an action research. This is a very interesting suggestion to keep in mind.

Burger, S. and McFarland, M.A. (2009). "Action research and wikis: an effective collaboration." Library Media Connection. 28(2): 38-40. Retrieved from

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Scholastic's David Levithan on digital reading and transmedia

Librarian, book sellers and publishers are all wondering how children will take to digital reading. It's clear that children are not taking to ereaders in the same way that adults are. In part, children still get the majority of their books from libraries that are invested in print books. Public libraries are expanding their digital collections, but are putting the vast majority of their digital resources in adult books. In my area, public libraries have quite small digital ebook collections for children. But I think there's more to it than that.

Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director of the Digital Book World, recently interviewed Scholastic's David Levithan about digital reading and transliteracy. Levithan is the editor at Scholastic who helped develop the concept for the 39 Clues and the new Infinity Ring, two series that spur children to move between print books, websites and online games. But Levithan is also a best-selling YA author, of such hits as Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Every Day.

Here are some highlights I want to take away from this interview:
  • Publishers are seeing significant digital sales for their YA ebooks, but children's digital sales are still in their infancy. Publishers are particularly interested in the adult-YA crossover for digital books.
  • Scholastic broke ground with its 39 Clues multiplatform transliteracy experience, building and developing this in-house.
  • They are seeing that kids who are hooked on playing digital games with multi-platform series are also hooked on reading the print series. They are growing readers as part of this experience.
  • "It's about finding as many canvasses for storytelling as possible."
Greenfield, J. (2012). "Scholastic's hit-maker on Hunger Games, digital reading and transmedia." Digital Book World, August 24, 2012. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Using Twitter to build a professional learning network - a report from #KidLitCon12

I have been astounded by the connections I've made through social media, connecting to authors, teachers, librarians and others who are passionate about helping children find books that speak to them.

This past weekend, I attended KidLitCon in New York City - it's an annual conference for bloggers who write about children's literature. It was a weekend of goodness, and one highlight was listening to Teri Lesesne (rhymes with "insane") talk about using Twitter to build a professional learning network. Teri pulled together so much of what I've experienced over the past year with Twitter.

Teri Lesesne (@ProfessorNana on Twitter),  often known as "the Goddess of YA", is a professor of children’s and YA literature at Sam Houston University.  Teri was inspiring, informative and funny as she shared how social media, and Twitter in particular, has enriched her professional life. At its essence, Twitter is about connecting people who share common interests and enabling quick, meaningful conversations. Through her extensive network, Lesesne is able to reach out to teachers, school librarians, authors, publishers, editors and more to learn about children’s books. These are educated stakeholders who share information, experience and advice on an informal, collegial manner.
Twitter continues to grow at astounding rates, attracting its largest demographic from women and from people ages 22-55 years old. Its usage has doubled within the last twelve months.

With more limits on professional development funds, it is essential that we invest time and effort in developing our professional network in ways that don’t rely on attending conferences.

Lesesne recommends finding a few trusted voices, following their conversations and exploring who they’re talking with. John Schumacher (@MrSchuReads), Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks), Paul Hankins (@PaulWHankins) and Katherine Sokolowski (@katsok) all are excellent choices. Start by listening to their conversations and exploring links they share, but then try jumping in and adding your perspective.

Finally, Lesesne recommended checking out a regular Twitter chat such as #titletalk. Titletalk is a monthly chat hosted by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, held on the last Sunday of every month at 8pm Eastern time. Each month, teachers and librarians from across the US (and beyond) gather on Twitter to share their favorite children's books. Just last weekend, the Titletalk focused on book talking as a way to recommend books (archive available here). One great way to follow a Twitter chat such as this is using the website TweetChat.

Check out more of Lesesne's excellent points through her SlideShare presentation. Follow her on Twitter (@ProfessorNana) - she shares a wealth of information. And stop by her blog (Professor Nana) to get great reading recommendations.

I really enjoy using Twitter to connect with librarians, teachers and children's book lovers. It's a wonderful resource for when I'm trying to think of new titles to share with kids. And the best is connecting with others who are just as excited about sharing books. Come say hi to me on Twitter if you get a chance - I'm @MaryAnnScheuer.