Though I spent years as an elementary school teacher and school media specialist, then as a children’s librarian in a public library system, it was with YALSA that I really found my niche as a librarian. I love working with teens, and I’ve learned so much from my peers.
Now when I see an email from YALSA, I’m quick to read it. I believe the collaborative grants YALSA has with Dollar General are some of the best. When I read in the spring about the $1,000 Digital Literacy Equipment Grant, I knew it was just what my school library needed.
We have some great makerspace tools in the media center, but a number of them would be more useful with digital apps. Our one iPad, however, was too old to install apps, and it only came with the basics from however-many-years-ago. I knew we weren’t getting enough from the technology we had.
I would have used my personal phone and/or iPad mini, but the district no longer puts employee devices on the wifi network (a ban since lifted). Our media center is directly in the middle of the school—and on the first floor. It’s a dead zone for any Internet-based technology not on the network.
Cue the hero music–I knew just what we could use with that $1,000 grant opportunity! I’d solve both problems with a couple of the most recent iPad minis (I like the friendly size of the minis), get sturdy shockproof cases for both, and give the students practice with an Apple pencil, too. This was cutting it close to the $1,000 limit, but I figured if I went over budget, I’d chip in the rest. Teachers are always paying out of pocket for students and I’m no exception!
School was out in mid-June when I discovered that our media center was one of the libraries selected for the grant. Oh, and I was reminded that we’d need to do a project, using our new grant equipment, to promote the Teens’ Top Ten book awards. I was actually in Arizona on vacation when I had to sign the paperwork before the deadline (thanks, Mom, for printing the contract for me!).
While awaiting the funds, I thought through the best way to create the project. It was going to be difficult—school would be starting, and the teachers were getting to know their students and establishing routines. The start of a school year is always busy, and I had new responsibilities, too. What I also have, though, is a supportive school administration, a great working relationship with an understanding English Language Arts teacher who always puts reading first, and my regulars: students that frequent the media center (even multiple times a day) for books to read.
I notified YALSA that we would make a digital book about the Teens’ Top Ten nominee titles, using the Book Creator app, and that it would incorporate the use of green screen pictures and videos using the Green Screen by Do Ink app.
First, we created the basic digital book in Book Creator. After considering—and trying—a few options, we kept it simple: an image of the cover along with the title and author on the left side of each two-page spread and a video for that book on the right. With 25 nominated books, that meant a 52-page book with the front and back covers!
Then we used the Green Screen by Do Ink app. The app uses layers to create the composite image. One layer is the main part of the video: we used videos of students standing in front of the makerspace’s green screen. The middle layer is the background image or video—the part replacing the green screen. Although we didn’t do this, another layer with animation or other features could be added.
After a few failed attempts, we decided to prerecord one video for each nominated book using the iPad’s installed Camera app. I gave each student an annotation for a nominated title. The students practiced reading their annotations—and discovered how difficult it is to speak when you’re in front of a camera!
We selected an image or a video to be used as the background layer for each book’s final video. It had to match the feel of the story. It was fun trying to decide the best way to capture the theme of each book. Pixabay is a great source for images that can be legally used. Some artists allow free use of their videos, too. Continue reading