The following is a guest blog post by Cynthia Stogdill, a middle school librarian who loves reading, technology, and gently shaking the world with new ideas. She is a co-founder of the Nebraska Education Chat and the Midwest Librarian Chat on Twitter. She is also a University of Nebraska-Omaha adjunct faculty instructor. She has presented on Google Apps for Education, Twitter for Librarians, Social Media Branding, and Technology Tools in Assessment. Cynthia loves to share great resources to support teachers and students in continuing to learn, share and collaborate everyday.
I am always looking for ways to breathe new life into old tasks. I love to shake things up and create something unexpected. Last spring, I discovered Buncee through a post by Shannon Miller. I tinkered with the app and the web-based tool, and I loved it. The AASL Standards are always in mind when I am working with students. Buncee offered a resource which could address several standards, as well as our state ELA standards. These include inquiry, drawing conclusions and creating new knowledge, ethical use of information, collaboration, and expression of a love of reading.
Known for my vigorous arm twisting, I approached two sixth grade writing teachers with the idea to skip written reading responses and give Buncee a try.
In order to meet their requirements and give students a boost in digging deep, we came up with a plan to create Buncee presentations based on the novels they were reading. Students were asked to create a three slide presentation. The first slide was their digital poster, and the second slide was their written explanation of images, text and links found on the digital poster. Finally, slide three was a list of sources used in their presentation. I created an example to share with students when we introduced the project.
One of the things we love about Buncee is the ability to differentiate the project for our students. Some of our students started with the iPad app and others used the website. The Buncee app is a simpler version of the web resource. This worked well for our students who might be overwhelmed with all of the gadgets and functions of the web version. It also allowed some students to record their voice and take their own photos, later moving to the web version.
Initially, we introduced Buncee to the students and spent part of a class exploring the functions and resources, including how to create links and citation for web images. I love that the web image function links back to the original source of the image. This was a great discussion topic as we addressed using web images, as well as uploaded photos. Ethical use of information and images is always a topic I include when introducing a technology tool to students. This was a great opportunity to have that conversation in the midst of the creative process.
We asked students to design their digital poster based on the novel with the expectation they would write a narrative to explain each component, image, and link. This made their design choices very deliberate and thoughtful. Students returned to reading their novels but had the Buncee process embedded in their minds. As they began thinking about how they would re-create their novel as a Buncee project, there was a shift in thinking, which guided the choices students made about their novels. Some students felt they needed to change books, because there wasn’t enough substance in their current selection. As their librarian, I was doing a small happy dance in the hallway as they searched for new books with deeper meaning.
Supporting Each Other
During one work day, I joined students to provide technical support and offer suggestions. However, one of the greatest thrills of teaching students a new process is watching them run with their knowledge, support their peers, and produce new knowledge which inspires us all. During the course of the project, I answered countless student and teacher emails with questions, and “Did you know?” thoughts. Real time chats with Buncee technicians kept us moving forward. Demonstrating authentic problem solving and collaborating was priceless. Our experience with our Buncee friends was supportive, fun and friendly.
At the conclusion of the project, students presented their Buncees to the class. In addition to the teacher’s grade, the student audience also offered their positive comments. I loved this component of the project and that Buncee was a part of that experience. Each student ended their presentation with a pile of sticky notes with supportive comments from peers. I hope the pile of sticky notes felt like getting a Buncee in an email complete with a cute envelope and an implied hug.
As much as I love cool gadgets, I am not a fan of technology for its own sake. We have limited time and lots of ground to cover. Reflecting on our initial project, we felt our students experienced a deeper sense of the material they read and interacted with it in a more meaningful way. Students could identify the literary components, themes, and symbolism, by making connections using images, links, videos, and creative design which they incorporated into an authentic project they were passionate about. Buncee provided our students an avenue toward knowledge production and creating an artifact with a deeper understanding of the content. Our great writers were able to continue to grow, and our more visual students were able to express themselves while also improving their craft as writers. They gained some presentation experience and some confidence in sharing their thoughts with others.
As their librarian, I was ecstatic over their thoughtful reading choices, and the lengths they went to share their experiences and connections to what they read. Buncee also provided a power pack of tools for meeting standards. The revised Nebraska ELA standards now have technology, digital citizenship, and inquiry embedded into them. I felt confident in our goal to address multiple Nebraska and AASL components in one project. Instead of becoming bogged down in skills, we were able to move from information collection to knowledge production.
Always mindful of the budget, I love free resources. However, I was confident in the added components when we moved to the paid version. The teachers loved using the dashboard and assignment features. We continued the reading response projects this year with a new group of six graders using the PLUS version. In addition, we are planning to expand on a fiction writing task with a Buncee project including student written poetry and character sketches. The projects will center on their piece of writing and include a link to the student’s original written document.
Based on our success with the initial sixth grade project, I was excited to expand the Buncee experience. This spring I was thrilled to convince one of our master teachers in the eighth grade to try a similar project with a class novel. We asked the students to create a Buncee project with a visual presentation and links to outside websites expanding on the novels many themes. Once again, they amazed us with their insight and thought.
I love resources which provide students with authentic and meaningful experiences, while inspiring creativity and a love of learning. Buncee allows for all of this and more. I was thrilled when my students dubbed me the Mayor of BunceeTown, and the title came with a crown.