Monday, 18 July 2016

Pokémon Go

Just caught a Meowth!

I probably don't need to tell you that Pokémon GO is HUGE.  If you need a bit more help understanding it, here's some good information:

How to Play Pokémon Go
Official Site

It is definitely worth learning a bit more about this huge global fad.  Your students will be talking about it so it's nice to have the terminology sussed out and not look clueless.  Plus, it's fun!  And it gets my fifteen-year-old out from his bedroom.

There have been some cautionary tales however.

School Library Journal had a great article about how this might affect libraries - Pokémon Go:  What Do Librarians Need To Know?  They also had a link to a more advanced article about Pokémon GO.  WAY more advanced.

I've bought a few more Pokémon books as I'm sure demand for these will increase.  I've also found a few Pokémon colouring pages that students might like to use:

Super Coloring
Morning Kids! (this one has the Pokémon listed by number and it corresponds with those in your Pokédex).

Have you had a try yet?

Updates:  Just saw this fabulous post by the New Zealand Book Council - Gotta pun 'em all:  New Zealand books with Pokémon

And fortunately, we can use them if we want:

Here's a cool activity if you know your way around Google Maps:

Mark has now done a post about how to customise a Google Map.

This is a fantastic place for teaching ideas - Ways to use Pokemon Go in the Classroom

Other links:

Pokemon Go Brings Augmented Reality To The Mainstream

Here's The Inspiring Story Of The Creator Of Pokémon GO, John Hanke.
List of Pokémon (Pokédex)
Help! Pokemon Go isn't working: How to fix common Pokemon Go problems
Pokemon Go players: you have 30 days from signup to opt out of binding arbitration

Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week - Filming

For our Book Week this year, I have filmed six spy training videos and two news reports!  You can find out more about how this came about here.

I have no training in making videos, although I did make a couple years ago.  The image quality is awful, best not to make it full screen.  Fortunately, I have upgraded our video camera since then.

I have learnt a few things from my filming this year, that may be of use if you're ever indulging your Steven Spielberg tendencies:

  • Think about whether you want good actors or "friends of the library".  Every time I film I know the smart choice is to go for actors, but I end up picking "friends of the library".  If you are going to pick library people and not actors, then have personal knowledge of their capabilities, or hold auditions.  It is still really important that they be able to speak clearly and understandably.  
  • Don't be afraid to ask people to be in your video.  I only had one student turn me down, and even the principal agreed to join in.  Author Peter Millet also agreed to film a couple of short videos for me.  Never underestimate the power of a fun project.
  • Be mindful of the times that you are filming:  
    • I chose the weekends to cut down on external noise, but one Sunday there was a netball tournament on and we had to avoid the times they made announcements on their loudspeaker (fortunately they weren't on it constantly).
    • One of my filming sessions was in the late afternoon and during filming the sun moved and started streaming into our library from an angle which affected the quality of the film.
  • If you go outside, take your keys with you!  On one freezing morning, I took the boys outside to film and then couldn't get back in.  Fortunately, the aforementioned netball tournament was running and I was able to go to the other end of the school, beg for a key, and get back inside.
  • After you have hit the record button, use your fingers to count down from three before your actors start speaking, and give another count of three after they finish and before you push stop.  That will give you a bit of leeway if you want to use transitions between your scenes.
  • If you have a student filming, make sure they don't bump the camera during recording and check EVERY TIME that they have actually pushed the record button!
  • Make sure the students understand that they need to be familiar with their scripts!  I had a few tell me they hadn't read them....arrgghhh!  Also, reconfirm times with parents, I had a couple of students still at home when they were meant to be filming.
  • Have fun!  And don't expect perfection.  Don't compare your amateur school video with a professional production.  Depending on the time you have, it may be unrealistic to expect your actors to have memorised every line.
  • Be careful with the words you choose for the script, and don't be afraid to make changes.  One of our girls could not say the word "espionage" so I changed it to "spying".  After that, if I had harder words I spelled them phonetically in the script to make it easier for the students to learn.  I had the word "loitering" in one script and the students didn't know what it meant, which was a good indication it was not the right word to use.  I changed it to "lingering around".
  • Allow plenty of time for everything.  Writing a script, filming it and then editing it will take a lot more time than you think.  My scripts were around about a page and a half long, my videos have come out at about 5-6 mins long and that took about an hour and a half to film.  Editing has taken about that much time again (I'm still learning though, it might be quicker for those who know what they're doing!).
  • Let the students add their own ideas.  The kids were keen to add their own touches.  I was mindful of the content I needed to get across, but was happy to let the kids decide to spin their chairs around at the beginning, or add a sign-off, or create some extras for the bloopers video.
  • Oh yes, have a bloopers video!

The students have been very keen and have been good at keeping their scripts 'Top Secret'.  Some of them don't know who else is participating, some don't even know there is an author and news items involved - it's good to give them surprises as well!

I'm learning as I go and it won't be polished but it is fun and the students will enjoy seeing people they know pretending to be undercover spies with exotic code names!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week - The Beginning

Last year, I attended a SLANZA conference workshop by Cathy Kennedy about how she approaches Book Week at her school.  I was inspired by a number of her ideas, in particular choosing a theme and keeping activities manageable for teachers, so you're not adding too much to their workload.

I decided our theme should be "Spies and Detectives", which would then allow me to promote mystery books.  I didn't want to encroach on too much teaching time, so I thought about using our 'eating for learning' time, the ten minutes that the students spend eating their morning tea and lunch.  Perhaps I could have a series of little activities for the teachers to do.

Then I delved into learning about spies.  They are so cool!  In particular, I liked learning about various ways of encoding secret messages.

When it came time to choose an author to visit during Book Week, my first choice was Peter Millett, author of the popular Johnny Danger books.  Unfortunately, he's in Auckland and we're in Hamilton and we couldn't make it work.  In a decision he might come to regret, Peter said he liked our theme and offered to Skype in or to record a video answering questions from students.

At the same time, I had decided that we could have a spy school and teach various spy skills as well as promoting our spy and mystery stories.  But it would be more fun if there was a practical application for them - how about some secret messages for students to decode?  Of course that led to an idea to have a news item about treasure that's been stolen from the elves who live in the Reading Wonderland.  Our lovely artist, Jenna, agreed to come in the weekend beforehand and add some little elves to our mural.

I decided the only clue located at the scene of the crime could have different coded messages on it.  Then we could have some students introduce some short videos about codes that I could find on YouTube and show a different clip at each eating for learning time.  Only there weren't any videos that were the right length and handled the way I wanted, and isn't it better to have one code lead to another clue in a treasure hunt kind of way?  And then, what about other spy skills, shouldn't we teach them?  Oh, and we can't have a student teach about the codes anyway because then they might be able to decode them ahead of time...  And that, dear friends, is how you go from a simple idea to scripting, filming and editing two news reports and six spy training videos, with additional footage about codes provided by your principal dressed as 007!  Not to mention having the temerity to ask an author if he wouldn't mind filming a couple of short videos pretending to be head of the J.S.A - the Junior Spy Agency.  Although if you've read the Johnny Danger books its pretty apparent Peter has a good sense of humour!

So, that's what has been keeping me busy lately.  I have filmed all my spy training videos and just need to avoid having the police called in after sunset as my son dresses as a robber and uses a torch while breaking into the Reading Wonderland and taking off with the elves' treasure.  I think it may be a good idea to let my principal know what's going on ahead of time!  I think my filming experiences could fill another post, so watch out for that soon.

Book Week starts on 15 August and before then I still need to do all my editing and work on some activities for our younger students.  Once I've recovered from the event I'll do another post, update you on how it went and link to all my resources in case you want to do something similar.  That's all for now, remember, this information is extremely TOP SECRET!