Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Tasting and Aurasma

Today we had our very first book tasting in the library. It was a collaborative effort between myself and the English II teachers on campus. The English II team approached me about an upcoming choice read and asked how we might be able to get students interested in the different books on their list. One of the other librarians in our district had just shared her successes with a book tasting at the intermediate level and so I made the suggestion that we try something similar. This was a truly collaborative "lesson" between the teachers and myself and is really one of the first I've had at the high school since this is my first year. I'm pleased to say that today was a success. We still have one more day to go, but I thought that while it is all still fresh in my mind I should go ahead and write about the experience.

The English II team had a list of books in mind that covered a variety of genres, but asked if I had any suggestions to add to their list. I offered a couple that came immediately to mind and we added them to the options for the choice read. The teachers liked to limit the book choices and have students work in collaborative groups with the same book, so we only had 8 books on our list for the book tasting. The titles chosen included Jackaby, A Captain's Duty, The Unhappening of Genesis Lee, Fahrenheit 451, The Program, Deadline, Eleanor & Park, and 12 Mighty Orphans. Because of the controversial nature of some of these books the teachers also sent home permission slips with the titles of the books.

At first we decided to simply give the students time to explore each book at a table. However, as we thought about just leaving students to their own devices with a single book for a 5 minute span, we realized that there needed to be some accountability and an activity of some sort. We initially brainstormed the idea of a short scavenger hunt, but then I attended the LITE conference in Dallas for librarians and TCEA, and rediscovered Aurasma. Although I'd heard about it before and knew that augmented reality could be an amazing tool in class, I'd not yet taken the time to really learn it. In my sessions at the two tech conferences, I learned details on how to actually create an Aura. I came back to school bursting with an idea on how we could use Aurasma as part of our book tasting.

My colleague at the Intermediate School had also had a food table as part of her book tasting. We also thought that would be a neat idea, but with 8 books and only 45 minutes, we weren't sure how we could make that happen and get instructions out to the students. The problem was solved by coming up with a food item or candy for each book. The students would "taste" the book and have a small taste of something yummy at the same time. While I create the Auras to use for each book, the teachers brainstormed a specific food that would relate to the book being explored by students.

Next we had to identify a way to hold students accountable for their exploration. I did some searching and found several different evaluation tools or score sheets that students could use to evaluate the book based on the cover art, the summary on the back or inside, quotes, a few pages, and a book trailer. We modified one of the evaluation tools to meet our needs and created a new document. Students ranked their interest of the book based on each of these as 1: Strongly Disagree, 2: Agree, 3: Strongly Agree. For example, I was drawn to the book based on the cover, or I wanted to read more after reading the first sentence. Students were also asked to write one or two words that summed up their first impression of the book. When in the library the students were told that the teachers would assess them based on the completion and accuracy of their evaluation sheet. This helped ensure that the students took the activity seriously rather than a "blow-off" library activity.

Finally we had to determine the logistics of how we would get 30 students through 8 stations to evaluate and develop an opinion on the one they'd best like to read in just 45 minutes. After the introduction, each rotation was about 3-4 minutes with the first rotation as 5 minutes to give students a chance to get used to Aurasma and to troubleshoot any problems with devices or the app. Once students were familiar with Aurasma, they were typically able to complete the short exploration & evaluation within 4 minutes. We also had students download the app in advance, create an account, and follow my account. This was vital! If students do not follow the account of the person who created the aura, they cannot get the aura to connect and become interactive.

The teacher placed students in groups based on their seating arrangements in class. This resulted in about four students in each group. On each table was a set of table-tent cards. One was the table number, the next was the instructions (in case they forgot), and the third was the type of food at their table. We also had a copy of the book and 4 laminated 5x7 pages showing the front cover. These and the book served as the targets for the Auras I'd created. The students had time to scan the book cover with Aurasma, watch the book trailer, look at the cover & summaries, and then fill out their evaluation sheet before we called time for them to move. I kept track with a timer and both the teacher and I walked around the tables talking to students about the books & making sure everyone was following the rules.

Last, on each table was a bowl with the candy or food item and 4 ziploc sandwich bags. I had a spoon in each bowl to help students put a "taste" of the food in their bag to eat. We also had a small bottle of hand sanitizer on each table as well. Before beginning, we went over our expectations of what students would do with the book and what they would do with the food. I emphasized that this was not a meal, but a tasting only. That meant that students should take one spoonful of the candy or just a few pieces rather than handfuls to put in their bag.

To give you an idea, the food we used included:
Goldfish for A Captain's Duty
Chocolate footballs (tiny) for 12 Mighty Orphans
Nerds for Eleanor & Park
Red Hots for Fahrenheit 451
Grapes for Deadline

Some of the books didn't have a food that easily came to mind, so we tried to find something that would make even a basic connection of some sort.

Putting it all together:
It was easy to see the excitement in the students as they exclaimed over the way the images & video clips were interactive through Aurasma. I tried to create Auras that were fairly simple with an image fading in, a single tap to open the book trailer, and an easy transition to the library Follow Us webpage at the end. Students liked the way the images hovered over the book cover and that double-tapping would make the trailer fit the screen so they could easily watch it. The timing was really perfect because just as the students started to look bored it would already be time to move to the next station. Everyone was engaged and we had lots of conversations about the books happening around the room. The students weren't just watching, they were evaluating, discussing, agreeing & disagreeing, and making choices based on their evaluations. At the very end of each class the teacher asked the students to go to the table of the book that was their first choice. This gave her a good preview of what to expect when students began choosing their book & ideas on how much to limit each group in terms of numbers. It was also interesting to see how different classes reacted to different books. Some classes were evenly spread out among the books. Others had clear favorites.

Overall it was a fabulous experience and I highly recommend it if you have any English teachers willing to work with you to make it happen.

To see our book trailer auras, you can follow my account: esmcdtx
I hope to write my next blog on a quick "How To" create an Aura to promote books.