Hello,

I thought the community might be interested in Tikatok.com. It is an online community created by graduates of the MIT Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies programs (that's me) to give children the opportunity to make and share their own storybooks, and publish them using print on demand. We recently prepared a suite of teacher tools that make it easier for educators to sign up a classroom and manage student work.

http://nightly.tikatok.net/2008/tikatok-teacher-tools/

I would love to hear any impressions you have. It is still a bit rough around the edges, I will admit (it's on our programmer's to-do list to fix some typos, for one). But we're committed to making this a valuable tool for teachers.

Thank you so much,
Neal

Tags: books, tikatok

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I signed up for an account by it looks like it may take a bit of time for me to learn the interface and then be able to walk the kids through the process of using it. Do they have to upload drawings or is there a drawing program integrated that I just didn't find?

The easier the interface from the title screen through the process -the better for the children. I teach k-8 so I am thinking grade 3 may be the best age group to try.
Hi Kelley,

Thanks so much for giving it a try.

There is not a drawing program integrated with the site because the team decided that a digital drawing tool would not produce images of sufficient quality, for practical and technical reasons. Drawing is already such a difficult task for kids, so we leave it to them to do with the more natural pen and paper interface. You can upload scanned drawings, or mail them to us to scan for free. We realize that many will want "instant gratification," and for that we allow kids to take or give images from a "community gallery." This has become quite a hit with some kids, because whenever their illustrations are used, they get an illustration credit. You can search this gallery right in the book editor by clicking "Add Image" and selecting the community tab.

Your point about the interface is well taken. Even though we've tried to make the tools as easy to use as possible, I think we could do more to guide new users through the process. Some kind of tutorial perhaps.

In the meantime, I created a couple how-to manuals as Tikatok books. One talks about the process in general, the other about the editor specifically. They may be a good place to start.

How Tikatok Works
The Tikatok Book Editor

Thanks again!
Neal
What type of filtering do you have in place to prevent and swearing/bullying to occur to comply w/ CIPA compliance?

Thanks
We used it with our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders and had no problems. After the books are finished you can embed them in your blog.
Hi Nancy, thanks for sharing your experiences. I somehow missed reading the books from your class - Matthew's salamander book is really great. I would love to feature it on our front page.

And to answer your questions, David: As I understand it CIPA applies to libraries and doesn't really provide guidelines for websites or content creators themselves. What Tikatok must be compliant with is COPPA, which is much more focused on privacy issues than content. However, we are obviously very concerned that the content on our site is appropriate for all ages. Our strategy for policing content is built less on filtering than on parental or teacher notification. Every time a child creates and shares a book, receives a comment on a book, joins a club, etc., the parent or teacher is notified via email with the content of that exchange. In turn parents can alert us to problems that we can act upon. We find notification to be a strong deterrent against the kind of actions that you are concerned about. There is always a trade-off between expressive freedom and any filtering or notification scheme, and each site for kids has to find its own balance.
Neal, All our classroom book were based on The Diary of a Worm books. The kids did a great job. Matthew would be thrilled to have his book featured. The other great one was done by a third grader named McKinsay. I tried to find them on the site but looked through 50 pages and didn't see it. My co-teacher may have marked them private. (?)

Is there a search option? How do students find their book? I also think it would be neat if you could divide the library by age. There are some middle school/high school books inappropriate for younger kids.

It's hard to divide the good stuff from the junk or unfinished books.
Hi Nancy,

Thanks, yes the search feature is our #1 requested right now and we are so close to releasing it I can taste it. Should be live in a few weeks at the latest. That will make things much easier. Authors can always find their books by signing in and going to their bookshelf, but until the search feature is added it is quite difficult for others to find their books.

The search feature is also coming with a new homepage with more space for featured books rather than just the raw chronological feed, so that should mean more quality books right at the top. I thoroughly agree that we need to consider the different age groups on the site - the glut of books that are more like YA Fiction have been a recent phenomenon, but one that has really taken off fast. Older kids, more autonomous, more productive.
Getting kids to write is a wonderful thing, but some sort of sorting would be nice since some books are incomplete and some are wonderful!

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