Tag Archives: digital literacy

Reading and Writing Workshop is Relevant in the Digital Age

When I first began teaching in New York City many years ago, I utilized the reading and writing workshop during the 90 minute literacy blocks I taught daily. Today, I still welcome the reading and writing workshop into my middle school English classroom, although my schedule limits class time to 40 minute periods. I offer gradual release into the reading and writing workshop as we dive into book clubs, independent reading, and whole class novels throughout the school year. My students maintain reader’s notebooks and write about about the texts they read as well as the topics that are important to them.

Below are a few ideas and technology tools that I utilize in my Reading and Writing Workshop to help deepen my students’ comprehension, maintain accountable talk, and build writing portfolios.

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Reader’s Notebooks Still Matter – Even in the digital age where many teachers have moved into Google Classroom, I use interactive reader’s notebooks — Yes, a marble composition notebook. Inside the notebook students maintain data about their reading life (Reading Timeline, information about themselves as readers, and their reading goals), interactive foldables on what they are learning, including mini-lessons and read alouds. The notebook also contains graphic organizers, sketch notes, and written reflections that highlight student’s application of independent reading in written form. The notebook is a space for students to process information and reflect on their reading.

Face to Face Conversations are just as important as Digital Collaboration – Students need to practice talking to one another face to face, read body language, and cues. Verbal communication is a necessary skill both in and out of school. Students need to get in the habit of meeting with partners and small groups to interact face to face and share their thinking about the texts.

Digital Collaboration is Beneficial – Students can collaborate digitally on a wikipage, blog,  or Google Doc to help them capture their thinking about reading and highlight the conversations and accountable talk that is happening about text. Students can use digital applications to record the conversations using tools like @Recapthat or @Vine to showcase insights, questions, and new thinking.

Google Classroom as a Digital Writing Portfolio – Students can utilize Google Docs to create a portfolio of their writing about their reading. When we ask students to write long or write literary essays about their reading, it can be showcased online and shared with QR Codes or even create a digital Flip Book of student’s best writing.

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Flip The Reader’s and Writing Workshop – After reading Dana Johansen and Sonja Cherry-Paul’s Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach (2016) I gained so many ideas to to create digital lessons that allow students to work at their own pace and target instruction to small groups and individuals. Creating a digital library of online lessons modeling writing strategies and setting reading goals help to free up more time for individualized instruction.

Here are a few trustworthy tech tools for Accountable Talk in Book Clubs and Reading Partnerships:

Backchannels:

Twitter

Vine

Today’s Meet

Socrative

Reflection Tools:

Recapthat (iPad and Laptops Only)

Polleverywhere – Utilize the new word cloud feature

Voicethread

Padlet

Do Ink

Collaborate Ideas in Written Format:

Google Docs

Wikis

Participate Learning

Blogs

 

 

 

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Tackling Words & Images Critically and Closely with Students

As technology and schooling are continuously evolving, teachers must equip students with literacy skills needed to participate, engage, and succeed in our global and digital society. To do so, students must read, decode, and  think critically, moving between printed texts and digital interactions for communication and producing information.

Non-oral human communication has come a long way from cave drawings and cuneiform inscriptions. Communication in both the visual and written media continues to co-evolve. Writing has continued to permeate more than books, and students now find themselves reading more and more diverse texts and in more and more places – paper texts, online texts, informational text, literature, images and video on media platforms, game platforms, and social media. Whether the writing is in print or on screens, students are required to transfer reading skills to these different visual mediums for comprehension, communication, and creation.

Transliteracy, coined by Sue Thomas, Professor of New Media at De Montfort University and the Transliteracy Research Group,strives to set aside the typical ‘print versus digital’ dichotomy in favor of a more holistic integration of the ways in which we utilize various mediums to access information and make meaning. From pen and paper to moveable type to social networking, technology has changed the way in which we interact with one another and with information.” (Trimm, 2007) As a result, teachers are not just content area specialists but also literacy advocates, coaching students to be successful readers, writers, and critical thinkers.

Teachers must continue to equip students with literacy skills needed to participate, engage, and succeed in our global and digital society. To do so, students must develop skills to read in print and online, decode these messages, and critically think about text and media. As Turner and Hicks point out in Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World (NCTE, 2015), “The process of ‘reading’ is complicated by many factors including experience, skills, motivation, interest the reader brings to the text, and the difficulty and reading level of the text itself.” Educators today  are being called to teach reading that encompasses critical thinking skills.

Teacher and author, Kristin Ziemke has a great article in the January/February International Literacy Association magazine Literacy Today (2016 v.33, n.4) on “Balancing Text and Tech.” The central idea of her article is that teachers are not teaching a text, rather we should teach the reader and focus on (critical) thinking skills. Teachers need to explicitly teach students how to read both print and digital texts, as they require some different skills navigating and coding the text. Ziemke calls on teachers to model and scaffold to support our students so that they can “interact, respond, and think to read the world differently.”

Pairing text and tech is one strategy that I use in my classroom to help students practice their critical reading and thinking skills. Below I share some of the text and tech sets I have used this year.

I.

Students read excerpts from

Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Young Reader’s Edition (2015) by Michael Pollan

Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food (2007) by Charles Wilson and Eric Schlosser

What’s Wrong with Our Food System TEDx Talk by Birke Baehr

II.

Plastic Bag (sottotitoli in italiano – voce di Werner Herzog)

 

22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It) from Eco Watch (2014)

III.

KWA HERI MANDIMA

War Poetry from Africa

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (2008)

 

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Digital Writing Tools For Reluctant Writers

So, your students tell you they hate writing or they profess they are not good writers. Why beat them over the head with writing essays? Here are ten digital writing tools to help build writing endurance and have students create authentic and creative writing pieces.

  1. Blog It – This year my students are blogging about their Genius Hour projects. Each of their blogs detail and record their passion project research and findings. Students can create blogs about anything and everything so don’t only have them write on lined paper for your eyes only. Let students write for a global audience and write about topics that are meaningful to them.
  2. Collaborative Writing with Google Docs – Whether students are working collaboratively compiling research for a debate or working together to write a screenplay or story, why do it alone? So many authors today are collaborating and students should be able to work together too.
  3. Digital Inspirations – My friend and colleague, Carol Varsalona creates these amazing pictures and inspirational words on her blog Beyond LiteracyLink and has all different writers, teachers, and artists contribute their own digital inspirations. Have your students take their own photographs and write inspirational words, poems, ideas to go along with the images produced.

C Varsalona Beyond Literacy Link4. Podcasts are a great way to get students writing, speaking, and collaborating. I am a huge fan of NPR’s RadioLab podcasts and have used them in my classroom as a mentor text. Students can script their podcasts before recording them and make their own radio shows on all different issues and topics.

5. Prezi Picture Books in lieu of a traditional picture book, students can create their own digital picture books using Prezi or Google Slides and then screencast an audio file reading aloud the picture book created.

6. Twitter Poems and 140 Character Memoirs

7. Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books in the 1980s? Have students create their own Choose Your Own Adventure story or research inquiry using YouTube, Thinglink, or SymbalooEDU. Students do all the writing and research and allow the viewers to choose the direction of the story or inquiry.

8. Create Your Own Textbook on Wikispaces. What if you had students create the course textbook for the students next year? Let students curate the materials, and design the texts that are essential to classroom learning and content knowledge.

9. StoryWars is a website that was recently shared with me because it is a collaborative story telling website where people can upload their own stories or contribute a chapter to an existing story. Participants can read a story, write a chapter, or vote on a story’s path.

10. Make it a graphic novel using ToonDoo or Bitstrips blending dialogue and cartoon images together.

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Tackling Words & Images Critically with Students

I am currently collaborating with both the Jacob Burns Film Center and Actively Learn to promote critical reading of images and words in my middle school English classroom. Together we wrote a proposal to present as a panel at SXSWedu in Austin, TX in March 2016 addressing ways to help students read critically. We need your help getting our panel selected, 30% of judgement is based on people’s choice.

Our proposal states,

As the historically static world of text, and the dynamic visual media worlds are converging, students are reading more and more on a screen than in a paper text, and are required to transfer reading skills to visual media. Technology and schooling continue to evolve, teachers must continue to support/equip students with literacy skills needed to participate, engage, and succeed in our global and digital society. To do so, students must develop skills to read in print and online, decode these messages, and critically think about text and media. The diverse panel will address strategies and techniques for teaching students to read texts critically and deepen comprehension of digital texts.

To see more and vote YES you can click on the icon below.

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Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age

Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age (ISTE, 2014) edited by Mark Gura is a compilation of eighteen different technology projects for any classroom. Tech projects include audio, video, blogging, and podcasting using web tools such as Animoto, Evernote, Wordle, and Audacity. All the chapters were written by teachers with the intention of designing classroom learning experiences that would engage students and at the same time require them to use technology tools and skills to create meaningful content.

I contributed a chapter on using podcasting to teach narrative and expository writing in my Speech and Debate class. Below are some highlights from my chapter, “Building Literacy Radiolab Style: Podcasting to Foster Speech and Debate Skills.”

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My obsession with NPR’s Radiolab began more than five years ago when I would drive home on Friday afternoon from school and listen to the weekly podcast. Somewhere in the middle of the fifth or sixth podcast I realized there was a formula to the radio show and it mirrored an informational speech. Only, the podcast was enhanced by various sound effects and audio clips to draw my attention to the show and it’s content. I also realized that the majority of the topics presented were science based, and even though science was never my passion, the show’s format helped me to engage, empathize, and reflect on the scientific elements presented. Soon, my listening to the show was not only for enjoyment, but to deconstruct and study the craft of the show and think about how to apply this in my classroom.

I wrote down all the engaging transitions and really paid attention to how support material was weaved into the show to present information and inform the listener. I created an entire handout for my students with all the “moves” I heard the Radiolab hosts, Jad and Robert, say throughout various podcasts. These transitions benefited the listeners by inferring what they needed to do with the information presented.

The end result after having my students listen and study different Radiolab podcasts was for my students to partner up and create their own Radiolab style shows. Students wrote, edited, and recorded their own podcasts with added listening effects. Overall, the project was successful and Radiolab is still is my favorite show on NPR!

For more specifics about the assignment and process of creating the podcasts you can check out Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age: Inspiration for all levels and literacies edited by Mark Gura.

 

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Technology and Teaching

My students know lots of things when it comes to technology. My colleagues, know a handful of things about technology. We are both immersed in technology, but different technologies. My students carry their cell phones with them all day in school even though the school policy requires them to keep them in their lockers during the school day. As soon as last period ends the hallways are a buzz with students on their phones, texting, talking, gaming, listening to music. Students try to hide their ear-buds and listen to their I-pods during lunch period or when class seems boring to them (more often than not). They spend their nights rushing through homework so they can get online and play games, I-M their friends, watch their favorite TV episodes online or create their own videos.

If our students are immersed in technology then why not utilize these tech tools in the classroom as teaching tools?

Technology in the classroom allows young people to demonstrate their tech savvy skills and apply them in a way that highlights their understanding and learning. Technology allows for creativity, inquiry and collaboration. Students can complete a web quest which emphasizes critical thinking skills and integrates media literacy. Why compete with technology and young people? Rather, use technology to highlight the strengths of young people and help invest them in the material we are teaching.

I strongly believe technology is vital to help students learn best and in turn, for my students to show me their understanding and learning. There is an infinite amount of ways to integrate technology in the classroom. When people asked my how or why I use technology in the classroom I show them what I have done. Then I list the skills we are building when we use technology in the classroom: Connecting to Prior Knowledge, Questioning, Predicting, Inferring, Summarizing, Supporting Claims and Providing Evidence, Synthesizing, Build Vocabulary. Retelling in Our Own Words, Sequencing, Monitor Learning, Foster Sense of Inquiry, Making Real World Connections, Creative Thinking, Collaboration, Listening and Reflecting, and Analyzing.

Books and technology both belong in the classroom. I cannot and would not pick one over the other nor would I be willing to give up either one. If students want to read on their Kindle or other device, I would say, “Go ahead.” As soon as something else emerges I figure ways to blend them into my teaching and classroom practices – mobile surveys, Google Docs, Glogster, Wallwisher, QR codes, the list goes on and on.

Anything to help my students learn best.

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Technology’s Role in the Evolution of Information

I am teaching another course in my district to teachers in grades k-12 across all content areas titled, “More Technology to Enhance Content Area Learning.”  If I could rename the class, I would title it: Gettin’ Wiki With It.  The course covers all aspects of collaborative projects and web 2.0 programs that teachers can utilize with their students for a multitude of purposes.  In my research and gathering of new information to share with teachers I came across a great quote on David Warlick‘s blog about why we teach with technology.  He wrote on his May 13th post,

“I honestly believe that educators are seeking new ways to use new information and communication (literacy) technologies in teaching and learning for the very best reasons. But we need better answers than, “Because it’s technology. Our children will do anything if it’s with technology.” ..and “this is the engagement!” pointing at the an iPod Touch.

I continue to maintain that the little box is not what engages them. it is what happens through that box. It is the information experience that…

  • Is responsive
  • is fueled by questions
  • provokes conversation
  • is rewarded with currency
  • Inspires personal investment
  • is guided by safely made mistakes

When we talk about modernizing formation education, this is what we should talk about, not the technology.”

Many teachers in my district are aware of the various web 2.0 tools that can be utilized with students but stay away because they have preconceived notions: technology requires more work, it’s a fad, or the countless other excuses one hears on a daily basis. We do not need to bring Web 2.0 into our classroom for technology sake, but because of what it has to offer.  The evolution of teaching and the way that teachers teach over the past 200 years has evolved dramatically from the tools of the trade  – chalk boards, then over-head projectors, then whiteboards, and now smart boards and the possibility of  ipads or slates for every student.  Warlick writes that it is the experiences that students have with information that is changing and evolving the way that we teach.  I would ask you what types of experiences are your students having with the information you are teaching?  How can technology strenghten their engagement, connection, and understanding with this information?

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