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Literacy Now

Digital Literacies
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
  • Back to school time is upon us once again, and across the nation teachers are working overtime buying supplies, getting classrooms organized, attending beginning of the year meetings, and planning for the months ahead. As fall closes in, I encounter a mixture of emotions—a bittersweet longing for the freedom of summer, a bit of anxiety as I contemplate the changes that always accompany a new year, and excitement as I anticipate meeting my new students and putting into place all the plans I have spent the summer working on.
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    Getting Back into School with E-Magazines

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Aug 21, 2013
    Back to school time is upon us once again, and across the nation teachers are working overtime buying supplies, getting classrooms organized, attending beginning of the year meetings, and planning for the months ahead. As fall closes in, I encounter a mixture of emotions—a bittersweet longing for the freedom of summer, a bit of anxiety as I contemplate the changes that always accompany a new year, and excitement as I anticipate meeting my new students and putting into place all the plans I have spent the summer working on.

    p: Photo Giddy via photopin cc
    The weeks of summer tend to spin by at a dizzying pace, and many of us are still spending significant amounts of time working—teaching summer school, receiving professional development, or preparing for the coming school year. I take advantage of the time off to scour the Internet and interact with my online peers, looking for new ideas and resources. One of my discoveries this summer was the existence of a growing number of teaching magazines available in electronic format.

    Electronic magazines (e-magazines) offer several advantages over traditional paper formats. Access to these resources is easy and immediate—no need to seek them out in a store, or go searching for back issues. All issues are at your fingertips, requiring no physical storage space, which solves the problem of untidy and disorganized stacks of magazines. Downloaded issues can usually be archived once the reader has finished with them, preventing the problem of taking up precious memory on devices.

    In addition, most magazine apps are free of charge to download, and magazine subscriptions can often be acquired on a month-by-month basis, instead of having to commit to a full year of issues. This allows the reader to choose which issues to purchase based on content and avoid wasting money on issues that may not be particularly useful.

    On top of all these benefits, most publishers are beginning to take advantage of the opportunity to use innovative publishing formats. E-magazines often boast clickable links, the ability to share articles and resources via email or social media, embedded videos, and other interactive content. Not only are these features incredibly handy, they are fun to use!

    Education magazines are an excellent and inexpensive way for teachers to gain insights about their profession, read about new techniques and ideas, and learn about important resources that are constantly evolving in the ever-changing world of education. Here are a few of my favorite discoveries:

    TEACHHUB (free; iPhone & iPad app)—If you frequently use the Internet to search for teaching-related content, you may be familiar with TeachHub. This site offers a wide variety of articles, discussions, and resources geared towards educators. TEACHHUB now offers a free monthly magazine in electronic format that boasts original content addressing Common Core State Standards topics, must-have apps, and even entertaining anecdotes that will remind teachers why they love their jobs.

    EDUCATION MAGAZINE ($1.99/issue; iPhone & iPad app)—EDUCATION MAGAZINE is one of the most recent additions to the iTunes Store. It focuses on the use of technology in the classroom, and is a valuable source of product reviews, implementation ideas, and quality articles on all areas of educational technology. You can get a free trial of Education Magazine by downloading the app, which is an excellent opportunity to preview the content before committing to purchasing an issue.

    TEACHING THE AVATAR GENERATION ($5.99/issue; iPad app)—TEACHING THE AVATAR GENERATION aims to keep teachers and parents informed about educational technology trends and topics. In each issue you will find articles, reviews, and resources, as well as a high level of interactivity that makes full use of the advantages of electronic formats.

    TEACHING TOLERANCE (free to educators, iPhone & iPad app)—TEACHING TOLERANCE is published three times a year, and offers unique content geared towards teaching students to be respectful and accepting towards all their peers. In this publication you will find articles, lesson ideas, and resources for creating a classroom environment that promotes equality and justice for all students.

    T.H.E. JOURNAL MAGAZINE (free; PDF & iPad app)—Geared towards both teachers and administrators, T.H.E. JOURNAL MAGAZINE contains articles on best practices, tutorials, and expert advice on all areas of educational technology and mobile learning. It is an excellent resource for K–12 professionals who are exploring the intersection of education and technology.

    These are a few of my favorites from among the wide range of electronic magazines. They provide ideas and inspiration to teachers, not just as we return to the classroom but throughout the school year.

    A side note: Many of these publications are new and are lacking ratings and reviews. If you find one you enjoy, please take the time to let the publishers know. Doing so ensures that quality educational content will continue to be available in the years to come, and that is something we can all appreciate!

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

    © 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • Over and over, I am asked, "What are the advantages of a 1:1 school setting?" I find it a difficult question to answer—not because I can't come up with a response, but because the person who asked often gets much more than they bargained for. I love teaching in a 1:1 setting, and the opportunity to do so has altered my classroom and my approach to teaching in innumerable ways.
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    Technology Tools to Transform Teaching

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Jul 18, 2013
    Over and over, I am asked, "What are the advantages of a 1:1 school setting?" I find it a difficult question to answer—not because I can't come up with a response, but because the person who asked often gets much more than they bargained for. I love teaching in a 1:1 setting, and the opportunity to do so has altered my classroom and my approach to teaching in innumerable ways.

    p: Global Partnership for Education via photopin cc
    One of my favorite aspects of teaching with technology is the ability to go paperless, and the surprisingly far-reaching benefits of doing so. Completing, editing, and grading assignments electronically is a budgeting bonus, while also saving me from toting reams of paper between home and school. In the classroom, I no longer hear excuses about lost papers, hungry pets, or a lack of supplies. I have no need to haunt the front office begging for more paper or ink, and spending my own money on these materials is a thing of the past.

    But amazingly, these advantages are only the tip of the iceberg. In finding ways to accomplish tasks electronically, my students and I wind up stretching our creativity and our problem-solving skills. When I am able to give up the illusion of control and admit that I don't have all the answers, my students find me more approachable and we communicate more effectively. I ask for their invaluable input when I am out of ideas or feeling frustrated, and I invite them to work with me rather than for me.

    A digital classroom also provides the opportunity to reenergize established instructional techniques. Apps and web tools breathe new life into well-known tasks, giving them a fresh appeal and increasing student engagement exponentially.

    iBrainstorm

    A free app available for Apple devices, iBrainstorm is a mind-mapping tool that offers a flexible range of options for classroom use. With the ability to draw, type, or arrange sticky notes, I often used this with my students to brainstorm or to create timelines and story maps. One of the cool features is that multiple iPads can connect and work together on a single project. The iBrainstorm Companion is a supplementary app that, among other things, allows users on iPhones to communicate with an iPad running the iBrainstorm app and contribute ideas to a collaborative project, even if only a single iPad is available. My students and I never tried this approach, but it has the potential to give the iBrainstorm app remarkable adaptability.

    Tools4Students and Tools4Students 2

    This pair of language arts iPad apps are priced at $0.99 each. Each gem contains 25 reusable graphic organizers that students can fill in, save, and email. The organizers are generic enough to be useful for a range of literature, non-fiction, and content area lessons. They can also be projected and filled in collaboratively in classrooms with a single iPad.

    Apps like these hold great value and undeniably enhance the learning experience in my classroom. Yet they are only a piece of the puzzle. Whatever my initial response might be when asked about the impact of technology in my classroom, it is inevitable that I will eventually land back on this specific aspect of my experience: Incorporating technology into my classroom has created a positive transformation that encompasses everything from the back-to-school supplies I purchase to the ways my students demonstrate learning.

    All these pieces make up a whole that has brought me to the realization that the type of technology is of little consequence; it is how we approach the implementation of that technology that makes all the difference in the world.

    Join us for a Twitter chat on "Digital Writing in the Classroom." The one-hour chat is happening today, July 18th at 8pm EST. Use #IRAchat to join the conversation.

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

    © 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • For my recent Engage post, I asked my students to review apps we had used to create presentations in our classroom. The apps included a variety of tools for making traditional slide show displays. But the beauty of the devices we are using in our classroom is that we can go so much further, and break past those conventional boundaries.
    • Blog Posts
    • App a Day

    Presentation Apps: A New Take on an Old Task

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Jun 19, 2013
    For my recent Engage post, I asked my students to review apps we had used to create presentations in our classroom. The apps included a variety of tools for making traditional slide show displays. But the beauty of the devices we are using in our classroom is that we can go so much further, and break past those conventional boundaries.

    With that in mind, I would like to share some of the apps my students utilized in creating presentations that were of the less traditional variety.

    Pic Collage

    We used Pic Collage (available for Apple and Android devices) for a variety of projects, but it was especially useful early on when my students were first learning to use their iPads. Before we got into the more complicated apps, Pic Collage gave them a chance to start learning how to navigate on their device and use the media they captured with the camera.

    p: flickingerbrad via photopin cc
    Our first project of the year was a "getting to know you" presentation in which students created a collage of pictures to represent themselves, which we then shared and discussed. We also used it to create photo collages around topics or characters we were studying, which students could then use to explain their ideas to their peers.

    My students liked Pic Collage because it offered a variety of tools, options, and fun extras that they could use to make their photos and presentations unique. It was easy to use, reliable, and didn't require an account log in. They ran into some issues with editing/cropping photos, but nothing that made it unusable. This is an entertaining (free!) app that students enjoy using, and a perfect choice for simple classroom projects.

    Prezi for iPad

    We were pretty excited about the free Prezi app (available for Apple devices), as the web version creates such amazing, beautiful presentations. And these presentations can be viewed, presented, and to an extent edited on the iPad app. Unfortunately, the app does not contain all the templates and tools that are available on the web version, which seriously hampers its usefulness in the classroom. We hope that an update in the future will bring more functionality to the app.

    For my students, it was not convenient to have to wait until we had access to the computer lab to set up or make certain changes to their presentations. We needed a stand-alone app, and that is not what this is. But the app does allow for access to the free services of the Prezi site, and is certainly useful for presenting Prezis that have already been made, as well as doing some limited editing.

    ScreenChomp

    Screencasting and flipped classrooms are all the rage, and there are a ton of apps out there designed to facilitate these types of learning. We used ScreenChomp (free; available for iPad) as more of an in-class tool to teach and discuss concepts. It functions well as a whiteboard, allowing for annotations as well as voice narration and video creation.

    The app is similar to its peers, but it does have some advantages over others that make it very useful for the classroom. First off, no account is needed. This simplifies things and makes it very quick and easy to utilize. The tools are basic and simple to use, making it perfect for younger students. My students liked the ability to add a slide as well as the ability to erase mistakes. Sharing is quite easy, and the finished video can be downloaded from the web.

    The drawbacks are that the simplicity means it may not be quite as versatile as other apps in terms of tools and capabilities, and direct export onto the device isn't supported. But if you are looking for an easy-to-learn tool for creating quick explanations, this is an excellent place to start.

    iMovie

    This app ($4.99; available for Apple devices) is at the top of the list for classroom creation and presentation. For one thing, kids love to make movies. We used it to make videos about Martin Luther King, Jr., to explain aspects of weather, to record their reflections of our iPad classroom, and for a multitude of other projects. In my classroom, I had to specify that my students couldn't use iMovie for certain projects, in order to push my students out of an app rut.

    iMovie is simply an incredible tool for creating video presentations. It can be used for anything from simple photo slide shows to more complex narrated videos. My students liked that all their media was easily accessible from within the app, and they loved using the premade formats for trailers. They also liked that they could use their own music as well as the provided tunes. Sharing and exporting were easy, and a number of options for social media sharing are built right in to the app.

    iMovie has some drawbacks, as most apps do. The cost is prohibitive for some classrooms, although it does qualify for the educational discount. It is fairly easy to learn the basic functions of the app, but the more intricate tasks require some instruction and guidance from someone who is experienced with the app. It was not one that I could turn my students loose with and expect for them to discover all of its capabilities. One aspect that my students disliked was that text-only slides had to be created in another app and then imported as an image, as text creation is not an option within the app (except as captions).

    Overall, though, iMovie is a flexible and incredibly engaging tool for students, and I cannot imagine my classroom without it.

    The opportunity for creativity, for both students and educators, expands exponentially as technology becomes readily available in more and more classrooms. Moving beyond the barriers and expectations of the past is imperative if we want to see the full benefit of classroom technology, and apps like these are helping to bring about this exciting revolution.

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

    © 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • One of the great advantages of having readily available technology in the classroom is the opportunity it provides for students to teach each other. As teachers, we become accustomed to seeing the process and outcome for every student's efforts in the classroom. But when students are given the opportunity to share their work in an engaging way with their peers, learning reaches new heights.
    • Blog Posts
    • App a Day

    Popular Presentation Apps: Student Reviewed

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | May 29, 2013
    One of the great advantages of having readily available technology in the classroom is the opportunity it provides for students to teach each other. As teachers, we become accustomed to seeing the process and outcome for every student's efforts in the classroom. But when students are given the opportunity to share their work in an engaging way with their peers, learning reaches new heights.

    p: adamtr via photopin cc
    In the past year, my students have presented research projects, book reports, lessons, speeches...you name it, and we've probably done it. Besides the obvious benefits of learning how to create a presentation and talk in front of a crowd, the simple fact is that kids know how to reach each other.

    I recently asked my students to tell me the benefits and drawbacks of some of the apps we have utilized when we wanted to create a traditional slide show presentation. These apps aren’t perfect—but they have been used and reviewed by students to give you an idea of what might be worth a download.

    Pixntell

    This app allows the user to create a video out of photos, and then add their own voice to narrate. The free version is limited to five photos per presentation. A full version can be purchased for $0.99, which allows up to 70 photos to be used per project. Another upgrade allows the user to enter text-only slides, similar to a PowerPoint presentation. Pixntell EDU offers both of these upgrades for $1.99, and qualifies for Apple's education discount. All versions are available for both iPhone and iPad; an Android version is due out this year.

    My students were excited to use this app. They thought it looked fun, and that they could create a unique presentation. Due to the type of presentation they were working on, the five-picture limit was a little too restrictive, but it would certainly work for shorter projects or book reports.

    Unfortunately, the biggest difficulty wasn't the photo limit, but that they couldn't record their narration—the app crashed repeatedly when trying to save the recording. And while we loved that users can edit a project, my students found that when they tried to do so, the app would instead delete the project.

    On the positive side, they found Pixntell very easy to operate, outside of the operational glitches. The students were able to create a simple slideshow, but there are probably better apps for that task. We were unable to try out the EDU version, so we cannot report on whether or not the same problems exist within that app.

    Pixntell has a lot of potential. It clearly has some bugs that need to be worked out, but once those are resolved it would be an excellent option for short presentations. The concept is great—I'll be keeping an eye out for future updates.

    Deck Slideshow Presentations

    My students were able to make very nice presentations with this (free!) app. They were pleased with the option to use their own photos, especially since the built-in image search is limited. They mentioned their appreciation of the ability to caption photos, and that the app was not at all difficult to use. But what really roped my students in with this app were the animated themes and transitions—these options made for a very professional-looking presentation, and they loved the final results.

    A 60-character limit per slide forces the user to be brief, and while my kids struggled with this, in the end it was a beneficial struggle. They encountered some trouble with being able to select desired photos, and reported that the app did crash on occasion. It also took them a while to figure out that they had to choose the number of slides when they started a project, and couldn't add more on later—this was very frustrating at times. Another drawback was the lack of sharing options; currently, no web-based sharing is supported. Presentations can be emailed, but the recipient must have the app in order to view them.

    The app seems to have a lot of “limits,” so it may not be appropriate for all classrooms or projects. But overall, my students were able to make it work and were quite pleased with the results. The app, formerly $2.99, is available for free for iPhone/iPad and Android as well.

    Haiku Deck

    This is perhaps one of our favorite apps for creating presentations. The user enters the desired text, and then can use the app to search for related photos to use as slide backgrounds. All of the resulting photos are Creative Commons offerings, so there are no copyright issues. The user can also select their own photos stored on the device to use as backgrounds.

    Perhaps what makes this app so incredible is that despite being free, it offers an astounding number of options and tools. Users can choose from a variety of templates when creating a project, photos can be cropped, filters can be applied, bulleted lists and graphs can be created...and the list goes on. It is a well-designed, highly adaptable tool for the classroom, and contains a plethora of options for sharing finished presentations.

    Once again, my students found this app to be easy to use, and it must be noted that these particular slideshows were incredibly beautiful. Since the presentations can be as simple or elaborate as the individual user chooses, it might be a good option for younger students or those with limited technology skills. Teachers should monitor closely, though; the app is not designed specifically for schools, and any term could be put into the search engine. It is only available for iPad currently.

    Few apps are perfect, and this is especially true for those that come free. While all of these apps have their drawbacks, we also found each had a useful place in our classroom—and we hope you will find the same to be true in yours.

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

    © 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • Of all the educational tools available in Apple's App Store, those aimed at reading and language arts are pretty scarce, especially for older students. And although a plethora of interactive storybooks and e-reading apps are available, literacy tools can be harder to find—but they do exist.
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    • App a Day

    Reading-Related Apps Worth Reviewing

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Apr 22, 2013
    Of all the educational tools available in Apple's App Store, those aimed at reading and language arts are pretty scarce, especially for older students. And although a plethora of interactive storybooks and e-reading apps are available, literacy tools can be harder to find—but they do exist.

    Whether you have a single iPad in your classroom, or are in a 1:1 setting, these reading-related apps are worth taking the time to review.

    FREE APPS

    YALSA's Teen Book Finder: The Teen Book Finder is a fantastic resource for discovering the best books/media for teens. These selections are made through a collaboration of librarians and educators throughout the United States, and all the books included have been recognized by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). The app allows users to search for reading material by title, author, and genre, as well as by award or list. Features include a reading list function with social media sharing capability, a favorites button, a local library locator, and a “Hot Picks” section which features three popular titles a day. The Teen Book Finder boasts plenty of reading inspiration for young adult audiences, combined with the cool factor only an app can provide.

    Best Books For...: Peekaboo Studios offers a series of apps that allows users to find books based on age—Best Books for Babies, Pre-K, Tweens, and Teens are included among this group of free apps. Each offers a selection of age-appropriate reading suggestions, as well as brief descriptions of the included titles. Users can view the suggestions as a list, or by choosing a topic of interest. These apps are certainly not perfect—the lists are far from exhaustive, and do not necessarily contain the highest quality reading choices for each age group. But for intermediate and older students who may be reluctant readers, these apps can be a useful tool for rousing reading interest. Also available for Nook, Kindle, and Android.

    ICDL: The International Children's Digital Library app is a collection of free children's books from around the world. These books are available in a large variety of languages, the books are beautifully illustrated, and a large quantity of titles can be found for a wide age range. The app is completely free, with no hidden in-app purchases and no advertising. The purpose of the developers is to provide books to underserved children who may not have access to libraries. ICDL contains a search feature with extensive options, making it easy to browse books that meet very specific criteria. Although the books contained in this app aren't likely to be new releases, it is an excellent resource for classic literature and/or ESL classrooms, and all the functions are very child-friendly. Some users have reported problems with crashing, but we have not had this problem.

    Constant Reader Free: This app allows users to create book lists for reading history, favorite authors, favorite books, etc. These lists can be shared via email and updated or reordered as needed. Features include the ability to rate books, share favorites through social media, and add personal notes to reading selections. Users can also receive recommendations based on reading preferences, and write their own reviews. The downside to this app is that the free version only allows for one book to be added per day, which would make adding past reading history very time consuming. A paid version of the app is available for $4.99 if users find this to be an unacceptable limitation. Regardless, Constant Reader is a useful tool that allows for students to keep track of and categorize the books they have read throughout the school year. Teachers should be aware that this app is not designed specifically for students, and it allows users to read collective notes and reviews for all book titles.

    PAID APPS

    Kids' Book Finder ($1.99): With nearly 27,000 critically reviewed books in its database, this app is a treasure for teachers, parents, and students. he most impressive feature this app offers is the ability to search for books based on grade level, topic, genre, awards, or a combination of any of these categories. It is also possible to search the catalogue by title, author, illustrator, or keyword. A list feature allows for the creation of a book list that can be shared via email. This feature is somewhat underdeveloped, as it would be more useful if multiple lists could be made, saved, and edited. Despite this small flaw, Kids' Book Finder is an incredible resource for finding quality books for children of all ages, and the detailed search function is a unique feature that makes it worth buying.

    LevelFinder ($1.99): Leveling your classroom library just got easier! If your students participate in Accelerated Reader, this app is a must-have tool. It allows the user to find AR levels, point values, and quiz numbers for over 126,000 AR titles. Books can be searched by full or partial title, author, level range, or point range, making it much easier for students to find book suggestions for their reading level. This search function is what makes this particular app unique. However, perhaps the most useful characteristic of LevelFinder is that the database is completely contained within the app. This allows for the app to be used even when a Wi-Fi connection isn't available, making it ideal for schools that are not yet using wireless devices in the classroom.


    All of these apps have proved reliable for my students, and each offers a unique literacy-related tool for the classroom. So whether you are looking to spark an interest in reading in your students, provide them with ways to engage with the books they are reading, or simply need help leveling your classroom library, these are worth checking out!

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

    © 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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