Update from ILA on COVID-19: We are committed to keeping you informed of all the latest developments, including the impact on the ILA 2020 Conference in Columbus, OH, and how ILA is helping educators during this period. Let us know what support you need and stay engaged using these free resources.

Literacy Now

Digital Literacies
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
    • Topics
    • 21st Century Skills
    • Digital Literacies
    • Foundational Skills
    • Teaching With Tech

    The Makerspace: A Model for Making That Values Community, Inclusion, and Student Agency

    By Michelle Hagerman
     | May 31, 2019

    Joël Desjardin’s decision to become an elementary teacher was driven in part by his personal belief that to thrive in school and in life, many children need learning conditions broader than those offered by traditional paradigms. As we talked about the impact of the makerspace that he has worked tirelessly to establish over the past two years with colleagues, his voice resonated with passion and a deep respect for his students and their learning needs.

    “The makerspace is the heart of our school. When I was a kid, the gym was the heart of community in the school. Whenever there was a big event, we all gathered in the gym. But I see the makerspace as our ‘gym.’ Our whole community can’t gather here physically but we do use technologies in the makerspace to create community, to bring us all together—through our TéléMC newscasts, for example. And, the comings and goings in this space are incredible,” he said. “The kid who comes in here and finds that he can make something driven by his own interests—he’ll keep coming back to school. That’s what will keep him here.”

    In the makerspace, Joël’s mission is to create the conditions and cultivate the relationships that will enable every child to find their voice, strengths, and purpose. More than 60% of students attending this school have lived in Canada for fewer than three years, and many do not speak French (the language of instruction) at home. In Joël’s words, “We’re imposing Canadian culture and language on these kids, and then we’re imposing Canadian schooling on top of that—they need to have spaces inside of these systems where they can leverage what they know, where they feel competent, capable, and valued.”

    As they work to support students’ language and literacies learning, Joël and his colleagues understand that their work is also fundamentally about creating an inclusive community where students can find connections to themselves as they develop new identities as learners, as makers, and often, as first-generation Canadians. I think the work happening in this school can inform the design of culturally sensitive, social justice-oriented maker pedagogies for literacies learning everywhere. Following are two examples that could inspire other school communities to imagine new possibilities for their maker programs.

    Café Altern

    This spring, sixth-grade students from Joël’s school visited Café Altern, a coffee shop in Ottawa’s Byward market, run entirely by high school students and their teachers. For Joël’s students, the purpose was twofold. First, he wanted to expose them to the program which is designed for high schoolers seeking pathways to employment through entrepreneurship. Second, he wanted his students to practice their media literacies skills. To this end, groups of students planned for, and then interviewed a Rwandan–Canadian artist whose work is exhibited in the Café, a local chef who supports the café, and the teachers and students who run daily operations.

    Using the industrial kitchen, the sixth graders also learned to make, prepare, and then sell maple syrup that they had tapped from trees at school (using spiles that they 3D printed in the makerspace). Post visit, the students used 10 hours of class time to edit their footage in WeVideo and create two-minute videos promoting the café. In my view, this activity integrates layers of culturally situated, physical, and digital meaning making, centered on community partnerships and student agency.


    With a team of student media makers, Joël also produces the morning announcements which they livestream on the school’s YouTube channel from their makerspace every morning. For these students, Joël cites vast improvement in confidence and oral communication skills. Every Friday, the team produces a longer newscast that includes highlights of the week and explores an important theme.

    Last week, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia,  their newscast focused on equipping the school community to understand what it means to be LGBTQ2+, to recognize and reject LGBTQ2+phobic language and behaviors, and to emphasize the importance of LGBTQ2+ people in their school community. Especially poignant—the principal, who cohosted this special newscast, drew a picture of his own family, showed photographs of his family celebrating important moments together, and explained that his children have two dads. With more than 250 views for this newscast alone, the work in this makerspace is reaching community beyond the school walls, and equipping students and faculty to understand and use a shared language of inclusion.

    As Joël, his colleagues, and his students show us, a school makerspace can become its heart—a place where technologies can be used to make meanings that strengthen, empower, and create more inclusive communities.

    Michelle Schira Hagerman is an assistant professor of Educational Technologies at the Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa. You can read more about her work, including research on literacies and making at mschirahagerman.com

    Read More
    • Digital Literacies
    • Teaching With Tech

    The New NAEP Assessment You Probably Haven’t Heard of (but May Find Interesting)

    By Paul Morsink
     | May 24, 2019

    In 2013, I wrote a Literacy Daily post about a new National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment then in development—the Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) assessment. I was excited about the TEL because, unlike the biannual NAEP reading assessment, the TEL promised to tell us something about U.S. students’ 21st-century digital literacies—such as their ability “to employ technologies and media to find, evaluate, analyze, organize, and synthesize information from different sources.”

    The TEL was first administered nationwide in 2014, and then again four years later in 2018. The 2018 results are now available, and together with the 2014 results, and side-by-side with the NAEP reading assessment data, they make for interesting reading. Following are some highlights.

    • In 2018, 46% of eighth-grade students performed at or above the Proficient level on the TEL assessment. (By comparison, in 2017, 36% of eighth-grade students performed at or above the Proficient level on the NAEP reading assessment.)
    • From 2014 to 2018, eighth graders’ scores on the TEL assessment rose significantly—from 43% at or above Proficient in 2014 to 46% at or above Proficient in 2018. (By comparison, eighth graders’ achievement on the NAEP reading assessment has stalled—dropping from 36% at or above Proficient in 2013 to 34% in 2015 and then recovering to 36% in 2017.)
    • On the TEL, as on the NAEP Reading assessment, female students outperform male students. Further, from 2014 to 2018, the gap between female and male students’ performance widened significantly, with the average score for male students increasing only slightly over that four-year period, and with the increase in the average score for female students accounting for most of the overall growth from 2014 to 2018.
    • From 2014 to 2018, the percentage of black students scoring at or above Proficient on the TEL assessment jumped significantly from 18% to 23%. (By comparison, from 2013 to 2017, the percentage of black students scoring at or above Proficient on the NAEP reading assessment increased only slightly, from 17% to 18%.)
    • On the TEL, the connection between parental education level and student performance appears to be weakening. In 2014, students whose parents finished high school significantly outperformed students whose parents did not finish high school. In 2018, that gap had closed. (By comparison, the NAEP reading results from 2017 show a significant gap between these groups—unchanged since 2013.)

    What does it look like to score at or above Proficient on the TEL?

    The TEL assesses eighth graders’ technology and engineering literacy through interactive scenario-based tasks. Students are challenged to enact “practices” that include “analyzing information,” “developing solutions,” and “communicating and collaborating.”

    Examples of tasks on the TEL include the following:

    • Creating website content to promote a teen recreation center.
    • Evaluating provided information to explain how to fix the habitat of a classroom iguana.
    • Selecting images to be used on a website advertising a television show about the Andromeda Galaxy and correctly citing an image’s source.
    • Developing an online exhibit about Chicago's water pollution problem in the 1800s.

    To do well on these tasks, students need to show they can perform the following tasks:

    • Gather information through browsing and searching.
    • Identify distortion, misinterpretation, or exaggeration of information.
    • Analyze and evaluate information or data to solve a problem.
    • Adjust a text’s content based on knowledge of audience and the communication method being used.

    All these complex skills mobilize and build on more foundational reading comprehension skills and strategies. For example, to answer a question that asks students to read first-person statements from a variety of stakeholder perspectives about the pollution of the Chicago River and then match those statements to third-person “summary descriptions” for an online historical exhibit (see the screenshot below), students first need to comprehend the gist of each individual statement on its own before connecting it to a “summary description” that restates that gist in more general terms.

    new-naep copy

    Similarly, for a question that asks students to choose and sequence audio clips to accompany an animation showing the stages of Chicago’s response to its water pollution crisis, students need to be able to put narrative segments in chronological order before choosing the particular segments that most clearly and helpfully describe what is visually depicted in each of the four consecutive parts of the animation.

    new-naep-2 copy

    To learn more about TEL assessment items, consider visiting the NAEP TEL website. Among other things, it provides a number of “live” sample tasks that you can attempt as if you were a student taking the TEL—with the difference that your submitted answers will be instantly scored and returned with feedback. For each scored item, you can also see the percentage of eighth graders who answered that item correctly.

    Why do we need two NAEP assessments to inform us about how our students are reading?

    As you explore the TEL and the insights it offers into how U.S. students are developing as 21st-century readers, you may find yourself asking why the NAEP reading assessment hasn’t evolved to keep up with the times. Why do we now need to consult two NAEP assessments to find out how U.S. students are reading?

    One plausible answer is that, to maintain the value of the NAEP as a barometer of long-term trends in literacy achievement, it’s important to be cautious about making changes that could compromise this function. If the 2019 NAEP reading assessment were abruptly revamped, we could no longer compare the 2019 scores with scores from previous years.

    This being the case, however, we might expect the NAEP reading assessment not to abandon more traditional genres, text formats, and reading tasks, but rather to expand its scope to include additional items focused on 21st-century digital texts, skills, and reading tasks.

    There are indications in the the 2017 NAEP Reading Framework that, starting this year, we may finally begin to see some movement in this direction. There are plans to gradually shift to “digital administration” of the reading assessment on NAEP-provided tablets and to include some items reflecting “a wider range of texts, including those coming from digital sources that may involve dynamic features such as video, animation, or hyperlinks.”

    In the meantime, I am grateful for the TEL assessment. It contains valuable data and insights. And the fact that it’s a separate NAEP assessment that now needs to be referenced whenever we talk about “the NAEP’s latest reading results” is, upon reflection, not a bad thing. It serves as a reminder of what has been true all along—that reading takes many forms, that we need to keep revisiting and expanding our definitions of literacy, and that single assessments tend to give only a partial picture of what our students know and can do.

    Paul Morsink is an assistant professor in Reading and Language Arts at Oakland University in Michigan.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

    Read More
    • 21st Century Skills
    • Digital Literacy
    • Teaching With Tech
    • Literacies
    • Topics
    • Foundational Skills
    • Digital Literacies

    Literacy, Design, and Collaboration: Mapping the Ocean Floor With Bloxels

    By Lindsay Yearta and Abigail Wenger
     | May 21, 2019
    Bloxels copy

    The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition identifies "Advancing Cultures of Innovation" as a key trend toward accelerating innovative technology adoption in education. In these cultures of innovation, learner-centered classrooms provide space for students to conduct research, collaborate, and create in real-world contexts.

    While integrating technology can increase student engagement, this integration must be done in a purposeful way. With the lack of appropriate and timely professional development, this can be difficult to conceptualize. Although more classrooms are receiving digital tools, and many teachers want to be able to use these tools in an authentic, targeted manner, a nationwide survey conducted by Samsung has shown that 60% of teachers say they need more training to do so.

    Although blogs such as Literacy Daily do not replace the need for professional development, they do allow us to share ideas that have worked in our classrooms so other educators can adapt and implement to fit the needs of their students. With this in mind we share how Abigail, a teacher candidate, integrated science, language arts, and technology in her fifth-grade classroom this spring.

    Mapping the ocean floor with Bloxels

    When asked to design a lesson on ocean floor landforms, Abigail decided she wanted to do so in a way that would purposefully integrate technology and authentically engage students. She did this by providing fifth-graders with the opportunity to build a digital model of the ocean floor using Bloxels, a digital platform for creating video games in the classroom.

    After a brief mini-lesson, each of Abigail’s five groups worked together to research their assigned ocean floor landform: continental shelf, continental slope, abyssal plain, mid-ocean ridge/rift zone, and trenches. Groups used books, articles, and credible online sources to conduct research. Each student was given a research log to organize their learning.

    Once the groups had gathered enough information about their ocean floor landform, each table was given a Bloxels design sheet. The small groups collaborated to take what they learned about the ocean floor landform and create a design for the Bloxels video game. Students used different colors to represent different features such as blue for water, green for terrain, purple for an enemy, and yellow for a coin. Designs were creative and scientifically accurate.

    Students then translated self-guided, landform research into unique features for their portion of the game. One group researched what kind of sea creatures lived in their part of the ocean in order to select one as an enemy. After learning that seashells were commonly found in their section of the ocean floor, another group decided the coins in the video game would be seashells. The mid-ocean ridge/rift zone group included exploding orange blocks to represent underwater volcanoes.

    Learning about landforms

    Next, each group shared their learning about the landform they studied. The class compared Bloxel design ideas to a diagram of the ocean floor and gave each other feedback. Each group designed one portion of the ocean floor, one column comprised of two boxes, that when combined formed the complete ocean floor (see the above image). For example, the continental shelf group found that their landform is a gently sloped piece of the continent that shifts land to sea. This group’s contribution to the video game can be seen in the first column; notice the player begins on continental shelf. When the game starts, the player zooms in here and navigates through each component of the ocean floor. The player must make it all the way across the ocean floor and out of what can be seen in the last column, the trench. The group that researched trenches learned that landform is long, narrow, and is the deepest part of the ocean floor.

    The groups went back to their working stations, revised their designs, and transferred their landform model to the Bloxels app. Each group was required to include at least one white text box that identified the landform and explained its key characteristics.

    At the end of this integrated learning segment, students had conducted research and collaboratively designed and refined a video game to represent their understanding of the ocean floor. Students were engaged from beginning to end. They shared their learning with the class through discussions and with the teacher through detailed exit tickets that provided a clear snapshot of individual student learning. Through research and collaboration, students, motivated to build a video game, went above and beyond the teacher’s expectations by adding details such as making the player’s enemy a research-based creature from that specific ocean landform zone.

    Other ideas for incorporating video game building in the elementary classroom include: rewriting the ending of a book, writing math problems that players must solve to progress through the game, and creating a storyline in which a soldier must move through each of the major WWII battles.

    Lindsay Yearta is an assistant professor of education and the Singleton Endowed Professor at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her research interests include digital literacies and the utilization of technology to empower students. You can find her on Twitter @Lyearta.

    Abigail Wenger is a rising senior at Winthrop University. She is studying early childhood education and will complete her year-long internship in a kindergarten classroom in the coming school year. You can find her on Twitter @Ms_Wenger.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

    Read More
    • Digital Literacies
    • Literacies
    • Foundational Skills
    • Teaching With Tech
    • Topics
    • Digital Literacy
    • 21st Century Skills

    Preparing Preservice Teachers in the Digital Age Through Real-World Classroom Connections

    By Katie Kelly
     | May 10, 2019

    preparing-preservice-teachersTeacher education programs have a responsibility to prepare candidates to effectively incorporate instructional technologies in the classroom. Although considered tech-savvy, many preservice teachers’ expertise remains in social networking. Thus, preservice teachers need frequent opportunities for experiential learning with instructional technology to design purposeful use of technology for learning outcomes.

    In my literacy education courses at Furman University, I embed technology practices into assignments to expose preservice teachers to meaningful real-world interactions with students in addition to their required face-to-face classroom field experiences. For example, we have used a variety of platforms such as Lino, Edmodo, and Kidblog to engage in digital book clubs with elementary learners. This real-world experience provided the preservice teachers with opportunities to practice assessing readers’ comprehension. Using a digital conferring approach, preservice teachers facilitated online conversations to nudge children to deepen their thinking about text. This experience helped them differentiate instruction based on formative assessment practices and tailor support for individual learners.

    More recently, we have used FlipGrid as a platform to confer with young writers. After learning about the importance of making books with emergent writers, kindergarten teacher Cynthia Thompson created a FlipGrid for her students to share their first published books with an authentic audience. Not only could the children listen to their peers reading their writing, but families could also listen to the children sharing their masterpieces.

    Additionally, by viewing a wide range of published writing in Ms. Thompson’s class, my preservice teachers deepened their understanding of the individualized nature of writing. They learned that the kindergartners wrote on a range of topics such as lost dogs, kindness, being thankful, and Batman of course. They also became aware of the wide range of abilities within one given class. The FlipGrid provided the preservice teachers with an opportunity to practice conferring with emergent writers. They analyzed the writing samples, considered instructional implications, and recorded a personalized video response for each child to give them feedback about their writing and development as writers.

    As one preservice teacher said, “We were able to connect with students in a different state and help them build confidence in their writing through video. This not only helped us learn about giving feedback to students but allowed these students to share their writing. They were able to work on presenting skills like projection and fluency in reading, and they really enjoyed hearing our responses to their work.”

    There are endless possibilities for the use of FlipGrid in the classroom including book talks, retellings or think-alouds about text, sharing steps for solving a math problem, and conducting a science experiment. Preservice teachers enrolled in my content area literacy course used FlipGrid to share book talks to help expand their peers’ repertoires for use of children’s literature across the curriculum.

    In each of these instances, the preservice teachers learned how digital platforms can be used to leverage formative assessment practices and individualize instruction while increasing their motivation and confidence for embedding technology in their own future classrooms.

    In order to prepare preservice teachers for today’s digital landscape, it is essential to embed authentic technology-enriched learning experiences throughout teacher preparation programs to expand learning through meaningful hands-on application.

    Katie (Stover) Kelly is an associate professor of education at Furman University in Greenville, SC and coauthor of From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools to Transform K-6 Literacy Practices (Solution Tree), Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3-12 (Corwin), and Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Children Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action (Heinemann). Follow her on Twitter @ktkelly14 and her blog at bookbuzz.blog.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

    Read More
    • Foundational Skills
    • Teaching With Tech
    • Literacies
    • 21st Century Skills
    • Topics
    • Digital Literacy
    • Digital Literacies

    Supercharged Read-Alouds

    By Mary Moen
     | May 03, 2019

    Teacher led read alouds are a powerful instructional activity. Decades of research indicate that the read-aloud experience at all grade levels benefits students’ development as readers and their success in school. That’s great news, but what is a post about good, old fashioned read-alouds doing in a blog post about teaching with technology?

    As a professor in a school library media educator preparation program, I have had the opportunity to observe dozens of school library candidates during their student teaching. Many are expanding and enriching the read-aloud experience using digital resources and technologies. Following are examples of how these candidates supercharge their read-alouds with technology.

    • Bring the book’s author and illustrator to life by integrating engaging, age-appropriate digital resources such as videos, interviews, blogs, and websites about them into the read aloud experience. For lower elementary students, videos on authors such as Kevin Henkes demonstrate that authors and illustrators have a craft and a message specifically for them. Authors such as Cece Bell may inspire older elementary students. Bell’s talk about why she wrote El Deafo (Abrams) helps students understand her perspective and connect with her as a real person. Older students may enjoy websites of their favorite authors. Neil Gaiman’s site encourages individual exploration by providing content about his work, new releases, essays, FAQ, and even a message board for fans to interact with each other.
    • Connect the subject matter of your read-aloud book to issues in the wider world and as well as to content across the curriculum by using maps, videos, websites, music, and virtual tours. If you are reading a story about penguins, show a map and short video of penguins in their habitat. Follow up by modeling inquiry research on penguins, climate change, and its effect on habitats by accessing and searching the school’s educational databases. Play a recording of the recycled orchestra of Paraguay's music after reading Ada's Violin (Simon & Schuster) and collaborate with the music teacher on an interdisciplinary project. Familiarize students with the setting of a book by using Google street view and travel videos. As virtual and augmented reality becomes more common in education, content created with a virtual reality app, such as Tour Creator, is an exciting option.
    • Use digital resources to help connect students to the subject matter of a read-aloud book. If you’re reading a book about snakes, for example, you can show students which snakes can be pets or what snakes live in your state.  Sharing a book about ducks? Have students sing and dance to "Six Little Ducks," available on streaming sites like Spotify. Take advantage of the ideas for extension activities available on author websites, reading organizations like ReadWriteThink.org and even those posted by individuals, such as this video for kids on how to draw Mo Willem’s Piggie character. Make sure you vet resources for appropriateness, content, and quality. The goal is to find audio, visual, and other digital resources that facilitate student immersion into the time, place, culture, and/or topic of a story to increase comprehension and deepen connections with books.

    To help select the resources for your technology-enhanced read-aloud, ask your school librarian for help. They have been trained to provide resources and are willing instructional partners. To organize your enhanced read-alouds, create a slide deck with an introduction to the book and links to the resources.  The slide decks can be used year after year and updated quickly. Have fun creating a supercharged reading experience for students at all grade levels.

    Mary H. Moen is an assistant professor and coordinator of the School Library Media program at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island. Connect with her on Twitter @mary_moen.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

    Read More
Back to Top


Recent Posts