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    Where I’m From: Using Technology to Connect Students Across Cultures

    By Tim Flanagan
     | Nov 17, 2017

    Where I'm From“Thank you for teaching us to find ourselves through poetry.”

    One of my students made this comment at the end of the semester I spent teaching autobiographical poetry in Vietnam as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher. One of my goals was to increase students’ global competence.

    Finding your voice in another language

    Over several months, I taught middle school, high school, and college students how to write poems about themselves, using templates such as “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon and “Fourths of Me” by Betsy Franco. All were native Vietnamese speakers, with varying levels of English proficiency. Few of the students had ever written a poem before.

    Although many students struggled to find the words in English, they were eager to get their ideas on paper. I was struck by the small details of their lives, especially the details that reminded me of my students in Connecticut, a half a world away. Pop culture (especially Korean pop bands), love, pressure from parents, stress from too much homework, challenging stereotypes, and understanding one’s place in the world were all popular themes throughout the poems. Here are a few notable excerpts:

    I am from my mother
    From love and sweetness
    I am from the colorful kite in the sky
    I am from the sunshine around the sunflowers giving me inspiration
    From my countryside where I run to my horizon
    Lying on the grass and feeling my heart
    But at that moment
    I am from a boy who I always think of
    From his eyes when we meet
    Oh my boy! Please understand me and feel my soul.

    (Trang, “I Am From”)

    one fifth of me
    is standing on the ledge of a rooftop
    wondering if today's a good day to die

    one fifth of me
    is sitting on a tree
    yelling out me! me! me!

    one fifth of me
    is doing espionage in Europe
    moonlighting for the Commies

    (Claire Daring, “Fifths of Finch”)

    My mom makes me every meal
    My dad drives to dig for every “dong”
    My sister is seeking love from the other side
    My family is forced to find what is needed for our future

    (Thang, “Frustration”)

    Connecting across cultures

    My students hesitantly submitted poems to the website I created. They wondered if their English was good enough, if they had anything important to say, if anyone cared. There were shouts of joy when I showed them that visitors from faraway places such as the United States, Australia, and Palestinian territories had left comments for them. At that moment, the students realized the power of their words and felt a connection to the outside world. And the students who read and commented on their poems began to understand that Vietnam is more than a war.

    Today there are nearly 200 poems from students in four countries on the website. Visitors from 45 countries have read poems and written over 500 comments.  And more poems are being submitted.

    I am a general who loves peace.
    I fight for peace, to save my Karen people.
    I hear the Karen people need freedom to be free.
    I dream for my people and my country.
    I am a general who loves peace.

    (Saw Char, “I Am”)

    The power of poetry and technology combined can help students form a deeper understanding of people from around the world on their journey to becoming globally competent citizens.  

    Tim FlanaganTim Flanagan is a sixth- and seventh-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Pawcatuck Middle School in Stonington, Connecticut. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter. Teachers can access a complete Where I’m From Curriculum Guide online with poetry lessons, model poems and directions for how to submit student poems to the website.

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

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    Considerations of Privacy in Connecting Youth to Digital Literacy Spaces

    By Jayne C. Lammers
     | Oct 27, 2017

    Digital Privacy My ongoing research into young people’s online writing practices, particularly their fanfiction writing, has led me to encourage parents and teachers to celebrate and facilitate such pursuits, rather than to fear or block them. My enthusiasm and advocacy to help adults see the literacy potential of online writing communities has been echoed by other researchers, including Mimi Ito, who recognizes the need to work against the perception that youth participation in online spaces has no value.

    While I remain convinced that online writing communities, such as FanFiction.net and Figment.com, provide youth with access to passionate and responsive audiences for their writing, a recent conversation at the Digital Media & Learning Conference 2017 has me thinking about privacy with renewed interest. After all, we live in a time when there’s no shortage of alarming reports of data breaches that have adults scrambling to protect their personal and financial information.

    Notions of privacy in online communities and social networks are complicated indeed, as sharing information and making connections with others remain the central practices in these spaces. To add to the already abundant advice about the importance of teaching young people about digital citizenship or good digital hygiene, I offer these two specific actions to take when considering whether or not to recommend that youth participate in a particular digital space.

    Read the terms of service: While many of us never bother to read the terms of service when we sign up on a website, these documents offer valuable insights into how protected youth are (or are not) when they post online. Before connecting your students to an online platform, review the site’s terms of service documentation to discover what types of data are collected and how that data are used. In particular, pay attention to whether the site collects personally identifiable information, and, if so, whether or not they sell that data to third parties as a matter of practice.

    Rely on expert evaluations: Interpreting the legalese of terms of service documentation can be challenging. Thankfully, Common Sense Education’s Privacy Initiative does the difficult interpretation work for parents and teachers. Through their growing database of privacy evaluations, Common Sense rates websites, apps, and other educational technologies along dimensions of safety, privacy, security, and compliance. The resulting evaluations, such as this example, help adults make informed decisions about the potential privacy implications of youth participation in a variety of digital spaces.  

    As our literacy practices become increasingly digital and networked, concerns about whether and how to protect one’s privacy will remain important topics for policy and practice. It is my hope that literacy teachers can make use of these recommendations as they include privacy considerations as an important factor when deciding how best to integrate digital spaces into their instruction. 

    Jayne Lammers HeadshotJayne C. Lammers is an associate professor and director of the secondary English teacher preparation program at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education. She can also be reached on Twitter.

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

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    Enhance Comprehension and Collaboration Skills With Breakout EDU Games

    By Mary Beth Scumaci
     | Oct 20, 2017
    7 C's

    Have you heard of the popular trend that’s taking K–12 classrooms and faculty meetings by storm?  Breakout EDU is a collaborative “immersive learning games platform” where students are faced with challenges that unlock combinations needed to open the Breakout EDU box. In addition, there is a competitive beat the clock component that keeps students (and faculty) motivated. Challenges are engaging and interactive—like breaking into, rather than out of, an escape room. I haven’t met anyone that I have shared the activity with who hasn’t enjoyed it, including adults.  

    Games range from early elementary to high school and in many cases, are suitable for higher education students.  My graduate education students love the excitement of completing the Breakout EDU games and collaborating, communicating, critical thinking, and creative problem solving. Opening a variety of locks on the Breakout EDU box leads to a gratifying experience and is enhanced by holding one of the “We Broke Out” or “We Rock!” signs in front of the stopped timer.  I love helping my students explore their curiosity of children’s literature while working in engaging and active ways. 

    Currently, one of the games being spotlighted is The Dot, based on author Peter H. Reynolds' book. The Above and Beyond video representation of the book is used to help students learn about the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s (P21) four Cs of 21st century learning: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. When I teach this lesson with my teacher candidates, we discuss the importance of what we refer to as the “fifth C:” curiosity, the spark that makes the learning personally meaningful and self-motivating. 

    Recently, I came across an infographic poster on Twitter, created by “sketchnoter” Julie Woodard, titled “The 7 Cs of an Innovative Environment.” This poster builds on P21’s framework to include curiosity, cultural sensitivity, and community—all skills important for maintaining a healthy classroom environment. In addition, these skills support STEM and STEAM initiatives.

    There are many games in the areas of seasonal fun, computer science, art, math, social studies, science as well as mysteries and social skill development. Create an account and explore the possibilities. Then “Break Out” for some engaging and highly interactive collaborative game excitement that develops life skills needed in and out of the classroom!

    Mary ScumaciMary Beth Scumaci is a clinical associate professor and technology coordinator with the Department of Education at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY. She designs and instructs technology and online courses in addition to facilitating technology trainings for students, faculty, and staff.

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

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    Rethinking Literacy in 2017

    By Verena Roberts and Susan Noble
     | Oct 13, 2017

    Literacy in 2017In a 2012 Journal of Literacy Research article titled, "Rereading 'A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies'," authors Kevin Leander and Gail Boldt urge educators to move from a perspective on literacy as passive consumption of texts to understanding and enacting intentional literacy practices. How students communicate and access meaning in 2017 is not always demonstrated by reading a text or writing a sentence.

    How do students experience multimodal literacies throughout the day, every day? Let’s follow the usual morning routine for one 12-year-old student, Will.      

    Will was nervous about the first day of seventh grade. His school had emailed his parents a welcome letter along with his schedule, list of required school supplies, and first day reminders. The night before school started, Will’s mom read this on her computer. Across the table, Will watched a fellow student’s YouTube channel, where she video blogged, or “vlogged,” about her first day nervousness. He looked up from his iPhone to share what his fellow student said with his mom, and to say how relieved he was that others felt the same way.

    Will’s mom noted that there would be no school buses for seventh grade. Together, Will and his mom used a public transit app to configure his journey on the first day of school. While Will checked out four possible routes, his mom connected to a social media group that was created to support the parents and caregivers of seventh graders. That night, Will went to sleep knowing what to expect, how to get to school, and that everyone else was feeling anxious as well.

    Will wakes up to his iPhone playing a popular song. As he walks to the kitchen for breakfast, he reads over the weather alerts, Buzzfeed notifications, and texts from his friends. Will laughs as his friend John sends out a musical invite encouraging his “fans” to watch him comb his hair on the first day of school. Will types a quick comment to his friend telling him that he looks great and will see him at school.  As he sits down to eat breakfast, his phone reminds him that his citizens are going to revolt if he doesn’t get more food. Will jumps into his SimCity app to keep his virtual society happy for the day. Will finds his Fitbit as he has a soccer practice after school and wants to ensure he reaches 10,000 steps by dinner time. He has been tracking his steps as well as his heart beat at soccer practices, as he thinks his coach is making them run too much.

    When Will gets on the bus, his friend John pulls out his phone to show Will pictures of possible new hairstyles. John had already posted various remixes of “possible John with this hair” images on Instagram and Snapchat, and he was watching to see which photos were getting the most likes. Sandra (the vlogger) introduces Will to her cousin from Mexico, and Will quickly uses a translator app on his iPhone to welcome her to Canada.

    Finally, Will arrives at school, throws his bag in his locker and rushes to class. As he enters his classroom his teacher greets him with a warm hello, then asks him to put his cell phone in a basket. He will get it back at the end of class. The teacher then starts the class by saying, “Take out a piece of paper, and write a 500-word paragraph that describes who you are.” Will looks longingly over at his phone and considers the photos, videos, texts, games, apps that help describe who he is. Then he turns back to his paper and dutifully writes his paragraph. As the bell rings for the class, Will hands in his assignment and takes his phone out of the basket.  

    Did Will’s teacher miss out on an opportunity to learn more about the “real” Will? How can we, as educators, best integrate text focused and multimodal literacies in our learning environments? What are you doing?

    Verena RobertVerena Roberts is a doctoral student at the University of Calgary and an educational technology learning specialist at Rocky View Schools.



    Susan NobleSusan Noble
    is a master’s student at the University of Calgary and a literacy learning specialist at Rocky View Schools.


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

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    Cultivating Classroom Community Through the WRITE Method

    By Carrice Cummins, Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez, and Elizabeth Manning
     | Oct 06, 2017

    2017_03_30-DL-300wAs we move forward in the new school year, we strive to help students continue to learn about each other and to foster a strong classroom community. This can be done using WRITE, a five-step process that employs digital tools and resources to help students share their stories. You will find that students will quickly become engaged as they use technology to move through each step.

    W: What to Write

    R: Research

    I: Initial Draft

    T: Two Kinds of Editing

    E: Extend to an Audience

    What to write

    During stage one, deciding what to write, students will tell their life stories. They can start this project by creating a timeline to detail their key life events. Using ReadWriteThink’s Timeline Generator or Sutori, students can import picture slides into movie software and add voice narration and background music. The idea of sharing content is not unfamiliar to your students as they do this on a regular basis through their interaction in social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, My Story, etc.).

    Research

    The research stage requires students to locate pictures that illustrate their story. For hard copies of pictures, students or parents can take a picture with a cell phone then either air drop, message, or email the picture so it can be saved to a folder on the computer they are using for this project. Sometimes, the quality of the picture is lost when a picture is taken of the picture. If that is an issue, CamScanner can be used to scan pictures so that picture quality stays intact. 

    Initial draft

    The initial draft stage involves students inserting their pictures into Google slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Apple Keynote.  Each key event from their timeline becomes a slide in the slideshow. The title of the slide can be the significant date (e.g., August 3, 2008) while the subtitle could be a brief description of the key event (e.g., Best birthday presenter ever—my dog, Chica!). Students insert the corresponding picture to the slide, then they write a script that elaborates more on the key event (e.g., This was probably my favorite birthday of all times. Mom and Dad gave me my very own puppy.  I named her Chica, and we go everywhere together.) 

    Two kinds of editing

    During the fourth stage, students perform two kinds of editing: editing for content and editing for CUPS (capitalization, usage, punctuation, and spelling). For both editing tasks, students can work in small teams and edit each other’s slideshows for the following content elements:

    • Title: Date included on slide
    • Subtitle: Brief description of key event
    • Picture: Reflects the key event
    • Script: Additional information about the key event

    Any feedback from the peer reviewers can be provided using the comment option in Google Slides, Microsoft Office, or Apple Keynote. During CUPS editing, the peer reviewer checks the work for capitalization, usage, punctuation, or spelling errors. If errors are found, then the peer reviewer adds a comment. Once this review cycle is finished, each student revisits their slideshow and script to make any needed corrections.

    Extend

    During the last stage of the WRITE process, students have the opportunity to publish their life story as a movie. Students import their pictures into Apple iMovie or Windows MovieMaker, and then use their script and add voice narration to provide the additional information for each key life event they shared. The last step is to add a remix of music that plays in the background.  Once completed, these life story movies can be shared with the rest of the class so they can learn more about other members of their classroom learning community.

    Community building is a critical component of a strong student-centered, collaborative learning environment. Students can only learn and grow when they feel that they can take a risk and try something new without fear of judgment or ridicule. This project allows students to recognize and to appreciate that they each have a story to tell and that the community of the classroom would be incomplete without each one. In a classroom with a strong community spirit, there is a sense of encouragement, understanding, and empathy. This type of technology integration is a way to allow students to express themselves using a digital fingerprint while building interpersonal connections with their classmates.

    Carrice Cummins is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. She has over 40 years’ experience as an educator with primary areas of interest in comprehension, content area literacy, and teacher development. She served as the 2012-13 president of the International Reading Association.

    Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. She has been an educator for over 30 years, and her areas of expertise include literacy and technology.

    Elizabeth Manning is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. A veteran K-8 teacher of over 25 years, her areas of interest include content area literacy, writing workshop, and curriculum design and development.

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

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