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    Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit With Google Drawings

    By Nicole Timbrell
     | Oct 12, 2018
    Online Poetry Kit

    When I first encountered Google Drawings, I assumed it was a tool for creating diagrams, labeling maps, or annotating science experiments. Although I recognized that it could be used in the English classroom to create a character profile, plot timeline, or a concept map, as far as I could tell, an instructional tool Google Drawings most definitely was not. So I was happily surprised when, while doing a poetry writing activity with my seventh-grade English class, I discovered that Google Drawings could be fashioned into a creative writing tool.

    Some of the fun poetry writing activities I use with my middle school students include Book Spine Poetry, Found Poetry, Blackout Poetry and Magnetic Poetry. What they all have in common is the requirement to compose a poem from a preexisting set of words. The central idea of all these writing exercises is that students recognize that poetry can be inspired by—and built from—any text in any setting.

    The original version of Magnetic Poetry (launched in 1993) required the purchase of a “kit” of tiny magnets, each containing a word, that users could shuffle around the refrigerator door (or other magnetic surface) to create short poetic texts. Once I discovered an online version of magnetic poetry, I would have students create an online magnetic poem, take a screenshot of their completed poem, and then add it to a shared Google Slides for peer review. However, when my 2018 seventh-grade English class completed this activity, they were not content to be lumped with someone else’s words. They expressed a desire to build their own themed magnetic poetry kits using word banks they had created among themselves.

    So, with the help of Google Drawings, our class’s Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit was born.

    In addition to the customizable frame in which the final drawing is composed, the Google Drawings template provides blank space around the edges of the frame where other items and instructions can be placed. In the case of the Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit the “magnets” containing the word bank are placed around the blank space, and students simply click and drag the required words or punctuation marks onto the framed area to write their poem. Once the poem is completed, it can be downloaded into a range of file formats and shared with an audience, either digitally or in print.

    Back in my seventh-grade class, students created word banks (taking some inspiration from the Magnetic Poetry Original Kit word list), filled in their Google Drawings template, and practiced creating a poem from their own online magnetic poetry kit. It was during this stage that my students quickly realized that for their poetry kits to be effective, the word banks needed to contain all the parts of speech: nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, articles, determiners, prepositions, and even punctuation. So we modified the template to categorize the words and, in addition to our intended poetry writing exercise, we ended up with a revision lesson on the parts of speech. The final stage of the exercise involved collaboration, peer editing, and publishing. In small groups, my students shared their online magnetic poetry kit with students in other classes. Those students used my students’ templates to write poems and, in turn, shared their own poetry kits with my students to try. 

    The success of this activity has me thinking about other potential analytical, persuasive, or creative writing exercises that could be taught with Google Drawings. After sharing the poetry kit at school, one English teacher took the idea and created a Google Drawings to help students analyze the play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. She placed the play’s important themes, sentence starters, quotations, and analytical phrases in the vacant space around the drawing and invited students to write a paragraph about an important scene in the play using the Google Drawings framework.

    The lesson learned? I plan to approach all new collaborative technologies by first asking myself, How can this tool help me to improve student writing? Chances are, there’s a writing tool in there somewhere—even if I cannot see it at first.

    Click here to view the blank template for the Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit. To edit this document, you will need to make a copy.

    Classroom tip: If you have Google Classroom enabled for your school’s domain, set the Build-Your-Own Magnetic Poetry document as an “Assignment” and select “Every Student Gets A Copy.”

    Nicole Timbrell is the Head of Digital Learning and Australian Curriculum Coordinator in the Secondary School at the Australian International School Singapore, where she also teaches English. Formerly, Nicole was a graduate student and a research assistant at the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education.

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    After the 1:1 Honeymoon Period: My Love/Hate Relationship With Student Chromebooks

    By Tim Flanagan
     | Oct 05, 2018
    Chromebook Use

    I looked at the pile of Chromebooks on my desk and wondered how I had gotten to this place. I had spent the period remotely closing tabs students had opened, mostly related to Fortnite or some other addicting game, and eventually got to the point where I was taking Chromebooks away from my seventh graders.

    I had waited so long for my school to embrace the 1:1 concept. Providing each student with a Chromebook would solve a lot of problems. No more wheeling the clanky cart down the hallway to my classroom and no more students dashing out the door without plugging their computers back in. With Google Classroom and Chromebooks, we could now be a paperless classroom. Teaching global competencies, creating authentic projects, and reaching an audience beyond our classroom would be so much easier once they had their Chromebooks.

    So why was I now taking Chromebooks away from my students? The short answer is that they were playing games, but upon further reflection I realized it was a result of my own lack of preparation. Because I had been using computers in my classroom for decades, I thought that I was prepared. I hadn’t considered the unique issues that arise when each student is assigned his or her own device. As the new year begins, I’ve realized I need to make a few changes.

    Set clear expectations

    It seems so obvious, especially for a teacher with over 30 years of experience, but I failed to do this with the Chromebooks. Because the devices were already in students’ hands as they entered the room, they saw no problem in opening them at the beginning of class to play a game or listen to music before the lesson started. The problem, of course, was getting them to stop the game when I was ready to begin teaching. Setting clear expectations will help alleviate this problem.

    Don’t forget about paper

    I love using online annotation tools and having students submit assignments through Google Classroom. I have learned, however, that some students really do need paper copies, and that everyone benefits from a balance of digital and paper assignments. Even middle school students get tired of looking at screens all the time.

    Digital doesn’t mean better

    This summer I visited several schools in Germany as a participant in the Transatlantic Outreach Program. One thing that struck me was the lack of technology in German classrooms. In conversations with students and teachers, I learned that German students are just as addicted to their phones as students in the United States, but technology use in the classroom is limited. There were computer labs and other places to use technology at school, but the typical classroom had just a whiteboard and desks. This reminds me that 1:1 does not mean students should be on their devices all the time. Good teaching can happen without a computer.

    Not every student is ready for the responsibility of 1:1

    Although I’d like to blame my Chromebook woes on Fortnite, I know that the issue is much bigger than one game. Some students really do struggle with having access to a device that offers so many tempting distractions. On one message board of parents who were opposed to 1:1 programs for their children, an anonymous parent wrote, “The school is giving a piece of technology that is inherently hard to resist to children with impulse control issues . . . and then expecting the impulsive kid to resist one of the most seductive drugs out there.” We need to listen to parents when they tell us that the laptop we just gave their 12-year-old is not in their child’s best interests.

    Despite the challenges of the past year, I am still a strong advocate of using technology in the classroom and 1:1 programs. I believe it is our responsibility to teach students how to use technology to research, collaborate, solve problems, and engage with the world. By preparing properly for a 1:1 program, setting clear expectations, and considering individual student needs, a 1:1 program can help achieve these goals.

    Tim Flanagan is a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Pawcatuck Middle School in Stonington, Connecticut. You can read more on his blog, The Alternate Route: Teaching, Traveling and Learning Across the Globe, and follow him on Twitter @tflanagan01.

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    Read-Alouds for Digital Literacy Fun

    By Mary Beth Scumaci
     | Oct 03, 2018

    The Technology TailDigital citizenship skills are an important part of today’s teaching and learning culture. Our students are growing up in a fast-paced, technologically advanced world, where the integration of digital safety needs to be a priority. As an educator with a background in elementary education who works with future teachers, I love starting every class with a read-aloud. Each course I teach has its own unique collection of read-alouds that integrate class topics. Following are some favorites from my course, “Technology for the Elementary Classroom.”

    • Narrated by main characters Monkey and Jackass, Lane Smith’s It’s a Book (Roaring Brook) is a fun but poignant story about storytelling in the digital age.   
    • Paul A. Reynolds’ and Peter H. Reynolds’ Going Places (Atheneum) underlines the critical importance of 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and curiosity and illustrates how thinking outside the box is conducive to personal growth and fulfillment.
    • But I Read It on the Internet! by Toni Buzzeo (Upstart) walks readers through the process of conducting online research and evaluating websites for integrity. 
    • Julia Cook’s The Technology Tail: A Digital Footprint Story (Boys Town), sends a powerful message about digital citizenship and offers includes tips for parents and educators who want to reinforce values of kindness and respect in a technology-inundated world.
    • Chicken Clicking by Jeanne Willis (Andersen) is a cautionary tale about what happens when Farmer Brown leaves his computer password unprotected.
    • When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins (Puffin) follows computer game-addict Charlie McButton’s outrageous reaction to a power outage.
    • Margaret Wise Brown’s classic Good Night Moon (HarperCollins) inspires lessons on comparing and contrasting when read alongside Good Night Lab, a scientific parody by Chris Ferrie (Baby University) and Good Night iPad by Ann Droyd (Blue Rider).
    • Once Upon a Time…Online by David Bedford (Parragon) is a clever story about what happens to fairy tale characters when a laptop falls from the sky, with it landing a lesson in online safety.
    • Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back by Laura Pedersen (Tilbury House), Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino (Dragonfly), Unplugged by Steve Antony (Scholastic), and Dot by Randi Zuckerberg (HarperCollins) all impress the importance of managing technology use.
    • If you’re looking for a book on coding, How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk (Viking), with a forward by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, may help you get the conversation started.

    The picture books on this list are engaging read-aloud choices that offer a launchpad for discussing responsible technology use. Happy reading!

    Mary Beth Scumaci is the associate dean for technology education and an associate professor at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY. She has a passion for children’s books and working with teacher candidates to help prepare them for the excitement of today’s classrooms. Scumaci instructs technology and literacy courses, is an online courses designer, and facilitates technology trainings for students, faculty, and staff.

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

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    Designing Learning Spaces That Promote Equity and Inclusion

    By Jill Castek
     | Sep 28, 2018

    learning-spaces-equityToday’s schools, libraries, museums, and communities are creating learning spaces for engaging in hands-on activities such as makerspaces, innovation labs, or fab labs. These spaces have evolved to be interdisciplinary centers that personalize learning for individual, diverse learners working in collaborative settings (for more background, explore my previous articles, “Learn By Doing: Exploring Values, Networks, and Genres” and “Making It Social: Considering the Purpose of Literacy to Support Participation in Making and Engineering”). When designed well, these spaces contextualize learning around participants’ goals and offer rich opportunities for exploratory learning for novice and expert technology users alike.  

    Despite their potential, makerspaces often struggle to create a sense of inclusivity for diverse learners, language learners, and diverse cultural groups. With funding from the National Science Foundation, educators from around the United States will gather face to face and virtually to develop methods, tools, and resources to tackle this issue.

    From February 25–28, 2019, the University of Arizona will host this unique synthesis and design workshop for 80 participants. It will take place at Biosphere 2, a unique learning environment dedicated to researching global scientific issues. The facility serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies, an arena for scientific discovery and discussion, and a far-reaching provider of public education.

    This broad national group will draw interdisciplinary participation from both practitioner and researcher groups. Participants will identify issues, discuss possible solutions, and create prototypes and materials that address equity and inclusion in technology-rich learning environments.

    Focus areas for collaborative work include developing the following:

    • Design principles and practices that promote the inclusivity of learning spaces
    • Methods for documenting learning in ways that are linked to outcomes and impacts for all learners
    • Opportunities to use new technologies in diverse settings for diverse purposes
    • Structures and tools for facilitating and promoting dialogue and peer-to-peer learning
    • Design features that maximize the intersection between diverse learners, the learning environment, and new technologies

    This workshop will encourage the exchange of innovative ideas, surface challenges and opportunities, connect practical and research-based expertise, and form cross-institutional and cross-community partnerships that envision, propose, and implement opportunities that support our collective understanding. Outcomes will address equity and inclusion for all learners.

    If you are interested in getting involved in this effort or attending the workshop, contact Jill Castek, associate professor at the University of Arizona, at jcastek@email.arizona.edu. Scholarships for travel and accommodations are available.

    Jill Castek is an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Arizona. Find her on Twitter @jillcastek.

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    Trading Places With Wikispaces

    By Meg Rishel
     | Sep 21, 2018
    TILE-SIG 2.0

    People around the world have used Wikispaces since 2005. Until this past June, Wikispaces was a free host for technology in the classroom loved by those who knew what blended learning was before it became a buzzword. As of September 30, 2018, many classroom teachers and educational focus committees will have to say goodbye to a trusted collaborative resource. Now educators are engaged in conversations about where to host their collaborative learning networks.

    For those of you who loved Wikispaces, similar options include Mediawiki, TikiWiki, or PBWorks. However, many teachers are getting comfortable with the ease of new platforms such as Moodle, Canvas, or Google.

    When our TILE-SIG committee began conversations about a new website to replace Wikispaces, we spent hours discussing and researching the best options. We finally decided that starting our own Google account would allow us to set up everything we needed and provide free membership to our members. Not only do we now have a Gmail account, we have also archived our previous content in Google Drive, which can be shared just as collaboratively as Wikispaces once was. All of this is now easily linked to our Google Site.

    So if you are also interested in “promoting technologies as tools for improving the quality of reading/language arts instruction and enhancing children’s interest in recreational reading,” then complete a membership form, check out our latest newsletter,  and explore our archives on our website. You too may find that trading Wikispaces for Google will be much less drama than a TLC episode.

    Meg Rishel is an instructional ELA coach for Eastern York School District and the TILE-SIG newsletter editor. You can follow her on Twitter.

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

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