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    Rethinking Source Evaluation for a Digital Age

    By Kristine E. Pytash and Beth Walsh-Moorman
     | Dec 14, 2018

     originalAttribute=A recent study by MIT scholars found that fake information is 70% more likely to be retweeted than facts. Online sources can offer half-truths, manipulate data, or advance a political or social agenda in ways that look completely impartial to the reader. Moreover, Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) studied 8,000 student responses that required evaluation of information from social media (including advertisements, photo sharing sites, and news stories) and found that students in middle school through college showed an alarming lack of critical thinking skills. In an executive summary of the report, SHEG stated “Our digital natives may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are duped”  

    SHEG has identified “lateral reading” as a way to teach the strategic thinking employed by fact-checkers. When given an online article for evaluation, McGraw and his colleagues found that “fact checkers do not spend time observing the source itself; rather, they read “laterally, hopping off an unfamiliar site almost immediately, opening new tabs... They left a site in order to learn more about it” (see more in their 2017 American Educator article). In one study, fact-checkers were able to quickly note that an article about minimum wage was sponsored by a  public relations firm for service  industries.

    So how can classroom teachers help students read laterally? We suggest that this skill can be easily embedded in classroom instruction. For instance, Katie, a high school teacher, includes lateral reading when teaching Nick Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (W.W. Norton). While she has students evaluate Carr’s argument, she added a formative step: at each new reading, students worked in groups to identify what sources Carr used in his argument. Then, the groups would break off and research those sources, often finding original texts and reading other references to them. Throughout the unit, students read and watched clips of 2001: A Space Odyssey, look at a 2001 Canadian study of  hyperlinks, and read reference materials about Descarte—all to determine how accurate Carr uses the work of others to back up his own claims.

    “The process of lateral reading made the reading process more of an active conversation with the author,” said Katie. For instance, one student found a source behind a pay wall and told the class, “(If) I can’t read his sources without paying for them, I wonder what the sources really said. What if they said more than what he quoted?”

    Using lateral reading as part of argument evaluation shifted the burden from the teacher to the students. Importantly, lateral reading can be used for any informational text. Elementary students can do their own research about before Nikola Tesla before reading Elizabeth Rusch’s Electrical Wizard (Candlewick). By middle school, teachers can ask students to evaluate an editorial about a recent event by first reading coverage of that event and then researching the news organization itself. In high school, authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Ta-Nehisi Coates, or Sebastian Junger can be excerpted or read in full before lateral reading.

    The social aspect of the lesson strengthens the students’ ability to question the texts they read. Students’ lateral reading results can be summarized and shared through a Padlet or class blog. After the reading, students can use Poll Anywhere to rate the argument. Class discussions can focus on how sources were manipulated. Katie chose to have her students write a traditional essay, however, students can use Piktochart or other infographic apps to address the question, how effective was this argument?

    Preparing students for an information- and misinformation-rich society is a challenge that will take time. Strategies such as lateral reading will not stop the spread of falsehoods, but they could make our students more aware.

    Kristine E. Pytash is an associate professor in Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies at Kent State University where she co-directs the Integrated Language Arts program.

    Beth Walsh-Moorman is an assistant professor of literacy at Lake Erie College in Painesville, OH. Her research interests include adolescent and new literacy practices, multimodal composition and disciplinary literacy. Beth spent 20 years as a high school English teacher and is editor of the Ohio Journal of English Language Arts.

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    Show Your Students Why Sourcing Matters

    By Eva Wennås Brante and Carita Kiili
     | Dec 07, 2018

    Many students struggle with sourcing, specifically, how to use source information to evaluate online sources or how to cite ones’ sources in the essay. Some students may not know how to source while others have knowledge about sourcing, but they don’t typically choose to apply that knowledge in practice This might be because they do not understand the value of sourcing.

    When investigating how children respond to information differently from adults and how they select whom to trust, researchers Paul Harris and Kathleen Corriveau found that, even for children, the source of information matters. For example, when two caregivers presented different statements, the children turned to the more familiar caregiver for confirmation. Children seemed to be nonselective in what they learn from others, but not in whom they learn from. This kind of spontaneous attention to sources of information may serve as a starting point for educators when explaining to students why sourcing matters. So, let’s do that!

    We will begin by sharing two examples that teachers could use to discuss the value of sourcing with their students. The first example from everyday life takes advantages of students’ spontaneous attention to sources and can also be used with younger students. The second example illustrates how information about the source may affect one's interpretation of a text's reliability. It also shows why one should pay attention to different aspects of the source during online inquiry.

    When students have understood the value of source information, they may be better motivated to cite their sources when reporting the results of their online research in a way that serves their readers. To provide informative in-texts citations, students need some guidelines. Our third example introduces two dimensions that students can keep in mind when formulating in-text citations.

    Example no. 1: Sourcing in everyday life

    Draw students’ attention to the value of citations by showing them a short message without a source (signature) and then, the same message with different signatures, following the stickers below (created with digital Superstickies).


    • After showing the first note, without the source, begin the conversation by asking students, “Would you like to know who has written the note? Why?”
    • After revealing the three other notes and calling attention to the different signatures (or sources) of each, ask students, “How do you interpret and react to the notes with different sources (signatures)?"

    Example no. 2: Sourcing when evaluating the reliability of a website

    Discuss the value of sourcing by asking students to evaluate the reliability of a fictitious website after showing them one piece of source information at the time, as listed below.

    • How reliable do you find the Web text that concerns health effects of chocolate when you know that:
      • An expert working at the health institute has been interviewed for the text?
      • The text has been published recently?
      • The text has been written by a web designer?
      • The text is published in the website of a chocolate manufacturer?
    • How did your interpretations on reliability change after each new piece of information about the source?
    • Do you think that one piece of information about the source is enough to make a proper conclusion about the reliability of the text? Why do you think so?

    Example no. 3: How to cite your Web sources in an essay?

    When older students are asked to formulate in-text citations in their essays, it is important that their citations are both accurate and provides rich information about the source. An accurate citation provides precise information about the Web page that students had actually read (e.g., it is published by The Washington Post). A citation that provides rich information includes two or more pieces of information that helps a reader to understand the nature of the source. 

    These two important dimensions can be introduced to students by using examples from the figure below. In the examples, source information is underlined.


    After explaining the dimensions, encourage your students to apply these principles in their essays.

    Eva Wennås Brante is a senior lecturer at the University of Malmö, Sweden.

    Carita Kiili is a postdoctoral fellows at the Department of Education at the University of Oslo.

    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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    Integrating Technology and Multiple Texts to Promote Differentiation in Literacy Instruction Across the Discipline

    By Sohee Park and Bong Gee Jang
     | Nov 30, 2018
    Differentiation for Disciplines

    It goes without saying that literacy (i.e., reading, listening, writing, and speaking) is the core set of skills necessary for learning fundamental subjects in the 21st century. Given its importance in learning, educators have coined terms such as content literacy, content area literacy, and disciplinary literacy to better support students’ learning in and across disciplines. More recently, Bong Gee Jang, Dawnelle Henretty, and Heather Waymouth suggested using the term “literacy across the disciplines” in order to encompass “both general and discipline-specific literacy practices within and across academic domains.” In the article, they also emphasized the need for differentiated literacy instruction across the disciplines and proposed a pentagonal pyramid model.

    Specifically, this model incorporates three for factors representing student characteristics for differentiation (i.e., literacy levels, cultural and linguistic diversity, and motivation) and two by factors that can be used as tools of differentiation (i.e., technology and multiple texts). In this post, we will introduce an example of integrating technology and multiple texts for differentiated literacy instruction in the science class of a middle school teacher, Ms. Smith.

    Ms. Smith’s science unit about air pollution

    Ms. Smith is planning to teach a unit on air pollution to eighth-grade students. Having recently read articles about air pollution coming from local factories and wildfires in Los Angeles, she decides to center her pollution unit on a question relevant to her students’ lives: “What are the issues about local air pollution and what should be done to improve local air quality?”

    Differentiation for diverse culture, language, and literacy proficiency through multiple texts and technology

    In Ms. Smith’s eighth-grade science class, about half of the students are English language learners or have below grade-level proficiency in reading. To ensure all students have adequate prior knowledge about local air pollution, she creates a list of the following resources:

    To improve students’ understanding of the materials regardless of their language proficiencies, she carefully creates heterogeneous groups and asks them to complete the same tasks after reading different texts, such as the following:

    • Group A: resources no. 1 and no. 2  
    • Group B: resources no. 3 an no. 4
    • Group C: resources no. 5 and no. 6

    Each group watches and reads the assigned resources and organizes the available information about focal topics (i.e., air pollution status, causes of air pollution, impact of air pollution, current solutions for air pollution, and further actions to be taken) from the resources into tables, concept maps, and/or diagrams using online infographic tools such as Infogram and Venngage. Students who are proficient in languages other than English can also obtain information from resources through help from peers, the 40 different language supports embedded in the websites (resource no. 6), or Google Translate.

    Once each group completes the tasks, the students report what they found to other students. As a wrap-up activity, Ms. Smith cocreates a map about the current air quality and causes of air pollution in the Greater Los Angeles area using Google Maps’ Create Map function. Overall, this activity contributes to promoting students’ active engagement with a variety of literacy levels in her class because the use of their local knowledge, culture, and experience is valued and shared in this activity with multiple texts and technology tools.

    Differentiation for students’ motivation through technology

    As the final product of the inquiry-based project, Ms. Smith provides students with two options. The first is to write a letter/email to a state representative or to the editor of a local newspaper in order to draw his or her attention to this issue and to ask him or her to take action. The other option is to create a video showing and describing the status of air pollution, its direct and indirect impacts on the students and their family and community, and the possible efforts to improve air quality.

    After completing the final product, each student will be required to send the letter/email or publish the video on YouTube and share the link via social media (e.g., Instagram and Snapchat) that they have access to actual audiences. By providing options on the genre (i.e., persuasive vs. informative), platform (i.e., print-based vs. digital), and modality (i.e., monomodal vs. multimodal), students can make choices based on their abilities and preferences, and the realization that they are capable of doing the work can motivate them. Letting students have real and authentic audiences is another way of motivating them because it allows them to receive feedback and reactions from real people.

    We hope this example from Ms. Smith’s class helps educators better understand the pentagonal pyramid model of differentiated literacy instruction across the disciplines and gives them ideas for its application in their teaching.

    Sohee Park recently finished her doctoral study in education at the University of Delaware. She is currently participating in several research projects on digital/multimodal literacies, writing instruction, and struggling readers.

    Bong Gee Jang is an assistant professor in the Department of Reading and Language Arts at Syracuse University. His main areas of research include literacy motivation and engagement in digital settings and disciplinary/content literacy. His research has appeared in referred journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Educational Psychology Review, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, and The Reading Teacher. Jang teaches courses related to disciplinary literacy and language arts for both preservice and inservice teachers. He also teaches introductory and advanced quantitative method courses to graduate students.

    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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    Integrating Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom

    By Marilyn Moore
     | Nov 09, 2018

    A diverse classroom library is needed to increase students’ reading volume, reading breadth, and motivation, according to this 2004 study published by the American Psychological Association. Self-selection of reading material is a salient factor for students’ reading development, as is access to a diverse classroom library.

    Students’ social and emotional learning (SEL) has become a growing area of interest in classrooms. A study published by Child Development in 2011 found that SEL programs yielded “significant positive effects on targeted social-emotional competencies and attitudes about self, others, and school.” The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning identifies five core social-emotional competencies as keys to success in school and beyond: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

    When students examine the emotions of the characters they are reading about, they gain not only a better understanding of the text but also a better understanding of their own feelings.

    The following books offer a gateway to the development of these five social-emotional competencies.


    Using the following texts, ask students to identify a time they may have experienced the same feelings as a character and then ask them to discuss in small groups how they addressed them.

    • Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio (Atheneum): Gaston works hard at his lessons on how to be a proper dog. He sips—never slobbers. He yips—never yaps. Gaston fits right in with his poodle sisters. But when a chance encounter with a bulldog family in the park reveals there’s been a terrible mistake, Gaston doesn’t know where he fits in anymore.
    • All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (Katherine Tegen): In a small town in Nebraska, Perry T. Cook has grown up with his mother in a private detention facility for women, but he attends a regular school. When a lawyer discovers Perry living in this facility, he makes a move to put him in foster care. Now it is up to Perry to clear his mother’s name and to prove to everyone the idea of what constitutes a family.


    After reading one of the following texts, discuss how the characters persevered through hard times to reach a goal.

    • After the Fall by Dan Santat (Roaring Brook Press): In this version of the nursery rhyme, Humpty tells his own story. This time, the emphasis is not on the infamous fall, but on what happens next. In search of the best view, he is motivated to climb back up the wall—demonstrating that the will to reach a personal goal goes far in overcoming a momentary setback.
    • Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul (Poppy): This was originally a Broadway musical reinvented as a novel. When a letter that was never meant to be seen draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, Evan is given the chance of a lifetime to belong. He just must pretend that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

    Social awareness

    The following texts provide easy and creative introductions to lessons centered around empathy, compassion, and tolerance.

    • Whoever You Are by Mem Fox (Reading Rainbow): All over the world, children are laughing and crying, playing and learning, eating and sleeping. They may not look the same. They may not speak the same language. And their lives may be quite different. But inside, they are just like you.
    • Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen): Maya is the new kid in school, and her classmates team up to torment her. When Maya is absent one day, the teacher brings in a pot of water and drops a stone into it, noting that “each kindness is like that,” as the ripples spread outward. The queen of the mean girls vows to change her behavior when Maya returns to school; however, Maya does not return.

    Relationship skills

    Use literature as an opportunity to teach students a lesson on conflict resolution.

    • Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Fifth grade is off to a terrible start when Frederick is sent to a disciplinary camp for troublesome boys. His fellow troop mates—Nosebleed, Specs, The Professor, and little-yet-lethal Ant Bite—are terrifying. But in between trust-building exercises and midnight escape attempts, a tenuous friendship grows between them. This is lucky, because a Category 5 hurricane is coming, and everyone will have to work together to survive!
    • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (Penguin): Four young teens are trying escape the conflict happening in Europe during World War II. They board a German boat called the Wilhelm Gustloff, only to learn that the Russians will be sinking the ship. Told from the perspectives of the four characters before and after the boat sinks, it is very moving piece of historical fiction.

    Responsible decision making

    The following stories feature characters who must make complex decisions about conflicting principles and loyalties. Use these examples to discuss ethical dilemmas.

    • Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick): Louisiana lives with her grandmother, who wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that they must leave home immediately. They travel by car to Georgia, where Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with a motel owner and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder. Her grandmother abruptly leaves, and Louisiana must make decisions about forgiveness and whether to stay or return to Florida.
    • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead): A generational story spanning 33 years, the book concerns two different women as they deal with the problems of war and domestic violence in Afghanistan. Themes include family, love, survival, war, and refugee issue.

    Marilyn E. Moore is a professor and faculty director for the Reading Program at National University, La Jolla, California.

    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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    Why Are There So Many Flat Screens in the Library?

    By Kara Clayton
     | Nov 02, 2018

    The library–media center of old was a silent place where students read, researched, and studied in isolation. However, as students are asked to think more critically, create, and discuss, the library–media center has evolved into a place where collaboration and engaging discussions take place.

    Recently I worked with physical education teacher Colleen Donakowski and her aquatics class to help students analyze their freestyle and elementary backstroke. We started by recording each student swimming two widths of the pool. The first width was freestyle and the second was elementary backstroke. After their swimming demonstrations, I edited the footage so small groups of students could watch and critique their swimming abilities. About four class days later, when the students reported to class, they went to the media center instead of the pool.

    When the first group of students arrived, one student asked, “Mrs. Clayton. This is a library, right? Why do we have so many flat screens in here?” I was excited for them to discover why.

    The planning stage

    clayton-1Groups of three to five students were assigned to a collaboration station that included a Chromebook, flat screen monitor, and dry erase board. Within Google Classroom, each group quickly accessed their video.

    Before viewing 

    clayton-2At the dry erase board that was set up at each station, students were asked to write down what they thought their group would see when that person swam their freestyle and elementary backstroke. Each person wrote their own notes on the board. Then they sat down to watch their video.

    During viewing

    clayton-3As each student played their individual video, group members compared the student’s attempt at the stroke to a set of stroke guidelines that had been prepared and distributed for analysis. They also collaborated with each other by providing warm feedback and suggestions for improvement.

    After viewing

    clayton-4Each group member took turns discussing the notes they had taken to help each individual think critically about and reflect on what they saw in the video. Students wrote down what they planned to do to improve their stroke once they were back in the pool.

    Observations and suggestions

    When there is planning time for both the classroom teacher and the instructional technology coach, collaboration stations provide opportunities to facilitate deeper learning for all students. Moreover, keeping group size small opens a gateway into the discussion for even the shyest of students.

    A tightly planned lesson helps to keep students on task during this activity. Additionally, give the instructional technology coach time to prepare the media center in advance to ensure that all the equipment is set up, working, and ready before the students arrive.

    How can you use collaboration stations?

    The ways to use the collaboration stations are limited only by your imagination. Can your students work in collaborative groups to discuss and research current societal issues? To make plans to build something? To conduct research for a project? To work on a math problem? To analyze a piece of student-produced writing? To analyze student performances in broadcasting, instrumental music, and sports? The opportunities are endless.

    Kara Clayton is a video production teacher and instructional technology coach at Thurston High School in the South Redford School District in Redford, MI, and offers professional development on the integration of video production in the classroom.

    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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