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Literacy Now

Teaching With Tech
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
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    • Digital Literacies

    From Craft to Curriculum Design: Experimenting With Maker Education

    By Amélie Lemieux
     | Aug 02, 2019

    Ask any teacher and they’ll likely agree that one of the most significant challenges in their work is implementing innovative material using new technologies or modalities they have not yet learned or mastered. In a recent study I conducted at Mount Saint Vincent University in Atlantic Canada, I asked seasoned in-service teachers to document their thought processes as they engaged in maker activities that were new to them. I was interested in finding out what happens when teachers engage in makerspace literacy activities.

    Most teacher participants in this maker study agreed that the professional development they receive, usually once or twice a year, is insufficient to support them in maker curriculum implementation and development throughout the school months. Ideally, professional development should be ongoing, and schools should support maker activities with appropriate infrastructure. With more studies documenting how materials present both challenges and opportunities for affective, cognitive, and sensory learning, it makes sense to find ways to support teachers in maker-driven initiatives.

    Following are three examples teachers can apply in their classroom settings. You might explore some of these activities and related technologies at home this summer as you gear up for the new school year.

    Maker experiments, design, and genius hour

    lemieux-1If you are inclined to take up material making and work with pencil design and planning, there are benefits to embracing drawing and building as multi-step maker activities. In the picture above, a participant designs a wood stick box and documents the materials she plans on using in her unit on Genius Hour with fifth graders. In this activity, planning and drafting structures become integral parts of making.

    After this exercise, students chose and tested the materials with which to create this box, as the experiment was meant to test whether an uncooked egg would crack depending on the height at which it was dropped. While this type of maker activity does not require technology, it does mobilize maker skills such as design, creativity, and problem-solving.

    Video making and editing

    pic-2 - CopyOther kinds of maker activities require beginner technology use. There are many accessible video recording and editing software products that teachers find useful without specialized training. StopMotion, pictured below, entails iPad play and is ideal for enabling both teachers and students to creatively animate ideas. iMovie is another editing software that requires little prior knowledge for effective use. In the screen caption below, two teachers are making edits to their video—their project was centered around creating tutorials with primary-grade children (how to make apple sauce).

    Coding

    pic-4 - CopyCoding is also a popular maker space activity. A program called Scratch is one of the most popular coding tools, but software updates in January 2019 introduce a series of changes that require attentive adaptation. Watching tutorials and taking notes can provide some support for learning Scratch, and for those using Chromebooks in your classrooms, you will be pleased to know that Scratch 3.0 is now supported on this platform. Other Chromebook-supported software, such as Blockly or micro:bit (pictured below), might prove to be convenient alternatives to Scratch. Your choice of programming language will ultimately depend on resources, skill level, and adaptability of the software.

    Remember, maker education is all about trying out new things in a fun and accessible environment. Though you may be moderating the activity as the teacher or leader, do not be afraid to learn with your students—embrace the unknown and discover the joys of learning with technology.

    Teacher resources

    • Create 2Learn compiles resources for teachers who want to take up maker education for the first time and are unsure how to start.
    • LEGO Education's engaging, standards-based lessons help inspire curious and creative minds. 
    • Scratch for Educator offers guides to help you prepare and run Scratch classes and workshop as well as plans, activities, and strategies for introducing creative computing in the classroom.

    Amélie Lemieux is assistant professor of literacy and technology at Mount Saint Vincent University,  where she researches digital literacies and makerspace engagement through mapping methodologies.  She can be reached on Twitter at @ame_lemieux. For recent scholarship on maker education, please visit www.amelielemieux.com

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

    Teaching and Learning in a Digital World: Digital Literacies for Disciplinary Learning

    By Jill Castek and Mike Manderino
     | Jul 26, 2019

    collaborative-pl-2Over the course of a two-year period, we have been discussing digital and disciplinary learning with our colleagues in schools and universities. These discussions suggest that teaching and learning with digital technologies require us to think differently about classroom organization. They also introduce synergistic practices centered around teaching literacies in ways that cut across disciplinary boundaries.

    We argue that in a digital world where learning traverses digital/print, in- and out-of-school, face-to-face and virtual communication, disciplinary literacies that rely solely on print resources are no longer sufficient to fully convey complex and multilayered meanings. In this blog post, we briefly sum up three key ideas gleaned from our conversations.  

    Digital resources enrich disciplinary thinking and collaboration

    It is becoming increasingly clear that the digital world is a collaborative world. Meaning making is also a collaborative, networked activity that involves many individuals with different kinds of expertise. Discussion is often part of this process and includes both face-to-face and virtual, the latter often mediated through a shared, networked collaborative space such as Hypothes.is. This shared annotation space provides an online forum to hold discussions, read socially, organize a collection of reading materials and research archives, and take personal notes.

    Hypothes.is and other similar digital tools provide a collaborative context for synthesizing ideas drawn from multiple resources and a means for discussing them with other learners. Such digital exchanges of ideas mirror the forums disciplinary experts use to exchange ideas, track the evolution of their thinking, and post ideas for critique and discussion with other disciplinarians. Incorporating flexible digital forums into classroom instruction invites multiple perspectives and encourages the examination of ideas from different points of view. Flexibility, multiple perspectives, and examining different points of view are mindsets that are vital in disciplinary learning and also in the digital world. 

    Digital collaborations promote opportunities for curation

    We recognize that teachers have limited time to keep pace with the infinite possibilities of digital literacies for disciplinary learning. We advocate for collaborative curation of digital resources that converge with disciplinary practices. Twitter chats, Google Docs and sites, and Tes Teach with Blendspace are great places for teachers to connect, curate, and share resources for digital literacies for disciplinary learning. Students can also use these forums to share, so they become tools for developing disciplinary communication and deepening disciplinary inquiry.   

    Collaborative professional learning experiences enhance engagement

    We advocate for professional learning that makes space for teachers, along with their colleagues, to design, iterate, and test learning tasks within and across disciplines. If teachers are to build students’ disciplinary knowledge, then they themselves must develop their own means of digital and disciplinary engagement. Teachers rarely get opportunities to build, tinker, and create their own disciplinary inquiry. Making time for such activities supports their development, instructional planning, and implementation as they guide their students through similar processes. We encourage collaborative professional learning, which can span online and offline forums.

    These networks create spaces for teachers to engage in their own learning while sharing with the texts and tools used by students and to develop the digital and disciplinary knowledge with and alongside their students. One exemplary program for collaborative professional learning is the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. This multi-dimensional learning opportunity scaffolds collaborative, project-based inquiry using a variety of digital texts, tools, and technologies that support challenging and engaging learning opportunities. 

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

    Mike Manderino is the Director Of Curriculum And Instruction at Leyden High School District 212.

    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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    Extending Text-Based Strategies to Digital Environments

    By Amber White
     | Jul 12, 2019

    Extending Text-Based Strategies to Digital EnvironmentsTake a moment to reflect on your daily digital reading habits. How do you start your day? Perhaps you begin the morning by reviewing your Google Calendar to see what the day ahead entails, then catch up on the latest news from AllSides, next you read the latest education news curated from Troy Hick’s Nuzzel newsletter, and then spend a few minutes scrolling through your Twitter feed and notice an article highlighted by Nell Duke that you like and will read later. Within the first hour of waking, many of us have immersed ourselves in a significant amount of online reading, most of which is informational in nature.

    Regardless of our online reading habits, the “internet of things”  doesn’t sleep and will continue to soar in the variety of information being generated through the datafication of online clicks, likes, shares, postings, streamings, and more. The diverse reading that we—and our students—will have to traverse online requires that we have skills and strategies to navigate and comprehend the various multimedia elements in genre-bending spaces.

    It’s clear informational reading plays a significant role in our readerly lives yet early learners often have limited access and exposure to informational text in school. What can we do to help prepare our students to comprehend informational text in a digital environment?

    Adapting and extending research

    Bridget Dalton and C. Patrick Proctor’s research suggests that text-based pedagogical strategies, such as reciprocal teaching, can help support students’ thinking when extended to a digital literacy environment. Moving reciprocal teaching into an online environment involves supported instruction around the adapted use of four comprehension strategies—predict, question, clarify, summarize—and has text-based research for improving reading comprehension.

    In an adapted version of reciprocal teaching, an upper elementary student from Michigan created several short metacognitive screencasts to demonstrate the strategic reading of online informational text in a digital learning environment.

    Reciprocal teaching screencasts 

    Note that other digital tools, such as InsertLearning or DocHub, could be used to make digital annotations viewed in the screencast clips above.

    Although this tailored version of reciprocal teaching took place in a static digital space, it still beautifully captures how online tools can be leveraged to better navigate and comprehend online information. After receiving explicit, direct instruction, this student demonstrates how using the strategies—making predictions, clarifying thinking while reading, and using questioning to set authentic purposes for reading—can strengthen comprehension. In addition, the digital think-aloud clips of the strategy itself amplify the student’s learning within the digital environment.

    Implications for text-based strategies

    We can move students from effortful strategy use to a more automatic skill by intentionally introducing them to a repertoire of impactful strategies that will help them monitor their understanding of online informational text. As the information at our fingertips continues to soar, increased action research and scholarship exploring the successes and/or failures of proven text-based strategies in digital environments will be highly beneficial for classroom teachers and their students.

    Amber White is a reading specialist, a teacher consultant for the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, and the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for North Branch Area Schools. You can reach her on Twitter @AWhite100.

    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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    • Teaching With Tech
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    Digital Tools for Book Clubs and Choice Reading

    By Angie Johnson
     | Jul 05, 2019

    My school is one of many whose ELA departments have moved from a focus on whole-class novels to independent reading and reading partnerships (both pairs and clubs). These combine the essential elements of choice, volume, engagement, and quality talk, which professor of education Richard Allington asserts are foundational to quality literacy education. What follows are a few digital tools for helping teachers and students from upper elementary through high school support choice and shared reading.

    Choosing a book

    Rudine Sims Bishop talks of books as windows into the lives of those who are different from us, and mirrors reflecting characters whose experiences are like our own. Readers need both. OurStory is a site designed specifically by We Need Diverse Books to help students locate books about diverse experiences and by authors from marginalized communities. Rather than searching by title or keyword, users take a brief quiz to narrow their preferences by level (from toddlers to YA), genre, identity and experience type, and story elements. The suggestions generated include an overview of each book, the specific diversity elements found in it, links to reviews, and a “More Like This” button to find similar titles. For a modest fee, additional resources like study guides and book bundles are also available

    our-story-1 copy

    OurStory’s list of tailored book suggestions show what makes a book diverse. Green indicates categories the user specifically chose and red indicates categories the user did not choose but are present in the book.

    A few other sites for choosing books include YourNextRead by Goodreads, where students type in a favorite title to find other books like it; Epic Reads, which searches by author, genre, and subject and posts video trailers; and Yalsa’s Teen Book Finder, a mobile app for compiling and keeping digital book lists. 

    Tracking student reading and organizing clubs

    A newer tool for tracking student reading across a school is Loose Canon. For guest visitors, the site is a solid tool for browsing a well-curated collection, but it’s really set up to encourage schoolwide, face-to-face discussions about books. Teachers can create reading “assignments” within a school pool that are accessible to anyone in it, which facilitates both in-class and extracurricular book clubs. Within assignments teachers can narrow students’ choices to a set of books, and users see everyone’s choices, allowing students to self-sort into book clubs. The site tracks a student’s current assignments and books previously read, so teachers have quick access to each student’s reading resume. After a three-month trial, the cost for schoolwide groups depends on size, while a single teacher account is free for up to 60 students. I believe it’s a promising new tool for creating a culture of reading within, across, and outside classes.

    Below is a photo of an individual assignment in Loose Canon, showing a sortable list of students who have chosen books for that assignment.

    our-story-2 copy

    Discussing and sharing books

    The award-winning Book Club for Kids is a personal favorite for upper elementary and middle level readers. It hosts a weekly podcast of students discussing their favorite books with public radio journalist Kitty Felde. The shows include celebrity guests reading passages aloud and author responses to the students’ questions. There’s so much to explore here: tips for creating lifelong readers, QR codes for books, recommendation lists from kids and adults. What’s more, kids can even call in their own book recommendations. The site is wonderful for book browsing, but I also share it as a model for book club discussions and student-created podcasts and offer it as an opportunity for kids to share their own voices about the books they love.

    Angie Johnson is a teacher librarian, instructional coach, and eighth grade English language arts teacher at Lakeshore Middle School in Stevensville, MI. She earned a PhD in educational psychology and educational technology from Michigan State University. You can find her on Twitter @angkjohns.

    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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    • Teaching With Tech
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    Digital Introductions for Building Classroom Communities

    By Kristin Webber
     | Jun 28, 2019

    As the school year wraps up in the United States, many teachers are already thinking about their fall classes. For most educators, the planning will begin with how to get to know their students and introduce them to each other. Digital introductions are an excellent way to begin building a classroom community.

    I teach several online graduate courses where my students meet virtually from across the United States. Since these are early courses in their programs it is very important that they get to know each other as they will be studying together for the remainder of their coursework. To begin building these relationships, my very first assignment is a collaborative slideshow using Google Slides. Students are asked to introduce themselves by posting their name, current position, something they love, something they do not like, one fun fact, and a “selfie.”

    I ensure the settings are set to edit and link it in the learning management system. Below is an example of my slide that I share to begin the presentation. The full class slide show introduction can be viewed here.  

    digital-introductions

    The slides take as little as five minutes to create and provide useful information about the student while a us to learn names and faces, which can be difficult in online learning environments. Of course, the questions and information can be changed as needed so it does not become redundant. In reviewing the amount of interaction between the slideshow and a regular discussion post-introduction, I have found my students to be more engaged with the slideshow. It does not take much time to read through them and they can “meet” their entire class rather than just reading a few discussion posts.

    Another way to introduce students and build class communities is through digital autobiographies. VoiceThread is an excellent tool for this project as it allows students to easily upload pictures and add narration. Even the youngest of learners can use it with ease. When I assign this project to my undergraduate students, I limit them to 12 slides with no more than 30 seconds of narrative per slide. These parameters help them focus on determining importance and summarizing when they are telling their stories—direct practice with the skills they will be teaching their future students. Throughout the start of the semester, we share one or two VoiceThread autobiographies each class session.

    One of the best features of these tools is their ability to have students collaborate and comment on each other’s work. Once the introductions and autobiographies are complete, opening them up to comments from peers takes the community building to the next level. I often see my students connecting with each other when they learn they are teaching the same grade level or they both share a passion for their pets!

    The beginning of the year is the time for creating a sense of community. From the youngest learners to graduate students, it is crucial that students feel supported from their classroom environment, their teacher, and each other. Using digital technology to create introductions connects to important literacy content as well as integrating 21st-century skills such as creativity, collaboration, and communication.

    Kristin Webber is an associate professor in the Early Childhood Education and Reading Department at Edinboro University where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy and technology.

    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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