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Literacy Now

Teaching With Tech
Making a Case for Reading Joy
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Making a Case for Reading Joy
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    The Portable Web in a Box: Why You Need It and How to Get It

    By Thomas DeVere Wolsey
     | Jan 25, 2019

    RACHELIn backpacks, pockets, and purses, students bring their connected devices to school. But “connected” may be the wrong term; perhaps “connectable” devices is more accurate. Bandwidth means that a network can deliver data in a specified amount of time. For many schools, bandwidth may be a limitation. For some teachers, there is nothing more frustrating than planning a lesson that requires students to access the internet only to find that the bandwidth delivers data at speeds at which snails would sneer.

    Some educational settings require restrictions on access to the internet, such as those that serve incarcerated youth or adults. Others are so distant from internet connections that it is prohibitively expensive to ensure all students have access.

    Meet RACHEL, a server capable of delivering open educational resources to students’ devices offline. Students connect their devices in the same way they would to any Wi-Fi connection. Once connected, they can surf sites, engage in research, and participate in educational simulations all without actually being on the internet.

    RACHEL-2RACHEL stands for remote area community education and learning. Stored open educational resources are downloaded to the device, and once downloaded RACHEL can be transported anywhere. Although they can use content gathered and curated by World Possible, the nonprofit organization that produces RACHEL, teachers are free to add their own resources, subject to fair use and other copyright considerations.

    Do you need RACHEL? You might if your school or district’s bandwidth is too slow for several students to be online at once. You might if your school or institution doesn’t have access to the internet because the school is in a remote or rural location and cannot reliably connect. If institutional requirements limit internet access (such as schools that serve incarcerated youth), you might need RACHEL.

    One strong example is the Maya Jaguar Institute in the Department of Huehuetenango. The Institute operates a middle school (basico) and a high school (secundario). Internet access is via satellite, a source that is unreliable, slow, and expensive. Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala bought its first RACHEL server last year for installation at Maya Jaguar. It became so popular for students to use critical internet skills that the foundation bought a second server for the middle school in 2019. Students use RACHEL and its open educational resources in the same way they would to participate in internet workshop, Webquest, or online simulations for science or history courses.

    Could your school benefit from RACHEL?

    • The school or district internet bandwidth is so slow that pages end up timing out.
    • Your school or institution restricts access to the open internet.
    • Access to the internet is expensive, unreliable, or unavailable.

    RACHEL-3How do you get RACHEL?

    The best ideas are often openly available. Savvy educators can build RACHEL themselves. World Possible also sells the servers with the content you choose. If you want to download or customize the content on your portable web server, that’s no problem. You can choose resources in several languages, in addition to popular websites including Khan Academy, Wikipedia, Career Girls, and more. Knowing there is a problem is one thing. Working toward a solution to that problem is quite another. The digital divide remains a problem in today’s world, but RACHEL is helping bridge that gap.

    Thomas DeVere Wolsey teaches in the Graduate School of Education at The American University in Cairo.

    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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    Here for You: The Gift of Shared Digital Literacy

    By Carolyn Fortuna
     | Jan 18, 2019

    As a literacy teacher for nearly 25 years, I’ve seen many trends ebb and flow, each one seeking to enhance lifelong learning. Cornell notes. Dialectical journals. Writer’s workshop. Visualization. One-page diagrams. Mind mapping. Freytag Pyramid. Transactional reader response. As Julie Coiro notes, literacy tools of all kinds motivate students, to “wonder, anticipate, explore, and think deeply about things that matter to them.” With each “new” movement, a kernel of what came before is carried along.

    Digital literacy practices in today’s classrooms and out-of-school learning centers incorporate some of the best literacy learning across domains, platforms, and practices, such as Microsoft and Google environments, blogs and websites, coding and filmmaking, digital storytelling, and portfolios.

    fortuna-1 copyAnd, yet, digital literacy is also a bit different than other types of literacy. It’s a very hands-on learning experience. Although it is possible to acquire the skills and strategies of digital competence through reading a how-to tech text, the likelihood of digital mastery increases with 1-to-1 instruction. This makes sense, as all learning is social.  Let’s look at some examples to get you thinking about the possibilities.

    Could Google Sites such as mine be useful for modeling how electronic portfolios can support learning?  Or maybe you’re interested in exploring how Padlet or Socrative can be used to develop quick formative assessments? Perhaps Piktochart (such as this project) or Canva more closely approximate commonly-accepted conventions of 21st-century text rather than markers and a paper poster board?

    Would Storybird increase student engagement in ways that worksheets can’t, as students learn how to identify narrative structure—such as in this poignant student-created children’s book about gender equality? Or are memes a better way to teach metaphorical language and symbolism than mining a text for an author’s meaning? You can see how I modeled memes in the mashup below for my Sports and Popular Culture course during a unit on race and class.

    fortuna-2It’s likely that the answer to at least some of these questions is yes. But I believe the most efficacious way to translate the ability to navigate each of the platforms is person to person. The digital educator is a facilitator, spreading expertise in what begins as small pockets of individual epiphanies into currents of students teaching each other.

    The domains of literacy merge and recede, too, so that digital literacy meets and extends other types of literacy learning. With the help of digital tools, informational literacy, media literacy, and traditional literacy speak to each other vividly. Indeed, a new-and-improved type of mastery learning, asynchronous digital literacy, invites in all kinds of learners to take advantage of tools that weren’t available to previous generations who relied on pen and paper, print textbooks, and the sole option of face-to-face instruction.

    fortuna-3Rather than seeing digital instruction as an additional expectation for educators, I’d like to suggest that expertise in digital tools and texts eases an educator’s multiple and frequently contradictory responsibilities. When the educator is a facilitator whose models can be hyperlinked, for example, all kinds of learners and learning experiences become possible. Students and educators are able to investigate (as shown in this mental illness WebQuest for a psychology and literature course), collaborate (students worked together in teams to analyze The Zoo Story),  and reflect (I created a teacher model for a film assignment on a “sense of place”). A more nuanced toolkit of literacy strategies has the capacity to stick with students after an individual lesson or even course ends, as digital literacy seeps from one classroom to everyday textuality.

    Think of all the ways that our students are composing today. As a social constructivist digital space, YouTube's Which University gives youth voice to compose and publish. The mash-ups so popular on social media connect cultural allusions to contemporary current events. In a 2013 article How Media Literacy Supports Civic Engagement in a Digital Age, researchers Hans Martens and Renee Hobbs discuss how media literacy supports civic engagement by explaining how civic engagement has been revived by the commenting feature of online magazine and newspapers. Each of these composition and publishing practices requires a facility with digital literacy that is acquired through what researchers Christine Greenhow and Kathy Lewin call social modeling.

    Digital literacy that emphasizes learners as coproducers of knowledge has a strong focus on students’ everyday use of and learning with Web 2.0 technologies in and outside of classrooms. Social digital learning imbues classrooms with challenges for students to interact, share information and resources, and think critically. With its inherent increased levels of peer support and communication about course content and assessment, digital learning is a win-win scenario, offering positive effects on the expression of self and voice across disciplines and intelligences.

    Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is the program chair of the Northeast Regional Media Literacy Conference and professional development coordinator for the Media Education Lab. You can follow her digital and media literacy work at idigitmedia.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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    Questioning, Digital Images, and Students’ Digital Literacy Learning

    By Vicky Zygouris-Coe
     | Jan 11, 2019

    questioning-digital-imagesTeaching students how to evaluate online sources (i.e., for usefulness, accuracy, and reliability) is what I refer to as “nonnegotiable” for developing students’ 21st-century literacy skills. Questioning the author’s purpose, making personal connections with the image, raising questions about how to use the information communicated in the image, negotiating meaning with others about the image, and questioning how relevant and adequate the information is to a topic under study are skills that can shape students’ online reading comprehension and digital literacy skills.

    Following are examples of digital images and a set of questions from a unit I recently developed on the topic of global crises. My goal with the unit was to search for digital learning experiences that would expand my students’ online reading comprehension and critical literacy skills. My search focused on credible, reliable, and complex digital images on a topic that is current and relevant.

    Accessing digital image collections

    The first collection of digital images on Refugee Camps in Europe is from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting—an innovative, award-winning, nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to supporting in-depth engagement with underreported global affairs. As part of this digital text, students read and analyzed how a journalist used images, language, and tone to represent multiage refugees’ experiences with seeking asylum in Europe.

    The second collection of digital images is from The International Rescue Committee—an international organization with the mission to help people whose lives are impacted by conflict and disaster to survive and recover. Many of the images are about the more than 50,000 refugees in Greece who are not legally allowed to travel from Greece to other European countries.

    The third collection is called Drawings by Refugee Children, an edited collection of children’s drawings about subjects such as the Syrian war and the deadly crossing of the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios.

    Asking questions that inspire learning and digital composition

    Students can interact with these image collections in several ways. For this unit, I chose to focus on student engagement through a series of questions that prompt students to evaluate the sources I selected. You might also use the following questions to begin small-group or whole-class discussions, asking students to provide evidence from the image to support their assertions.

    • What is the image about?
    • Who is the author of this image?
    • When was the image published?
    • Where was the image published?
    • What do you see in the image?
    • What words would you choose to describe the image?
    • What is the tone of the image?
    • What three adjectives describe how the image makes you feel?
    • What questions do you have about this image?
    • What is the author trying to communicate through this image about the experiences of the refugees who are trying to relocate to Europe?
    • What additional images would you like to have about the topic?
    • What headline would you write about the topic using information from the image(s)?

    To further develop students’ digital literacy skills, you could encourage students to engage with a range of extension activities as they use technology to recompose what they are learning about the topic through their reading and discussions about the images.

    Reading digital texts and images requires much more than just reacting to what is visible. Through careful and deliberate selection of digital texts followed by scaffolded questioning about the digital images they encounter, your students will enjoy exploring new topics while also learning how to apply a range of digital literacy practices.

    Vicky Zygouris-Coe is a professor in reading education at the University of Central Florida, College of Community Innovation and Education.

    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 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).


    brante-kiili-1

    • 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.

    brante-kiili-2 

    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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