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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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    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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    Navigating Tensions When Connecting Classrooms to Online Communities

    By Jayne C. Lammers
     | Sep 14, 2018

    Facebook FrustrationsI have long advocated that our literacy classrooms would do well to design instructional opportunities that connect students with online writing communities. Doing so gives students authentic audiences for their creative work, helps them develop important digital literacy practices, and bridges in- and out-of-school literacies in meaningful ways. In particular, I have argued that fanfiction spaces such as archiveofourown.org and fanfiction.net, where writers post creative works based on their interest in storylines, settings, characters, and worlds from existing books, television shows, and other media, offer important scaffolds for writers and allow teachers to meet literacy standards as they guide youth to write for online audiences.

    My continued research in this area and my role as a literacy teacher educator have also helped me grapple with the myriad challenges that teachers face when trying to incorporate online communities into their writing instruction. For example, I have written about the privacy concerns that teachers face when they consider whether to recommend that youth participate in a particular digital space.

    In an article published in the October 2017 issue of Literacy, my coauthors and I shared about our experiences with bringing digital spaces into more formal learning environments. We pooled the lessons learned from Alecia Magnifico’s work with preservice and inservice English teachers who participated in the #walkmyworld project, Deborah Fields’s use of Scratch-based collaborative design challenges in an elective computing class, and my experience teaching a three-week high school elective class that guided students in publishing their fanfiction and other creative writing in online communities.

    Our collaboration helped us better understand the tensions that arise when educators seek to take advantage of informal online spaces within their classrooms. We recognized that, although much of the research about online communities highlights success stories, when all students are required to participate in an online space, experiences will be mixed. Not every student will feel comfortable sharing his or her writing with strangers. Not every student will receive constructive feedback from the online audience. Although many online communities welcome the posting of works-in-progress, not every student will want to share such projects when they know their teachers and classmates might also see this unfinished work. These and other tensions emerged when we examined our experiences.

    I offer the following tips for teachers to consider as they design opportunities for students to share their writing in online communities.

    • Guide students in examining a variety of online communities. Rather than mandating that all students share their writing on the same site, scaffold students’ evaluation of many different sites and empower them to choose whichever one best suits their expectations as well as genre and interaction preferences.
    • Tap into students’ expertise about online communities. Although it may be beneficial for teachers themselves to have some familiarity with sharing writing in an online community, it is not a requirement. Learning who among your students might already participate as readers or writers in online communities allows a teacher to leverage that experience. Give knowledgeable students roles as mentors or guides who introduce their classmates to the inner workings of their preferred online community.
    • Explore authentic assessment opportunities. Online writing communities have their own ways of assessing quality, often through narrative reviews and less descriptive rating systems (including giving “likes” or “favoriting” a piece of writing). Rather than assessing their contributions to an online community using school-based norms or rubrics, students can submit evidence of community engagement. 

    I offer these suggestions to help interested literacy teachers connect their students to online writing communities in ways that begin to navigate the tensions revealed in our research.

    Jayne 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 in New York. 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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    Building an Open Narrative With Open Learning

    By Verena Roberts
     | Aug 31, 2018

    Open NarrativeEarlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands with other PhD candidates from around the world who are interested in open learning and open research through the Global OER Graduate Network. At the end of our seminar, our leader, Bea de los Arcos, asked us, What does open research mean? How can we, as open researchers and educators, describe how to support open learning?

    In that moment, our group struggled to come up with clear examples of how to describe what open research and learning looks like, sounds like, or feels like. However, in the last few months, I have had the opportunity to interact and learn with others, hear others’ perspectives, and fully reflect on the possibilities of open research and learning. Now, I think I have a better answer; open learning means being part of the open narrative and open research means describing the narrative.

    Open research is the narrative in which we express ourselves as educators and researchers. Openness is not just a language based on sharing texts, images, or mediated artifacts. Instead, it’s a means of communication which follows the Butterfly Effect theory that any action, word, sound or visual has the potential to influence others across the world or across the room in synchronous, asynchronous, and serendipitous ways. Open learning is a mindset, an epistemological belief in the potential to share and build knowledge together.

    Building on Catherine Cronin’s definition, I believe that open educational practices (OEP), in K–12 contexts, describes an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners beyond classroom walls and across cultures through collaboration, knowledge sharing, and networked participation. According to Leo Havemann, learning technologist at Birkbeck College, University of London, it is essential to note that, “Open is not, after all, the true opposite of closed; rather, open indicates some degree of difference from closed. On closer inspection, openness is better understood a matter of degree or quality, rather than one half of a binary.” Open is not the opposite of closed—it is a continuum and different for everyone.

    What does open learning look like, sound like, or feel like?

    When I consider the divisive perspectives and voices in K–12 educational contexts today, I think about the need for me to open my own practices with others and to trust my students so that they can trust me and we can start building a shared narrative. They should feel included in the process of learning.

    For example, as I prepare to teach teachers this fall, I am considering how to include their voices and perspectives in our online learning environments. When considering how to build open narratives in your learning environments, there are many aspects to consider.

    Create safe learning spaces

    To begin, I have considered how to create safe open learning spaces. It is essential for learners to feel like they can be open, share ideas, and be a part of building learning opportunities. In their book Learning Spaces: Youth, Literacy and New Media in Remote Indigenous Australia, authors Inge Kral and Robert G. Schwab suggest some key design elements when considering safe learning spaces:

    • Design principle no. 1: A space young people control
    • Design principle no. 2: A space for hanging out and ‘mucking around’
    • Design principle no. 3: A space where learners learn
    • Design principle no. 4: A space to grow into new roles and responsibilities
    • Design principle no. 5: A space to practice oral and written language
    • Design principle no. 6: A space to express self and cultural identity through multimodal forms
    • Design principle no. 7: A space to develop and engage in enterprise
    • Design principle no. 8: A space to engage with the world

    Building relationships and trust is an essential aspect of any open learning context. Really, what story ever began without some kind of relationship?

    Consider digital privacy and data

    However, it also essential to consider how openness can also hurt learners. As Jade Davis, director of digital project management at Columbia University Libraries, so eloquently described in her Digital Pedagogy Institute keynote, it is essential to consider the fact that not all learners can be fully open, especially marginalized learners. As an educator, always design for openness, which includes choices and options for all learners to be and feel included—and safe.

    Building culture through collaboration

    Remi Kalir, assistant professor of learning design and technology at the University of Colorado, Denver, uses Hypothes.is, an annotation tool, to weave a narrative with his students and to encourage them to share perspectives, listen to other perspectives, and collaborate to build new perspectives. Alternatively, Whitney Kilgore, cofounder and chief academic officer at iDesign, fosters human interaction through student-centered learning. She suggests how this kind of learning could look, sound, and feel in her recent keynote.

    Open narratives also develop through collaborations and interactions that build culture.  Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown describe this new culture of learning as one where culture emerges from the learning environment (as opposed to the culture being the environment) and in which learning happens by engaging with the world.

    The possibilities for global collaborations are described by educators such Tracey Poelzer, who organized the "CAN-BAN connection" project, a virtual exchange between her Canada classroom and a classroom in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Similarly, Laurie Ritchie's E-book, California Dreamin, describes how her university music class in the UK collaborated with David Preston’s high school English class in California. Preston describes the potential for open source learning in a wide variety of contexts that involve sharing and expanding learning environments.

    As I continue to build my open narrative, I look forward to the relationships I started with my colleagues in the Netherlands that now reach all over the world.  As I start this new school year I know that I am never isolated in a classroom; I am part of a learning ecosystem with multiple communities and networks that connect me and my students to real people all over the world.  My new open narrative involves examining an open learning design intervention to support open educational practices, which start with building relationships. How will you start YOUR open narrative? Let the stories begin.

    Verena Roberts is a doctoral candidate, sessional instructor, and research assistant at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary.

    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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