Critical evaluation of online information : Scaffolding the development of skills, strategies and dispositions with our students

A post from Bernadette

The Internet is a largely unvetted, open access media and is available to any individual to publish any information. In contrast, print-based media, with a five century plus start on online media, has a number of traditional mediators and gatekeepers, such as editors, critics, and peer review processes in place. The Internet has shifted the burden for quality control and assessment of information, in terms of accuracy, objectivity, credibility, and trustworthiness, onto the online reader. And frankly, the online reader is struggling with the task.

 

Research suggests that, in general, our students are struggling to realise that incorrect, false or misleading information can be posted on the web; rarely challenge the authority and reliability of information presented; are consumerist when searching for online information, i.e. find just about sufficient information to satisfy their information needs; lack prior knowledge to assess the veracity of information presented and detect hidden author agendas; and are often misled by the appearance of a website. An additional complexity with evaluating online information may relate to students’ abilities to draw on limited prior experience and world knowledge to assess and evaluate online information.

Critical evaluation of online information encompasses:

  • critical thinking skills a disposition for interrogating the text; evaluating arguments, and questioning content.
  • critical reading skills an ability to evaluate relevancy, accuracy and reliability.
  • critical multimedia information literacy skills a capacity to critically consume information and to separate the medium from the message.
  • critical literacy skills an aptitude to view information as value laden i.e information is not neutral.

Therefore, critical evaluation of online information involves an orchestration of a repertoire of skills, strategies and dispositions, such as assessing accuracy, credibility, believability, trustworthiness, bias, reasonableness, coverage, relevancy, currency and readability. Critical evaluation is also dependent on reader motivation and the situational context.   Using the gradual release of responsibility model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) we can guide our students to develop the dispositions necessary to evaluate websites by considering the following four strategies:

  • Scan Perimeter for Authority: currency, coverage, intended audience, reading level
  • Dig deeper for Accuracy: credibility, believability, accuracy, verification of informatio
  • Raise your Antennae for Details: perspective, bias, commercial bias, trustability, reasonableness
  • Scrutinize the Support: ease of use, design features, multimodal elements, grammatical errors, spellings, working links, and citations.

 

    In Using  Technology to Improve  Reading and Learning (Harrison, Dwyer & Castek,  2014) a sample lesson plan is provided where the teacher employs the gradual release of responsibility model to explicitly teach, through think aloud, demonstration, and modelling, the critical evaluation strategies and dispositions necessary to determine the accuracy, credibility, trustworthiness, bias, reasonableness, coverage, relevancy, and currency about  two websites related to Martin Luther King ( the controversial Martinlutherking.org  website and the official website, http://www.thekingcenter.org) . Following explicit instruction the teacher can guide students as they critically evaluate the information presented on other paired websites using the four critical evaluation strategies. Students work collaboratively to assess the reliability of the information presented on the paired websites. Later, they discuss and present their findings to the class group.

Scan the perimeter for authority Raise antennae for details of reliability
Dig deeper for Accuracy Scrutinise the support

Questions to guide students as they explore websites are presented in the following figure from Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning (Harrison, Dwyer & Castek, 2014)

critical evaluation

 Younger elementary students could explore the following websites related to Christopher Columbus. Ask the students to collaboratively  judge the reliability of information presented on both using the four critical evaluation strategies. Again the students present and discuss their findings with the class group.

Christopher Columbus fake

christopher columbus real

 

 

Using the four critical evaluation strategies, students in middle grades could evaluate which of the following websites is authorized by the World Trade Organization.

 

WTO real

WTO fake

Here are some other resources which may help our students to  develop the skills, strategies  and dispositions to critically evaluate online information and resources; or at the very least they may raise students’ antennae to the possibility that false or misleading information may be posted online.

References

Harrison, C.,  Dwyer, B., & Castek, J. ( May, 2014). Using technology to improve reading and learning. Shell Education Publications: USA.

Pearson, P. D., & Gallagher, M. C. (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8, 317-344.

 

Project Planning, the Common Core, and Technology, Too

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Digital Project Management Tools bring College and Career Skills Right into the Classroom

This weekend, one of my projects is to renovate the garden and put in spring vegetables. It’s up to me and my favorite nursery. All I have to do is motor on down to the garden center, buy what I need, and plant the seeds and seedlings. Other projects take a bit more planning, and digital tools can be a big help. Students often have a great number of projects in progress, and many of those involve collaborative work. Students work with students, with their parents, and sometimes members of the community. Teachers orchestrate much of the project management aspects, quite often. But, what if students could take on some of the College and Career Readiness Standards and learn how to manage their own projects?

Here are some of the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards that require collaboration.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

The Common Core State Standards in English-language arts/literacy emphasize the need, for the first time, for students to work together in a variety of settings and contexts and to use their literacy skills to get the job done. Assigning, selecting, or choosing a project is the first step. Managing the project so that work that is planned is actually carried out is where technology comes into play. Class projects last from a day to several weeks, and they range from preparing presentations to the class, making a digital demonstration of knowledge, or engaging in various service-oriented activities.

A project management tool that has been around for more than a century is named after the man who created it, Henry Gantt (cf. Clark, 1923). The Gantt chart has been used in the military, in manufacturing industries, live sports events (think Final Four) and in long range planning just about everywhere—including schools. Gantt charts are useful because they graphically show, “Work planned and work done are shown in the same space in relation to each other and in their relation to time” (p. v). Their visual nature encourages student project participants to develop a plan, stick to it, and note their progress over time. Digital tools improve Gantt charts by automating some tasks, making them easily available to project participants at any time, and being infinitely expandable. The use of color further improves the appeal and utility of the organizer.

Gantt project management organizers can be created with sticky notes on a white board or wall (Click here to see one example), on butcher paper, or with an 11 X 17 piece of construction paper. However, technology can greatly simplify the task. Typically, they show the tasks to be accomplished, who is responsible for each task, and a timeline showing planned and completed tasks. Excel® spreadsheets offer one digital solution to the Gantt chart that makes updating simple, and you’ll see that data entered in one part of the chart is translated visually.  Gantt charts can easily be created in a shared spreadsheet file such as those found in Google Docs, or with online apps specifically designed for this purpose (see figure 1), such as Smartsheet.

Smartsheet

Figure 1: Image courtesy of Smartsheet.

Online apps, such as Smartsheet, make it easy to share the chart on a class webpage, blog, or course management system. Parents can see it, students can edit and change it, and everyone will know who has to do what in order to get the job done and done well. Read more about project management tools for the classroom in this interview with Jodi Sorensen of Smartsheet. The companyprovides a free student project sheet for teachers to get started–log in and play around; it’s fun. There’s also a free teacher syllabus sheet. All those binders of curricular materials may be a thing of the past. One feature of Smartsheet I liked is the capability of linking other files (pictures, documents, and so on) right to the project organizer. See how this is done in this video on YouTube starting at time 0.36.

If you choose to use Excel or other spreadsheet software, you might find that templates for Gantt project management organizers are helpful because the setup is already done. In figure 2 you can see a basic template from Microsoft downloads, found here. Figure 3 shows a modified Gantt Project Management Organizer using Excel for use in upper-elementary and secondary grade classrooms, and you may download this template if you want to try it out.

Excel Gantt Chart

Figure 2: Generic Excel Gantt chart

Excel for School

Figure 3: An Excel Gantt chart modified for school projects.

Both of these organizers allow students to quickly enter data about what they plan to do, how much they have accomplished, and how they are proceeding. The neat thing is that Excel and other spreadsheets or software automatically create the timeline showing what is planned, and what is actually accomplished. These examples show a start date for the first of the month, but teachers can create their own templates just by deleting columns for dates that don’t match the timelines for completion.

Choose the digital tool you plan to use (e.g., Smartsheet, Excel). Next, train a few students, perhaps one from each project group or team, to be the expert on using the project management technology. The teacher should not be the only resource for using the tool.

Help students define the major parts of the task. In the example in figures 1 and 3- above, the teacher defined large categories as

1. Planning, Reading and research,, making it happen, etc.

or

2. Research, interviewing, and so on.

At first, students will need help breaking down the specific tasks for each category. A model the teacher creates or from past student project will be helpful in guiding students to decide just what the specific tasks might be.

Start the project!

In schools and at the university, we often engage students in projects of all kinds. However, students need to know more than what the project is and what its goals or objectives are. They also need the 21st century skills to manage large projects that will help them succeed in their schooling and in their careers.  Have you tried using digital project management tools, or even a traditional paper-based Gantt chart? If so, tell us about it by posting a comment.

Reference:

Clark, W. (1922) The Gantt chart: A working tool of management. New York, NY:  Ronald Press. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/ganttchartworkin00claruoft

Read more on this topic at the International Reading Association website. (added 3-29-2014)

Apps a Plenty, Apps Galore! Starting on an iPad App Adventure

I’m on the literacy faculty at the University of Colorado-Boulder.  Although I try to integrate technology into my teaching in thoughtful and creative ways, I don’t always succeed.  Typically, it’s due to lack of time, or the right hardware or software access, or the right know-how!  This month, the School of Education received a generous gift of 30 iPads to use in our Literacy Classroom.  My immediate reaction:  What a fabulous opportunity to explore how the undergraduate reading methods class and I will use this gift over the remainder of the semester.  So, in that spirit, my next few posts will focus on how it’s going, what I’m learning, and what I wish I never had to learn!

A General Web Resource on Teaching with iPads

Way back when (yes, all the way back to the 1990’s), I used to consult Kathy Schrock’s website when I had a technology question.  I was delighted to find that she has a special website dedicated to all things iPad related!  Whether you’re a beginner or novice user of iPads, there are things to learn from Kathy and the many educators who contribute resources and teaching strategies to this site.

http://www.ipads4teaching.net/

screenshot of Kathy Schrock's website on teaching with iPads

iPad Posts from Dana Grisham

And, for those of you working with young children, visit the recent posts from Dana Grisham about developing emergent literacy with iPad apps.

  • Recommended pre-school apps for literacy learning

http://literacybeat.com/2014/02/27/recommended-preschool-apps-for-literacy-learning/

  •  Goodnight, iPad!

http://literacybeat.com/2013/09/18/goodnight-ipad/

Essential Apps for our CU- Boulder Literacy Classroom

As soon as we got word that we were going to be receiving the iPads, I immediately began to think about “essential apps”.  Our budget was limited, so I knew I needed to be strategic in what we purchased (in a later post I’ll focus on free apps).

#1:  A Drawing App

To begin, I knew I wanted a drawing program to support multimodal composition. I knew that we would be able to use it for responding to literature with color, drawing, photos, and images remixes, as well as creating illustrations for the students’ original picture books and trying out the  ‘sketch to stretch’ reading comprehension strategy. I also wanted the drawing program to be one that could be used in elementary schools, since my goal was that the CU future teachers would first compose with the drawing tool themselves, and then apply it to teaching children.  After reviewing multiple programs and getting advice from teachers in our masters’ program, I selected Drawing Pad ($1.99).   It’s simple and intuitive, yet allows you to create some pretty amazing images fairly quickly!

Drawing Pad ($1.99)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/drawing-pad/id358207332?mt=8

Drawing Pad App logo

screenshot of Drawing Pad tools

#2:  A Book Creator App

My  second priority was to purchase Book Creator, another composing App that packs a lot of communication potential into a simple, yet powerful tool.   I knew my good friend and colleague, Debby Rowe from Vanderbilt University, was successfully using Book Creator with pre-school and kindergarten children.  Further, some Colorado elementary school teachers in our masters program tried it out in their classrooms last semester and gave it a favorable rating.  Based on these positive reviews and my own experimentation with a free version, I decided that Book Creator would be a good match for our needs.   It was more expensive — $4.99 – but it seemed worth it not to experience glitches that sometimes occur with a free version.

Book Creator ($4.99)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/book-creator-for-ipad/id442378070?mt=8

Book Creator logo

screen shot of Book Creator composing tool

Taking That First Step

So, with 30 iPads and two essential Apps, I am ready to begin the adventure of Ipad and App integration into my reading methods course.  I’ll let you know how it’s going next month.  I should warn you that I am a PC person.  I love my Apple smart phone, but am not nearly as fluent working on a MAC or an IPad as I am on a PC.  So, the learning curve will be steep and I’m feeling some anxiety about the process.  Ready, set, go!

If you have advice, suggested Apps, please post a response.  I thank you in advance,  Bridget.

Recommended Preschool Apps for Literacy Learning

By Dana L. Grisham (with thanks to Darah Odelson!)

In this blog, I have focused from time to time on the literacy experiences of my own family. You probably know I am a grandmother with twin granddaughters who will soon turn five and that I have a grandson who is almost two.  Having been both a teacher and a professor, I have long been fascinated by the acquisition of literacy in our young and the changing literacy landscapes as technology becomes more prevalent in all our lives. Most of us, myself included, struggle with the rapid and dramatic changes. The field of education is similarly in flux.

My granddaughters will attend kindergarten next fall, but they have also spent two years in a good preschool environment. They are lucky to have parents who are actively involved in providing them with rich language experiences, too.

In my September 18, 2013 post, I showed a photo I called “Digital Morning” with the twins and their dad engaged on iPhone, iPad, and laptop. The girls are adept at using electronic devices, but they have traditional literacy skills also.  I decided to find out what is out there for preschoolers and write a post on the preschool apps that my family likes (and thos that are recommended by “experts”). So here we go!

First, let me emphasize that there are MANY (!!!) apps for all age levels.

I want to review two that I particularly like here.

Reading Raven is one of the Apps that I, personally, love.  The cost for the app is $3.99, which makes it more expensive than most, but it does a lot for the money. It has been reviewed favorably by many review sites.Reading Raven 1

There are five levels in the app as shown in the screen shot below:

Reading Raven 2

Level 1 is relatively easy, but fun. In the first part, a bird flies over the top of the screen with a letter in its beak. Then letter is dropped and a voice makes the sound of the letter. The child uses a finger to touch the letter as it falls  (there is a voice that makes the letter sound) and drag the falling letter to a flower at the bottom of the screen with the same letter. If the child does it correctly, the voice says the sound of the letter, the name of the letter, and a picture of a word that begins the letter (example: “n” is “net”). The raven smiles from the bottom of the screen as he moves through the levels with you. The part my granddaughters liked most was tracing the letter on the screen. A green arrow tells you where to start and end. A child’s voice encourages you.

Level 2 features a circus motif where letters are dropped from a high wire into the mouths of hungry lions. Level two also adds small decodable words such as rat and mat.  Also beginning in Level 2, children can record their voices reading the words and the program reads the child’s voice back (hat, mat). The focus moves to onsets and rimes. (h-ot, c-ot). Toward the end of level 2, the child has the opportunity to read and record a short connected sentence such as, “ant in can,” where the words match the patterns already learned. Level 2 finishes with  multiple word sentences to read and record. See the screen shot below:

Reading Raven 3

Children can earn stickers to decorate a treehouse when they complete portions of a lesson correctly.

The colorful scenes with animated movement and narration  (as well as childrens’ voices that encourage the learner, are all attractive features.

A second app appreciated by my daughter for her twins is Hooked on Phonics.Hooked on Phonics 1

 Based on the original Hooked on Phonics (the print version), this one has been updated with the same types of interactive reading games as Reading Raven along with embedded eBooks with audio, musical soundtracks, and the ability to track the child’s progress. This one is also rated 4 Stars plus, but costs a great deal more, ($49.99 for the entire program, although you can purchase portions for as low as $4.99) aside from the free trial offer. In the trial, I listened to the sound of “t” to the doo-wap sound of Earth Angel:

Hooked on Phonics 2

Like Reading Ravens, a great deal of time is spent on phonological awareness and phonics, with catchy and engaging ways to make words.

HOP Staircase HOP word families

The student goes up a staircase to each new level.

HOP Staircase

As mentioned there are numerous (!!) apps for literacy learning on the iPad. There are also groups that are dedicated to helping the consumer judge which apps are good quality for the money that parents will spend.  A brief and partial list of such websites concludes this post.

I hope that parents and educators can agree that today’s children need both traditional and digital learning for their development as literate beings!

A Brief List of Websites for Preschool Apps:

1. Parents.com 10 Best Apps for Preschoolers

http://www.parents.com/fun/entertainment/gadgets/best-apps-for-preschoolers/

2. Apps for Homeschooling

http://appsforhomeschooling.com/2013/homeschool-phonics-app-review-reading-raven-app-review/

3. KinderTown Educational App Store for Parents

http://www.kindertown.com/

4. Slideshare (50 free apps & early literacy)

http://www.slideshare.net/elloyd74/ipad-apps-early-literacy-25-fantastic-free-apps-for-prereaders

5.  I can teach my child! Top 10 Educational Apps for Preschoolers

http://www.icanteachmychild.com/2012/09/the-10-best-iphoneipad-apps-for-preschoolers/

Pecha Kucha, a Presentation Format with Many Possibilities

By guest posters W. Ian O’Byrne & Sue Ringler Pet, & regular blogger Thomas DeVere Wolsey

The nature of literacy is rapidly evolving and these changes demand an expanded view of “text” to include visual, digital and other multimodal formats (Rose & Meyer, 2002; New London Group, 2000; Alvermann, 2002). A richer and more complex definition of literacy requires a complex theoretical framing of the “multiple realities” that exist between educational research and practice (Labbo & Reinking, 1999).  Several colleagues* decided to experiment with the pecha kucha presentation style at a session of the Literacy Research Association, December 5th, 2013. What they learned from the session and their ideas for PK-12 classrooms and teacher preparation coursework is summarized in this post of Literacy Beat. Our pecha kucha session used multiple methods united by similar perspectives to investigate shifts in the space and stuff (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006) of learning.

Evolving pedagogical models for new literacies and emerging technologies hold “explosive possibilities” (Barab & Kirshner, 2001) for reading and writing spaces. Specifically, these studies examine literacies as cutting across chronotopes of time and space (Bakhtin, 1937) and evolving into “communities of inquiry” in which participants require new knowledge and identities (Gee, 2005).

Since the technological advances documented in these studies drove much of the change that we see in information and communication, researchers and educators attempted to answer the important question:  How can the use of new and digital literacies in instruction enable “explosive possibilities” for meaning-making and identity construction? These studies examined literacies and digital texts while documenting perceived changes in social practice through the lens of teachers and students as agents of change.

What is Pecha Kucha?

Pecha kucha, Japanese for the sound of conversation, is a presentation method in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). The format utilizes images more than words, keeps presentations concise and fast-paced, powers multiple-speaker events, keeps the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to show. Would you like to hear several Japanese speakers pronounce the term? Click here.

Teachers and Students use Pecha Kucha

Pecha kucha is well-suited for the age of the Common Core and other rigorous standards.  The Common Core calls for students to evaluate information from diverse sources, present information in an appropriate style, and make strategic use of digital media. Further, the pecha kucha style requires student presenters to be concise and choose their words and images wisely and well. Students might present pecha kucha via webcast or video (think, YouTube or Vimeo) so that parents and other community members can participate. They may work in small groups around selected topics. Who says every presentation has to be made to the entire class, anyway?

Teacher Educators and Teacher Candidates use Pecha Kucha

The IRA standards for Literacy Professionals call for teacher candidates to employ traditional print, digital, and online resources to “meet the needs of diverse students” and “prepare learners for literacy tasks of the 21st century.” Arguably positioned in one of the most influential roles with regard to the explosive possibilities of digital literacies in PK-12 education, teacher educators must continually model well-considered integration of digital tools in university classrooms. Within the context of a disciplinary literacy course, for instance, professors may choose the pecha kucha platform for in-class presentations in lieu of the tired Powerpoint® platform, especially in cases where visuals are preferable to print text, to effectively encapsulate and express important concepts, terms, or ideas. In this setting, pecha kucha presentations can be posted and revisited on Blackboard or similar course platforms for review. Professors may also invite undergraduate and graduate students to learn and employ pecha kucha to explore and represent basic literacy concepts with digital images and metaphors — and teach them to classmates. Teaching and/learning such “basic” literacy terms (e.g., phonemic awareness, syntax, semantics) through a multimodal digital platform (pecha kucha) may lead to enriched understandings of the ways in which reading involves the coordination of multiple systems including traditional “components” theory of teaching reading instruction as well as sociocultural theories of literacy acquisition.

How to Create Pecha Kucha: Resources and More

What are the steps to creating a pecha kucha presentation?

  • This website lists presentation steps in pecha kucha format and a template is available there, as well.
  • A few tips for beginners might be helpful to teachers who want to coach their students and minimize frustration.
  • Richard Edwards suggests that pecha kucha can be easily adapted to two-person teams; that is, a 20 slide X 20 second presentation by one student can become a 10 slide X 20 second presentation by two students. He also staggers presentations over class sessions such that no one class session is devoted to a long series of pecha kucha presentations, which, like traditional presentations, can be quite tiring for the audience.
  • Because pecha kucha is image intensive, it is very important that students learn the basic principles of Fair Use and apply them. This post from an earlier LiteracyBeat column may be a good start.  Learn more about Creative Commons and how it works to give students and other users the tools to share and use the creative work of others.

Similar to pecha kucha, Ignite presentations include 20 slides but they advance at the rate of 15 seconds each (total of five minutes). Some fairly good information about both ignite and pecha kucha are available from Trinity Valley Schools (opens as a PDF).

Assessing Pecha Kucha

Of course, any presentation in a classroom is an opportunity to learn and a chance to demonstrate what has been learned.  Assessment includes the possibility of feedback about content knowledge, processes leading to learning, and presentation, speaking, and listening proficiency appropriate to the grade level. Mr. Holliday designed this rubric as a means of assessing and providing feedback on the pecha kucha format. This university rubric from iRubric takes into account content knowledge  and this  one, by Danny, is designed with the junior high or middle school audience in mind. Educator Jeff Utecht suggests that participants rate the pecha kucha presentation using a form in Google Docs for quick analysis and feedback. Also on the blog post are additional ideas and a rationale for using pecha kucha.

Typical assessments measure and provide feedback as to how the presenter met the pecha kucha criteria (including 20 slides X 20 seconds each, 6 minutes 40 seconds total), concision, design, and cohesion, as well as content. Choo (2010) suggests that makers and composers of digital texts consider the following:

•           How do words function to “relay” or contribute to the meaning of an image?

•           Where will the image be placed in relation to the words and why?

•           How much of the frame-space will the image occupy, compared to the words?

•           Is the focal point of the text on the image or on its words, and why? (p. 172)

Here is one attempt at pecha kucha by DeVere recreated from the December 2013 presentation at Literacy Research Association. It is not quite perfect (you will notice it is longer than the allotted time!), I am sure you’ll agree, but do play the video and let us know what you see.

What have you done in your PK-12 or university classroom with pecha kucha?

*Presenters at the Literacy Research Association, Dallas, TX: Kelly Chandler-Olcott (Chair), Stergios Botzakis (Discussant), Sue Ringler Pet, Greg McVerry, Junko Yukota with William Teale, Joan A. Rhodes, Katina Zammit, William Ian O’Byrne, Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Guest posters:

W. Ian O’Byrne is an assistant professor of educational technologies at the University of New Haven. Read his blog post on the topic of pecha kucha here.

Sue Ringler-Pet works at Iona College, and you can read more about her here.

References:

Alvermann, D.E. (2002). Adolescents and literacies in a digital world. New York: Peter Lang.

Barab, S.A., & Kirshner, D. (2001). Guest editors’ introduction: Rethinking methodology in the learning sciences. The Journal of the Learning Sciences,10(1-2), 5-15.

Bolter, J.D. (1991). Writing space: The computer, hypertext, and the history of writing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Choo, S.S. (2010). Writing through visual acts of reading: Incorporating visual aesthetics in integrated writing and reading tasks. High School Journal, 93(4), 166-176.

Gee, J. (2005). Semiotic social spaces and affinity spaces. In D. Barton & K. Tusting (Eds.). Beyond communities of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Labbo, L. & Reinking, D. (1999). Negotiating the multiple realities of technology in literacy research and instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 34(4), 478-492. doi:    10.1598/RRQ.34.4.5

Lankshear, C. and Knobel, M. (2006). New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning. 2nd ed. Maidenhead & New York: Open University Press.

The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60–92.

Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/

Digital Reading as Inquiry

This post was co-written by regular blogger Jill Castek in collaboration with Megan Goss from the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley

Reading science texts can be quite difficult for adolescents. Not only is the content often unfamiliar and conceptually challenging, the texts themselves contain features such as visual representations that are often crucial for gaining a rich understanding of the text. However, students aren’t sufficiently prepared to analyze and think about these features (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2010). Studies of adolescent readers suggest that comprehension difficulties arise because of the students’ lack of familiarity with the content as well as their lack of familiarity with the unique textual attributes that reading in a given discipline requires (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). In addition, many adolescents lack the strategies necessary for monitoring their own comprehension, so that when they encounter difficult, disciplinary-specific texts, they aren’t prepared to read them closely and often do not attend to their own comprehension along the way (Lee & Spratley, 2010).

Image

Annotation apps (such as iAnnotate, DocAS, Diigo and many others) support active and engaged reading and provide students with features that allow them to mark-up texts as they engage in close reading across inquiry learning activities. Students can employ these apps when reading science texts to help them target specific information and summarize key claims or findings related to their prior knowledge.

When students use digital annotations to raise or pose their own questions, they read more actively.  And, by reading each other’s annotations, they are exposed to alternative ideas that may differ from their own, resulting in their appropriation of new ways to interpret texts (Coiro, Castek, & Guzniczak, 2011).

From a students’ perspective, reading texts in the science classroom is often the least compelling activity a teacher can offer, especially when contrasted with the excitement, discussion, and critical thinking that traditional inquiry activities can offer. Reading, too, can be situated as a form of inquiry however, and apps offer the perfect tools for seamlessly turning reading into something that is an active source for promoting deep thinking and social interaction that are often associated with other inquiry activities.

The first step in establishing reading as a form inquiry is to provide students with a rationale that promotes this stance. Establish for your students, through discussion and teacher modeling using a think aloud technique.  When implementing this technique, read a section of text aloud and stop often to annotate and explain your metacognitive processes as you read. This modeling demonstrates that the primary role of text in science is to provide information however, that can and should be questioned, critiqued, and actively engaged with during reading. Through years of schooling, students are often trained to see text as an ultimate source of information that can’t and shouldn’t be questioned and instead should be combed through for the ‘right answers.’ Repositioning text as an essential part of the inquiry process that is meant to be dug into and worked over in order to get the most out of it allows students to question, wonder and engage with text in a very different way.

One key to turning reading into a process of inquiry is to start with the strategy of posing questions of the text. Posing questions allows students to situate themselves in an inquiry frame of mind as they read. It also provides a way for them to monitor their own comprehension throughout the reading process. Students can use apps to create these questions, and can then share questions with other students in the classroom, which offers the additional benefit of everyone being engaged in discussing science ideas in the class.Students have shown an amazing ability to take to and ‘own’ the creation of meaningful annotations during reading, and thus their own learning, when encouraged to do so.

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One way to address the difficulties students encounter when reading disciplinary texts, such as science texts, is to arm them with strategies that enhance their comprehension and techniques for enacting specific ways of thinking about texts as they read. Apps, specialized programs used on mobile computers, allow students to annotate, or mark up texts digitally and offer a highly interactive digital environment for addressing many of the concerns that have been raised by researchers and teachers alike. The use of annotation apps for analyzing reading materials in science has been shown to enhance students’ ability to identify the most essential information within a text (Sherer et al., 2008).

Apps can be used to enhance the ‘reading as inquiry’ stance. Students who are introduced to annotation with apps learn to ask questions of the text, create connections to classroom activities, and summarize important ideas, right on the text itself. In addition they can highlight important ideas, such as evidence and claims in a written argument, in order to share these with peers. In essence, apps allow students to have a conversation with the text that is made visible and through the creation of various annotations.   For example, if you are promoting a focus on summarizing, you can first model this strategy using a projected science article and app. Then circulate as students use this strategy themselves. You may then want to layer on a focus on making connections to classroom activities, again modeling how to do this then offering students the opportunity to do the same.

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Some apps, such as Diigo allow students to share their questions in a public forum, where the class can work together to answer the questions posed and come to a deeper level of understanding of the text through this collaborative work.  By implementing digital annotations, teachers can examine students’ thinking and monitor their misconceptions. Teachers can also provide feedback to guide their thinking and make note of content that may need to be revisited.  Thus the process of annotation can be viewed as a useful formative assessment tool.

Discussions that take place during inquiry expose students to different claims and supporting evidence. In these collaborative contexts, students can employ digital annotation tools to highlight and summarize specific sections of a text and then share ideas with their peers.  Here’s how to get started.

Introduce active reading guidelines to your students:

  • Think carefully about what you read. Pay attention to your own understanding.
  • Ask questions and make connections as you read. Remember: no question is too simple!
  • Examine all diagrams, photographs, and illustrations carefully. Consider how they go together with the text.
  • Discuss what you read with others to build ideas together.

Sign up for a Diigo Educator Account and become familiar with the DocAS app:

  • Post articles, or links to online content, on your classroom website for students to access (see Ms. Swandby’s site or Ms. Kretschmar’s site).
  • Model the annotation strategy thinking aloud while actively annotating the text.  This process that may include questioning, clarifying, making connections.
  • Summarize the annotation strategy by preparing a list of annotation categories students can refer to as they read.
  • Invite students to annotate using the active reading guidelines previous introduced
  • Assess students’ engagement with texts by reviewing their annotations.  Look for evidence of the following types of annotations.

Let us know how your digital annotation lessons go!  Share any experiences in the comments.  We’d love to hear from you.

References

Carnegie Corporation of New York. (2010). Time to Act: Final Report from Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy. New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Coiro, J., Castek, J. & Guzniczak, L. (2011). Uncovering online reading comprehension processes: Two adolescents reading independently and collaboratively on the Internet. In P. Dunston, L. Gambrell, K. Headley, S. Fullerton, P. Stecker, V. Gillis, & C. Bates (Eds.) 60th Annual Yearbook of the Literacy Research Association (354-369). Oak Creek, WI: LRA.

Lee, C.D., Spratley, A. (2010). Reading in the disciplines: The challenges of adolescent literacy. New York, NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Shanahan, T. & Shanahan C. (2008). Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents: Rethinking Content-area Literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78, 1, 40-59.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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