Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning

Book  cover of Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning

When friends write a book, of course, you’re excited for them and can’t wait to read it.  What’s even more wonderful is when you read the book and it’s terrific – one that you know you will use in your own teaching. Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning by Colin Harrison and fellow Literacy Beat bloggers Bernadette Dwyer and Jill Castek is just such a book.

I found this book to be exceptionally useful for many reasons, but I will highlight just two of those reasons here.

First, Colin, Bernadette, and Jill are not only experts in technology and new media; they are first and foremost experts in literacy instruction. They have taught children how to become engaged and successful readers and writers, and they have taught and collaborated with teachers on effective literacy instruction and technology over many years. Their deep knowledge and on-the-ground experiences with children and teachers is demonstrated in every chapter. They speak directly to teachers, acknowledging the realities of today’s schools and the pressure to achieve high academic standards with all students, while offering a vision and concrete classroom examples to inspire us to embrace the challenge.

Second, this book provides a comprehensive blueprint for integrating technology so that children are more successful with print-based reading and writing AND are developing the new literacies of reading, learning, and communicating with eBooks and on the Internet. Bernadette, Jill and Colin complement a chapter on reading eBooks and digital text with two chapters on Internet inquiry – one focusing on the search process and the other focusing on how to compose and communicate through multimodal products. These are areas where we need to make tremendous progress if we are going to prepare our students for a future world that will be more multimodal, more networked, and more dependent on individuals who are creative, strategic, and collaborative.

I’ve copied the table of contents below. You will see that this book offers teachers multiple pathways for moving forward on their own journeys of technology and literacy integration. Enjoy (I know I will)!

Table of Contents

  1. Using technology to make the teaching of literacy more exciting
  2. Strategies for capitalizing on what students already know
  3. Strategies for using digital tools to support literacy development
  4. Strategies for using eReaders and digital books to expand the reading experience
  5. Strategies for teaching the information-seeking cycle: The process stage of searching for information on the Internet
  6. Strategies for teaching the information-seeking cycle: The product stage of searching for information on the Internet
  7. Strategies for encouraging peer collaboration and cooperative learning
  8. Strategies for building communities of writers
  9. Strategies for building teachers’ capacity to make the most of new technologies

Textisms: Violating Ye Olde Grammar Rules

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Are textisms ruining students’ capacity for using standard English? Textisms, J2LYK, are those abbreviations and other shortcuts kids and many adults use when writing in some digital formats such as short message systems (SMS- an abbreviation for short message system referring to those messages sent via wireless communication devices, usually a cell phone) or when using social media such as Twitter. Many people seem to think so.  However, the evidence is growing that this is not the case.

Sketch Texting

Sketch Texting by Guillaume Perreault (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Children, as they grow, are quite adept at understanding the contexts for different registers of language. If they are taught when a given register is appropriate and when it may not be, their ability to adapt to the context seems to increase (see Townsend & Lapp, 2010). Moreover, affinity groups often develop jargon that is unique or understood only by participants in that group. For example, those who participate in online discussions on Facebook or using SMS and are interested in horses, understand that “UD” is a textism for “unplanned dismount” (Cloud 9 Ranch, 2012). You can guess what happened to the rider. Online gamers have textism all their own, as well. Many other textisms are very familiar to wide audiences. LOL, OMG, ROFL–all good examples of those that many people recognize. Of course, textisms are mediated by the technology used to create and transmit the message, as well. The 140 character Tweet is an example demonstrating that a limited number of characters imposed by the technology might encourage use of emoticons, abbreviations, and so on.

A 2009 study (Plester, Wood, & Joshi) found no correlation, or relationship, between students’ use of textisms and their capacity to use traditional spellings and language features. A new study (Wood, Kemp, & Waldron, 2014) examines the  long-term results when children and young adults use textisms, especially as those textisms relate to purposeful violations of grammatical conventions as opposed to errors. The results demonstrated that the subjects in the study showed no negative correlations between their abilities to use conventional grammar appropriate to their ages and their use of textisms. The study seems to suggest that use of textisms means that students are adding a literacy skill to their repertoire rather than replacing one skill set with another.

References:

Cloud 9 Ranch. (2012). How many of these textisms do you use? [Facebook post]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=235772239879305&id=222644657746917

Plester, B., Wood, C., & Joshi, P. (2009). Exploring the relationship between children’s knowledge of text message abbreviations and school literacy outcomes. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27(1), 145-161. doi: 10.1348/026151008X320507

Townsend, D. R. & Lapp. D. (2010). Academic language, discourse communities, and technology: Building students’ linguistic resources. Teacher Education Quarterly, Special Online Edition. Retrieved from http://teqjournal.org/townsend_lapp.html

Wood, C., Kemp, N., & Waldron, S. (2014). Exploring the longitudinal relationships between the use of grammar in text messaging and performance on grammatical tasks. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. Early online release. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjdp.12049/full doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12049

Image Credit:

Perreault, G. (2010, December 5). Sketch texting [drawing]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/guillaumeperreault/

Read more:

Texting Benefits for Teens
IM, SMS, Texting: A Glossary for Teachers
Spell Check and Writing Tasks in High School

Gone Fishing

Gone Fishing

The Literacy Beat Team is re-energizing and will be back in September with new posts and new ideas. Bernadette Dwyer took this photograph while in Vietnam in 2012. Time to relax and refresh!

Gone Fishing

Talking Drawings

by Rebekah Lonon with Karen Wood and Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This is the third in a three-part series exploring conversation and collaboration opportunities using digital tools. Rebekah Lonon describes how she uses “talking drawings” to promote academic discussions in her classes and explains how she uses the Educreations digital tool with her students.

My second-grade students enjoy using the talking drawings strategy regularly in all content areas. I always begin by having the class close their eyes and imagine a mental image of a word or concept. Once they open their eyes, they immediately draw the image they made in their minds. This gives me great insight into their prior knowledge of the topic, and it helps me tailor my instruction for the coming unit. I recently used this strategy to introduce a unit about properties of matter, and I learned that my students associated the word “matter” with something being wrong (“What’s the matter?”). I knew then how my unit needed to be planned.

When it is available for our use, I like to incorporate a digital tool. In this case, I used www.educreations.com because it provides an online venue for creating related drawings. Educreations is also available as an app for mobile devices. After their initial drawings, students independently read a passage, entitled “Why Does Matter Matter?” by Kelly Hashway (n.d.) from the website http://www.superteacherworksheets.com about the states of matter and then they discussed their drawings and thoughts with a partner. Next, they returned to Educreations to create a new drawing, based on their new knowledge. If technology is scarce, students can create their drawings in pairs or small groups, using paper with Crayons or markers. To reflect on what they learn and, as a means of integrating writing with the reading and drawing process, I always ask them to compare their original  and after reading drawing. In this instance, one partner group exclaimed aloud, “Matter DOES matter!” as they drew examples of each state of matter. Another partner group continued their reflection process as they wrote in their journals.  Seeing their developing knowledge when using this strategy is an effective assessment tool for me.

View the video to hear Rebekah explain talking drawings using Educreations.

Bibliography: 

Hashway, K. (n.d.). Why does matter matter? [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/matter/matter-article_WMTBN.pdf

McConnell, S. (1992/3). Talking drawings: A strategy for assisting learners. Journal of Reading, 36(4), 260-269.

Wolsey, T.D., Wood, K., & Lapp, D. (in press). Conversation, collaboration, and the Common Core: Strategies for learning together. IRA e-ssentials series: What’s New?Newark, DE :International Reading Association.

Wood, K. D., & Taylor, D. B. (2006). Literacy strategies across the subject areas. (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

About the contributors:

Rebekah Lonon teaches 2nd-grade for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina

Karen Wood is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

 

Jigsaw and Graffiti Wall

by Lindsay Merritt with Karen Wood and Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This is the second in a three-part series exploring conversation and collaboration opportunities. Lindsay Merritt describes, in the post below, how she uses jigsaw and a graffiti wall to promote academic discussions in her classes.

Lindsay writes:

In my classroom, I use the jigsaw strategy to help my students “own” their work and their learning.  I started to use jigsaw (e.g., Aronson, 2000) because I found that often when I presented a lesson students looked at me blankly because they were overwhelmed by too much teacher talk, or my directions were not clear. When I began using the jigsaw process, students become the “experts” in their topics, and had the opportunity to share, discuss, and collaborate with their classmates.  My role became one of planning, monitoring, guiding instruction, and having the pleasure of seeing first-hand the “ah ha” moments of my students’ learning.

My class has been studying Africa through our social studies curriculum.  We are learning that Africa is not a country, but a continent made up of many different countries and cultures.  I could not think of a better way to share this information than through the jigsaw strategy. Students worked in five groups, one for each of the regions of Africa (east, south, north, west, and central).  Their job was to look through the informational text, Hands on Africa (Merrill, 2000) and become experts on their region’s culture, location, geography, and countries within.  As they worked I was able to hear them reading together, discussing, and then writing in-depth sentences focusing on these key areas.  Every student was engaged and participating. This process afforded me a perfect opportunity to continually assess their learning.

I then selected one student from each region to form a larger group to share their information.  Students made sure to present their information clearly so that their classmates could understand.  The students took their “expert” roles seriously and even started making connections among the regions. Once they finished sharing they went back to their home groups to create a visual display of their readings to put on the Africa graffiti wall.   When they wall display was ready, the students had five minutes to view the wall and write down any new information or connections they could make to the information we were learning in the unit.  I was thrilled to see my students so excited about the learning process and truly taking ownership for their learning.

In this video, Lindsay describes the jigsaw and graffiti wall approach:

Digital tools we have used to build on jigsaw and graffiti wall approaches include:

Voicethread

Padlet

Diigo 

Bibliography:

Aronson, E. (2000, May/June). Nobody left to hate. The Humanist, 60(3), 17-21.

Merrill, Y. Y. (2000). Hands on Africa: Art activities for all ages. Salt Lake City, UT: Kits Publishing.

Wolsey, T.D., Wood, K., & Lapp, D. (in press). Conversation, collaboration, and the Common Core: Strategies for learning together. IRA e-ssentials series: What’s New?Newark, DE :International Reading Association.

About the contributors:

Lindsay Merritt teaches 3rd-grade at Hope Academy in  Cabarrus County, North Carolina

Karen Wood is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

 

 

Exchange Compare Writing

By Jolene Graham with Karen Wood and Thomas DeVere Wolsey

The next three posts on LiteracyBeat explore possibilities for promoting discussion, often with technology embedded. Teachers have long known of the value of discussion in the classroom, but the Common Core State Standards also emphasize these skills in the anchor standards for collaboration and presentation. Please open the Common Core Standards that Address Conversation and Collaboration PDF to see these arrayed on a chart.

This week’s post was written by Jolene Graham describing the Exchange Compare Writing instructional approach which encourages students to have meaningful discussions. In the video, below, she describes how she uses digital technologies to enhance the activity. The strategy occurs in four steps.

Preparation Phase

  • Determine 6-8 significant terms to emphasize
  • Pre-assign students to heterogeneous groups of four or five.

Pre-reading Stage

  • Display, pronounce terms.
  • Groups use terms to compose a paragraph representing their predictions of the story they are about to read.  All terms must be used.
  • Teacher assists, circulates, and monitors participation.
  • Students polish compositions in peer-editing groups (Optional)
  • Groups share completed compositions orally.

Reading Stage

  • Students read passage focusing on significant terms.

Post-reading Stage

  • Students discuss terms as used in the selection.
  • Groups/class compose second passage reflecting selection content

Jolene describes a lesson that uses exchange compare writing:

I recently used exchange compare writing in my fourth-grade classroom as we read the book So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting (1998).  To prepare for my lesson I first read the book and chose key vocabulary that would help the children write a communal, predictive passage.  These preselected terms were reviewed as a class to solidify the meaning of each term. Terms were defined by providing a picture or by using the word in a sentence.  As a class we reviewed what was meant by working collaboratively, and we discussed the importance of both listening and speaking to other group members.  The students were divided into heterogeneous groups and invited to collaboratively write a paragraph that predicted what the story was going to be about.  I used this communal writing time to walk around the room and listen to suggestions, ask questions, and promote collaboration. It was a perfect way to assess the learning that was occurring.

After the groups wrote their collaborative predictions, we read the story, listening carefully for each of the key vocabulary words.  To make sure my students were actively listening I asked them to raise their hands when they heard one of the words we used in our predictive passage.  After the reading we discussed how our predictions compared with what actually happened in the story.  The students then were asked to go back into their same groups and collaboratively write a summary of the story, using the key terms correctly.

Below, you will see a list of vocabulary terms, one predicted response and one response after reading that student groups might create.

Key Concepts/Phrases:

So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting

Grave Manzanar War Relocation Center Japan
Guard towers Monument Boat
Neckerchief Silk flowers Attack
Barracks Cub Scout uniform Origami birds

Predicted passage (A passage the teacher wrote as a model for students using the terms selected, above).

Japan attacked America so we sent the Japanese-American people to the Manzanar War Relocation Center.  There were guard towers to make sure the people couldn’t leave and barracks for the people to sleep in.  The relocation center was far from the sea and if you looked really hard you could see boats.    People didn’t have a lot to do so they spent time making origami birds and silk flowers.  Some people died and a graveyard was made.  When the war was over I was so excited I decided to wear my scout uniform and neckerchief.  Today there is a monument there for all of the people who were sent to that camp. 

Student response after reading the passage

Laura and her family were traveling to Manzanar War Relocation Center to visit the grave of her grandfather.  This will be the last time they are visiting since they will be moving from California to Massachusetts.  Laura’s father tells what the camp used to look like with guard towers, barbed wire fences, barracks, a hospital, churches and a school.  All Japanese-Americans were sent to live there because Japan attacked the United States.  

Laura’s grandfather was a tuna fisherman.  He owned his own boat and loved the sea. When the Americans came to take them to the relocation camp, Laura’s father wore his Cub Scout uniform so the guards would know he was a true American.   

Laura’s family brought silk flowers to place at her grandfather’s grave.  There is a memorial to mark the graves of those who died in the camp.  People have left offerings such as rice cakes, origami birds, and bits of colored glass.  Laura brought her own neckerchief from her scout uniform to place as an offering because her grandfather was a “true American”.

As the groups shared it is again so obvious who has really comprehended and gained understanding of the initially identified terms. Like many collaborative strategies, communal writing provides wonderful opportunities to formatively assess your students.

Listen to Jolene describe how she uses Exchange Compare Writing using Google Docs:

Bibliography: 

Bunting, E. (1998). So far from the sea. New York, NY: Clarion Books.

Wood, K. D., Stover, K. & Taylor, D.B. (in press) Smuggling writing across grades K-5: Standards-based instruction for the 21st Century Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wolsey, T.D., Wood, K., & Lapp, D. (in press). Conversation, collaboration, and the Common Core: Strategies for learning together. IRA e-ssentials series: What’s New? Newark, DE :International Reading Association.

About the contributors:

Jolene Graham teaches 4th-grade for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina

Karen Wood is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

 

WebWatch: Newtown Kindness

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This month, I feature some music you may have heard and a website you might like. The two go together, but you will need to make this a multimedia moment.  First, start the YouTube video, below, so you can hear the music from The Alternate Routes.

 

If you would like to read the lyrics, point your browser to The Alternate Routes website.
 

Next, click this link http://www.newtownkindness.org/ and visit Newtown Kindness.  The link will open in a new window so you can listen to the music as you explore the site.  Newtown Kindness is an organization dedicated to teaching students to be kind and recognizing those who are kind in any of many ways. The site honors Charlotte Bacon, who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School, by turning tragedy into hope. Maybe you and your students will want to become involved by supporting therapy and comfort dogs, taking a kindness pledge, or engaging in a lesson about responding with kindness. Watch the video below to learn about some of the recipients of the Charlotte Bacon Acts of Kindness Awards.
 

 

Heroes don’t look like they used to, they look like you do. -The Alternate Routes

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