Using Online Reciprocal Roles to Support Collaborative Learning

A post from Bernadette

Peer-to-peer collaboration supports the acquisition and development of online skills and strategies in a number of important ways. Working in collaborative groups allows students to:
• Share and exchange effective online skills and strategies;
• Apply and hone online skills developed through explicit instruction by the teacher with their peers;
• Challenge each other’s thinking as students contest, examine, affirm and expand ideas through active engagement with inquiry-based tasks in collaborative groups;
• Develop self-regulation as group members keep each other on task to plan, monitor and evaluate online activity;
• Acquire a level of self-efficacy in developing online skills and a ‘can-do’ attitude with the support of peers.

However, as you will no doubt have observed in your own classroom, peer-to-peer collaboration does not occur spontaneously! So in order to develop an effective collaborative culture in an online environment a number of structures need to be put in place to encourage students to share and exchange ideas, insights and strategies.
In a recent research study, conducted with 3rd to 6th grade students (Dwyer, 2010), online reciprocal roles (emulating the Palinscar and Brown (1984) model), were introduced, with prompt cards as temporary scaffolds, where students took interchangeable, leadership roles in triad groups as the Questioner, Navigator, and Summarizer.

The Questioner (a) guides the group to devise higher level questions to focus online inquiry; and (b) directs, generates, discusses and monitors the effectiveness of search terms for the focus inquiry.

Eileen (pseudonym) explained the role thus,

“Their job is to make the question that you want to find out…shorten the search terms so it won’t be too broad …use the plus sign it tells the computer that you want the two of them.”

The Navigator (a) pilots the group to move effectively and efficiently across multiple websites; and (b) encourages the group to carefully scrutinize the search results by examining the clues provided in the abstract blurb and URL and matching both to the focus of inquiry.
The Navigator as Colm explains,

“is  a finder or clicker . They scan the [results] page and decide what to click into [as the] first one [hyperlink] might be good but the last one might be better.”

The Summarizer (a) ensures that the group judges the relevance of the information retrieved to the focus inquiry question; (b) encourages the group to monitor and clarify difficult vocabulary; and (c) guides the group in encapsulating and summarizing the information generated by Internet inquiry.
Katie explains the summarizer role,

pull the most important things, put it in your own words and size it down [and] say what it’s about in one sentence… and see the words we don’t understand.”

Examples of the prompt cards for each of the roles are presented in the embedded document which follows.

How do I introduce these roles in the classroom?

  • Brainstorm with students what each role may entail. If students are already familiar with the print-based reciprocal roles of predicting, summarizing, clarifying and questioning or literature circle roles they could draw on this prior knowledge in constructing the possibilities these roles present in an online environment.
  • Roles should be introduced individually (before combining them) using the gradual release of responsibility model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). Sample prompt cards can be used as scaffolds to remind individuals of their roles within groups.
  • Roles should be exchanged within the group to ensure that students internalize the skills and strategies necessary for successful online inquiry. As with all scaffolds, the prompt cards are temporary aids and become redundant as students internalize the necessary skills and strategies and develop proficiency with each of the online roles.

If you have comments or questions about these roles do email me (bernadette.dwyer@spd.dcu.ie), or if you try them out with your students, do let us know how you get on.

References

Dwyer, B. (2010). Scaffolding Internet reading: A study of a disadvantaged school community in Ireland. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Nottingham: U.K.

Palinscar, A. S., & Brown, A. L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1(2), 117-175.

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

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Multimodal Shoe Poems and Digital Writers Workshop

by Bridget Dalton

The next issue of the International Reading Association’s The Reading Teacher includes a column that I wrote on ” Multimodal Composing and the Common Core Standards”.  In the column I describe a multimodal shoe poem project . To complement the article, I’ve pasted below the PowerPoint slide presentation that Blaine Smith and I created to introduce the activity and scaffold the process. Feel free to use and remix this for your students.  If you try it out, it would be great to hear from you via a post to the blog or an email (bridget.dalton@colorado.edu).

Multimodal Shoe Poem


Why start with Shoe Poems?

1. Kids know shoes – they are part of popular culture. They begin with expert knowledge and can focus on creating the poem
2. Shoe poems offer multiple entry points – they can be concrete or abstract.
Why Power Point?
1. It’s an easy to use composing tool that allows you to build with image, sound and text.
2. You can build on students’ prior experience with the tool.


Blaine Smith and I have been developing a Digital Writers’ Workshop instructional approach (Dalton & Smith, under review). For this project, we used a Demo, Create, and Share, Reflect, Respond structure, but there are lots of different ways to be successful. Think about how you teach writing and adapt your approach so that it reflects multimodal design.

Here we go! To begin, awaken students’ excitement by ‘showing and telling’.  What is a shoe poem? Why would you want to create one?
How does it work?


I try to use at least 2 examples and encourage students to come up with their own creative approaches. These 3 examples show different types of shoe poems: question-answer; shoe memory; and shoe conversation They offer choices and also show different styles of multimodal design. Tell students the blue box is information to help them – it is not part of the poem!


For this shoe memory, Claire selected a wooden floor background and a tap dancing sound effect to complement her written memory of the thrill of wearing her first pair of high heels when she was 11 years old.


This last example is likely to appeal to kid interested in sports. It illustrates a different visual style and how to use the audio-record tool to make the shoe conversation can come alive with dramatic dialogue.


Now for the fun part – create your own shoe poem. I often have students work with a partner so they can benefit from the talents, knowledge and skills that each brings to the task. Working with a partner also requires that they talk about design decisions and negotiate their collaboration.


I use PowerPoint to provide the directions for the activity. I project it on the screen while students are working, and put it in a folder on their computers so that they can consult it as needed. I do this to avoid repeating directions!


Since this was an introduction to multimodal composition for these students, I scaffolded it by putting a folder of shoe images on their desktops. Of course, if they had a special shoe in mind that wasn’t in the folder, they searched on the Internet.  While there are steps involved in creating and producing multimodal pieces, students can change the order as needed. This outlines the overall process; schedule intermittent sharing sessions so that students can present and get feedback as they go along.

Again, since these students were new to both shoe poems and this type of multimodal composition, I scaffolded it with a template they could use, if they wanted. I remind students that it is one way, and they may have a different way that will work better for them.


The Share, Reflect, Respond stage happens during the process to get feedback, and at the end, to celebrate. Students are more influenced by each other’s work than they are by teacher examples!
I combine students’ class presentations with some kind of publishing. Audience is important; the Internet offers multiple options for publishing student work. I also make color-printed hard copies when I can.

And that is a wrap, my friends! Hope to hear about the creative work you are doing with your students to transform them into designers and multimodal composers!

Expanding Opportunities for Professional Development: Online Conferences and Professional Learning Communities

A post by Jill Castek

We’re all familiar with the impact of shrinking school budgets over the past few years.  One unfortunate consequence has been the decline in funding for teacher participation in national and international conferences. Avenues for teacher learning have shifted and expanded as technology has given rise to new forms of professional development. When it comes to effectively using new technologies to support student learning in particular, these seeking out professional development opportunities is essential.  The IRA Position Statement, New Literacies and 21st Century Technologies (IRA, 2009) calls for professional development that provides opportunities for teachers to explore online tools and resources expected for use with students.  The statement asserts that it isn’t enough to just make new technologies available to students but to provide options in ways to use them to access information and share ideas. To inspire new ways of thinking about the use of technology, tangible ideas and examples of what knowledgeable teachers have implemented need to be shared widely and discussed.  This post introduces free PD resources and online communities that support teachers in integrating digital technologies into learning activities in meaningful ways.

The IRA Standards for Reading Professionals (2010) encourage teachers to integrate technology into student learning experiences. More specifically, learners are expected to engage in opportunities that utilize traditional print, digital, and online reading and writing and represent various genres and perspectives, as well as media and communication technologies. The integration of technology into literacy learning is also called for in the Common Core State Standards (2010). Students that meet the standards are able to, amongst other aspects, use technology and digital media strategically and capably.

Professional development efforts such as the New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute (http://nli2012.wikispaces.com/Home) offer transformative models that expand beyond the school level and help build extended learning communities that promote lasting change. This week-long institute addresses ways that new digital tools can create challenging and engaging learning opportunities for students and teachers in K-12 and higher education. Participants come together to network, share ideas, boost their leadership skills, and create technology infused curriculum units they can implement in their own classrooms. For teachers who are unable to attend such an institute in person, online resources can be explored and discussed with colleagues to support implementation.

Available resources include videos, instructional suggestions, readings that link theory to practice, and online networking tools which allow teachers to connect with others who have similar goals and interests. Teachers who tap into the wide range of social networking tools that are available to educators can participate in virtual learning experiences that can be customized based on the needs in their own setting.

Special interest groups such as the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group, (http://tilesig.wikispaces.com/) affiliated with the International Reading Association (IRA), the 21st Century Literacies Group, (http://ncte2008.ning.com/group/21stcenturyliteracies) affiliated with the National Council for Teachers’ of English (NCTE), and the New Literacies Collaborative affiliated with North Carolina State University (http://newlitcollaborative.ning.com/ ) put teachers in touch with an extended network of colleagues with whom to discuss instructional approaches, share resources, and collaborate.

Rick Beach (from the University of Minnesota) and I will be giving a talk at the K-12 online conference (http://k12onlineconference.org/) coming up Oct. 15 – Nov. 2, 2012. This is a free online conference open to anyone. This all volunteer event is organized by educators for educators with the goal of helping educators make sense of and meet the needs of a continually changing learning landscape.  Presenters will share ways to integrate emerging technologies into classroom practice.  The schedule of session is available at http://k12onlineconference.org/?page_id=1091.  Our session, entitled Using iOS App Affordances to Foster Literacy Learning in the Classroom is available for download at http://ge.tt/6EtYbCP/v/0.

Literacy Beat aims to build a professional learning community amongst its readership. Please make a comment suggesting other professional development outlets or professional learning communities we can learn and benefit from.  These shared resources will allow us to expand our online networks and be in touch with new resources and ideas that benefit our teaching and our students learning.  We look forward to your comment!

References

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects (2010). Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards

International Reading Association. (2009). New literacies and 21st century technologies: A position statement of the International Reading Association International Reading Association. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

International Reading Association (2010). Standard for reading professionals—revised 2010. Newark, DE: Author.

Reading Complex Texts In Digital Environments: Four Teaching Practices

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Go to the parking lot of almost any school and ask ten adults (parents, school staff, faculty, etc.) if technology is helping students to be better readers in general or if it is detrimental to student reading.  While you will have ten very different answers, it is very likely that most of those adults will tell you that digital technology hinders students’ reading capacities.  This need not be the case, however.

Fortunately, teachers hold the answer to improving how their students interact with digital texts. Many have anticipated that asking students to read complex texts also mean asking them to navigate digital environments more often. In this post, we explore effective practices to help students navigate complex digital environments and the texts found there.

As schools move toward increasing the amount and the complexity of texts students read, digital environments will become increasingly important in meeting the goals to prepare students for college and work (CCSS, 2010). Reading online differs in many ways depending on the text itself and the electronic format (e.g., Kindle or Nook, PDF or HTML webpage, etc.). Here are four effective practices for teachers to encourage engagement with complex digital texts. In a future post,  I will explore those four practices in context of four reading tasks students might confront when reading digital texts.

MNOP

Model, Name, Overcome obstacles, Probe

Teachers can do a great many things to help students find, engage, and comprehend complex materials in digital environments.  Four critical teacher practices include modeling, naming, overcoming obstacles, and probing.

M (source: http://www.clker.com/profile-160226.html) Modeling may be the most time-honored tradition of the effective teacher, with good reason, we add.  When students see their teachers or peers employ effective reading habits, they tend to mimic those habits. Moreover, as they do so, they expand their repertoires of skills that serve them when they encounter new or challenging texts.

N (source: http://www.clker.com/profile-160226.html) Naming recognizes that students have skills on which they draw. However, students don’t always know why a skill or strategy might work effectively or under what conditions. When a teacher names the strategy, the student learns that it is an effective approach recognized by others and that it can be replicated.  For example, Howard is a sixth grader who skimmed several search results finding one near the bottom of the page that met his purpose for searching and reading.  His teacher noticed what he had done and specifically named the strategy as “skimming for the best website.”

O (source: http://www.clker.com/profile-160226.html) Overcoming obstacles suggests that novice readers of digital content often arrive in class with preconceived notions of what reading online is all about.  Sometimes those ideas are accurate, but at other times, these ideas present obstacles to comprehension of digital content.  For example, readers of webpages typically use a skimming strategy that resembles the shape of an ‘F.’ They read the top line, skim the left margin, and occasionally read a portion of a line partially down the page.  The strategy is effective when readers try to determine if a site is worthwhile for their purposes; however, it may hinder reading of complex content if the same skimming strategy is employed.

Read more about the F-shaped pattern on this blog: https://literacybeat.com/2012/08/28/text-complexity-digital-reading/

P (source http://www.clker.com/profile-160226.html)Probing involves teachers watching their students read online and probing for insights into their thinking processes as they read. For example, Sheila’s tenth-grade social studies teacher noticed that she selected a link with challenging vocabulary about a Civil War battle site instead of an easier site intended for younger readers.  He asked her why she chose the site, and she explained that the easier site presented information she already knew; she wanted to challenge herself.

Next month, we explore how these four teacher practices can be applied as students work with complex digital texts.

  1. Find and read materials that meet academic and other purposes
  2. Determine the best approach for reading digital material
  3. Synthesize multiple sources to create a deeper understanding
  4. Integrate multimodal resources into their reading experiences

Reference

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). Common core state standards for English/language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf

Images source

abaverman. (2012). Letters M, N, O, and P. Retrieved from http://www.clker.com [creative commons CC0 public domain dedication]

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