YouSeeU: A New Multimodal Tool for Teacher Educators

This year, for the second time, I taught a supervised reading course for California State University, Fresno, as part of their Reading/Language Arts Added Authorization (RLAA) for practicing teachers who want professional development focused on reading.

The course, LEE230, requires that teachers learn assessment, diagnosis, and intervention for struggling readers by tutoring a small group of students (or a single tutee) with supervision from the university. In the past, such a course would have been taught in a reading clinic on campus or a supervisor would have visited the teachers in their classrooms. But, as we have noted from previous experience (please see my Literacy Beat post from one year ago at https://literacybeat.com/?s=Qik), actually being present to supervise teaching is not necessary. As I noted in June 2012, “This class was taught in a 5-week time frame, so the pace was intense, and the teachers and I never met face-to-face. Teachers were required to spend 20 hours of tutoring a small group of students. Instead of coming to a clinic, teachers could select the small group from their own classrooms, from that of another teacher, or volunteer in a classroom if they were not currently teaching. All of these scenarios played out during the course.” All of this was true this spring, too, although Dr. Glenn DeVoogd arranged for a new tool to be used, called YouSeeU.

My introduction to YouSeeu (http://www.youseeu.com/) was a personally conducted orientation to the system by Josh Kamrath in a webinar. Josh was also available for problem solving (very few!) during the class. The home page provides information about the system, which—like QIK—was a free trial for this experimental course. The screen capture below gives you an idea of the website and there are several videos on the affordances of the website. At Fresno State, in a graduate level course, I used a very simple aspect of the program.

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For my purposes, the teachers needed to provide 5-15 minute video segments of their tutoring accompanied by lesson plans and reflections on the process. My job was to analyze the lesson plans (which followed a prescribed format), then watch the video segment and provide feedback to the teacher. The entry portal for the course looked like this:

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Once you clicked on the class, the site took you to another page that provides you with a view of the video and a list of the students and the videos that they have submitted for review. Most interesting is the opportunity of commenting on the videos as they play. The comments are synchronized with the video, so that the teacher can view the video and see the comments as they arise in response to the teaching.

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 The following screen shot (with names removed) gives you an idea of what the scoring looked like, with options such as archiving. The student can set the parameters for who can view their video. All were originally set so that only I, as instructor, could view them. If I were to do this again, I think I would promote more peer review of the teaching, since teachers learn so much from each other.

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 Finally, I asked for and received permission from one of the teachers to share a video with my comments on it for this blog.   The embedding of this video is done below:

Tutoring a Small Group YouSeeU

I hope you enjoy reading about YouSeeU and seeing it in action. The Chief Education Officer, Jeff Lewis, was most cooperative and concerned about confidentiality (very important to them). YouSeeU is a commercial endeavor and the cost is.

Digital tools to foster reading and writing as shared literacy practices in the classroom

A post from Bernadette

Peer collaboration fosters student response and learning in important ways. When students collaborate in constructing meaning from text they have “multiple resources at the reading [writing] construction site” (paraphrased from Kucan & Beck, 1997). The ‘more knowledgeable other’ in such learning situations shifts and is distributed among group members. In collaborative learning situations, students acquire windows into the thinking processes of others and in so doing they both acquire knowledge and the processes by which such knowledge is constructed. The use of digital tools and apps allows students to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously. Students can research information and post their findings and annotations for others in the group to review. Members can then interpret, critique and synthesize information from a variety of online sources. Digital tools and apps that are useful to foster collaboration include Diigo, Subtext and Evernote. These digital tools and apps are portable across multiple devices and platforms.

Diigo  is a cloud-based information management tool that enables students to collect, highlight, bookmark, clip, share, and annotate websites. It allows students to archive their thinking at a particular moment by creating digital thinkmarks, tags and notes to highlight snippets of information on websites in the form of sticky notes, which they can then share and discuss with peers. Teachers can create an educator account with Diigo. This will enable you to generate student accounts and establish collaborative research groups within your classroom. Heidi Everett-Cacopardo has created a range of resources and video examples for Diigo on the New Literacies Essentials Google site here
Diigo%20-%20Web%20Highlighter%20and%20Sticky%20Notes,%20Online%20Bookmarking%20and%20Annotation,%20Personal%20Learning%20Network_-1
The Subtext app (currently available free on ITunes with a version for Android promised soon) allows students to annotate an ebook or website with questions and musings in the malleable moments of online reading. Students can share their ebook annotations with peers. Teachers can also set up private groups in their classrooms and embed instructions, layer weblinks, videos and assignments on the ebooks. There are a number of useful formative assessment tools, classroom management tools and social media-like features built into the app. Subtext is integrated with Google Drive and students can copy their highlights and notes into this medium, thereby closing the lines between reading and writing. See the example from the subtext website.

subtext annotations

Evernote  is a popular ‘Remember everything’ app to create and share digital notes and thinkmarks. You can also record audio notes with ease to share with others.  Capturing class notes from an Interactive Whiteboard is another  useful strategy for students. Another interesting feature is the ability to clip or capture websites and create annotations on the clipping. Watch the video embedded below from the Evernote website if clipping websites with Evernote is something you are not familiar with.  Again these notes can be synchronised across muliple portable devices.

References

Kucan, L., & Beck, I. L. (1997). Thinking aloud and reading comprehension research: Inquiry, instruction and social interaction. Review of Educational Research, 67 (3), 271-279.

Students revise their writing by listening to a digital reading of their text via Text-to-Speech tools and the VOKI Avatar

Good writers often read their writing out loud as they are composing and revising.  Sometimes the focus is on checking for meaning and the flow of the language.  Other times the focus is on checking that the sentences are the right length and are appropriately punctuated.  Of course, not everyone is comfortable doing this, and some may get so caught up in reading what they intended to say, that they aren’t able to listen critically and notice what’s not working.  This blog post features 2 tools, a text-to-speech reader that is available in most word processors and VOKI, a free talking head avatar.

Add a text-to-speech tool to your toolbar

Did you know that most computers and word processing programs now have a free text-to-speech tool that you can install on the toolbar?  I use a PC, so I’ll focus on the Microsoft tool that will read aloud written text in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote. You can choose your voice and the rate of speed. You simply highlight a word or section of text and click the speak tool on your toolbar to listen to your text being read aloud.  Granted, TTS tools still have voices that are a bit robot-like.  However, the focus here is not on expressive reading, but rather, listening to catch major editing issues.

Directions for adding TTS to your Quick Access Toolbar can be found online at:

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/using-the-speak-text-to-speech-feature-HA102066711.aspx

Listen and Revise with TTS

There are several ways to use TTS as a revision and editing support.  Of course, depending on the length of the text, you can always listen to the text in its entirety to get an overall sense of how it’s working.  Below are some targeted revision/editing strategies that can make the process more manageable for writers.

Targeted revision and editing with TTS

Paragraph Sense

Highlight a paragraph and then click on the Speak tool in your Word toolbar.

Listen and ask:

  1. Does this paragraph make sense?
  2. Does the lead sentence engage you and/or give you a sense of what the paragraph will be about?

Text Sense

Highlight the opening sentence of each paragraph and listen to hear how the paragraphs are building on one another to create an overall text that meets your genre requirements and writing goals.

Listen and ask:

  1. Do the opening sentences give you a sense of how the text is building to tell a story or present an argument?
  2. Are there some paragraphs that seem to be standing on their own, and aren’t connected to the rest of the text?
  3. Are there big jumps between paragraphs where I need to make a transition?

Run-on sentences and fragments

This is a quick and easy check.  The TTS tool will read along at the same rate, pausing only for punctuation. Run on sentences and fragments without punctuation will sound very strange!

Listen and ask:

  1. Do I have any very long sentences that are hard to understand?
  2. Do I have some sentences that aren’t complete?

Spelling check

Listening to check spelling will only capture misspellings that result in a phonetically different pronunciation. For example, typing ‘happee’ for ‘happy’ will sound okay.  Typing ‘hape’ or ‘hapy’ for ‘happy’ will not!  This process does help writers learn to listen for misspellings, which can be useful.  However, you will want to connect this kind of spelling editing check with the use of the embedded spell checker tool or an online dictionary.

Listen and ask:

  1. Do my words sound right?

VOKI:  Listen to an animated Avatar read your writing to help you review and revise

http://www.voki.com/

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VOKI is a free online tool that even young children can use to create an avatar who will then read the text they have typed in aloud to them.  Clearly, this can be engaging for students, since it allows them to create a reader and watch the reader speak their text.  It only takes a few minutes to customize your avatar. Then, you choose the TTS read aloud option and enter your text.  If the text has been created in a word doc, you can copy and paste it into the text input box. You may preview it, save it, and/or email it.  All of your saved avatars will be available in your ‘my avatars’ space.

A word of caution – there is a 60 second restriction on each Avatar speaking segment on the free VOKI and 90 seconds on the school paid version.  You will be surprised at how much the avatar can read aloud in 60 seconds.  However, if the text is longer than 60 seconds, have students entered in portions (perhaps at the paragraph level or beginning, middle, end, of the text, etc.).

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This screenshot shows that I’ve created my cat avatar and typed in my text so that the avatar will read my text aloud with a TTS voice.

Hear from  students about how VOKI is a fun way to help them with their writing

The VOKI website features videos created by teachers illustrating how they use VOKI in the classroom. Watch this video of Mr. Young’s classroom to learn from his students how they use VOKI to help them review their writing.  One student realizes his text doesn’t make sense, another  decided that he needs more sentences, a third notices that periods are missing, and a fourth hears mispronunciations that some spellings need correction.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/Y9gHpIH9RTA

child typing text for VOKI avatar to read aloud

Please share your strategies for using TTS and Avatars to support your students’ literacy.

Exciting Summer Professional Development Offerings

A post by Jill Castek

Professional development and professional networking are important ways to stay up-to-date with new developments and innovations in teaching and learning.  This post features several upcoming opportunities to extend your knowledge and expertise.  Register soon as these events are right around the corner.

The Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction (CLaRI) is having a Literacy Conference celebrating their 50th anniversary.  The event takes place on Sat. June 29th, 2013 in Buffalo, NY (Baldy Hall basement level, UB North Campus). Sessions include several offerings focused on new literacies and the use of digital technologies to support literacy and content learning.

The Summer Institute in Digital Literacy: Innovative Teaching and Learning with Digital Media Texts, Tools & Technologies is being offered at the University of Rhode Island July 14 – 19, 2013 in Providence, RI.  This six-day institute will focus on how literacy is changing as a result of emerging media and technologies. Participants will consider the implications of this cultural and technological shift for teaching and learning at all levels.

The Massachusetts New Literacies Institute:  Online Reading Comprehension, Online Collaborative Inquiry, and Online Content Construction is being offered at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, MA from Aug. 5-9, 2013.  This week-long event will engage participants in using digital tools to create lessons that address three aspects of new literacies: Online Reading Comprehension, Online Collaborative Inquiry, and Online Content Construction.

The websites for these events contain a full schedule of events, list of speakers, and details about registration.  Don’t miss out on the opportunity to  network with educators who are working toward transforming teaching and learning with the infusion of new technologies.

If you’re not able to participate in person, visit the online materials, activities, and articles from the New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute centered at North Carolina State University. This group has made available all their materials from previous years’ professional development activities.  Also check out the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-sig) wikipage.  Resources found on  these sites will both guide and inspire you to integrate new and transformational teaching practices in your classroom.

If you know of other summer conferences our readers might find useful, please post a description and particulars in the comments.

Enjoy your summer break. Stay connected to Literacy Beat for resources and teaching ideas throughout the month of June!

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