Multimedia digital books: Forward Thinking

Teaching the Language Arts: Forward Thinking in Today’s Classrooms by Elizabeth Dobler, Denise Johnson and Thomas DeVere Wolsey. Published by Holcomb Hathaway, ebook available via Inkling platform.

forward thinking

  When I received a copy of Forward Thinking I was immediately struck by the calibre of the authors (Elizabeth Dobler, Denise Johnson and our own Literacy Beat blogger De Vere Wolsey). In turn, each author is well respected within the literacy community for situating their research in classrooms and making strong research-to-practice connections. The six modes of the Language Arts- reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing and visually representing provide the organisational framework of this etext. However, it is the enhanced etext publishing format which I want to particularly draw attention to in this post.

A number of distinctive features encourage active learning environments by combining traditional and electronic content. These features allow the reader to transact with the text in multiple ways through media elements such as, video, graphics, and audio which are embedded in the etext. Readers can watch lessons being taught in real classrooms; have instant access to multiple resource ideas that are shared through video clips (e.g. writing workshop); listen to podcasts of teachers and students; view graphics of work samples and follow hyperlinks to websites. In addition, links between research and practice are featured in interviews with scholars like Don Leu, Dorothy Strickland and Nell Duke. Finally, the etext incorporates a note sharing feature which could be used to create pathways to learning through listening, reading and viewing within a community of learners.

The authors of Forward Thinking note that the book models ways in which electronic resources can be integrated with and used to augment traditional classroom instruction. Forward Thinking  allows us  envision the possibilities when technology is integrated in meaningful ways to enhance literacy and learning in the 21st century classroom.

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.

 

Essential Reading

A post from Bernadette

ira_essentials_150

Articles on the International Reading Association (IRA) websiteIRA E-ssentials, provide a range of  “actionable teaching ideas”  on a growing range of literacy topics. These articles are provided free with your IRA membership on the members only section of the website. They are  also available to non–members for a cost of $ 4.99 per article once you create an account on reading.org. You can download these pdf articles to your computer or any portable reading platform for on-the-go reading access. What is really appealing about the E-ssential topic range is that they are written by well-respected authors in the in the field of literacy (including our own Literacy Beat blogger, DeVere Wolsey). These concise articles include further suggested readings on the topic and incorporate links to multimedia content including websites, blogs and videos. All are strongly situated in real classrooms with strong classroom exemplars. Connections to the Common Core State Standards in the US are also included. Topics  are wide ranging and so far include critical literacy, vocabulary development, visual literacy, assessment, text complexity, writing workshop, motivation and engagement, graphic novels, and adolescent  literacy. Here are some of my current favourites to whet your appetite:

Digital discussions: Using Web 2.0 tools to communicate, collaborate, and create -Brian Kissel, Karen Wood, Katie Stover, & Kim Heintschel.

In this article the authors explore how students can communicate through social media like Facebook and Twitter; how students can collaborate  with others in a global classroom through blogs and wikis; and how students can become creators and composers through VoiceThread and Audioboo.

I hadn’t thought of that: Guidelines for providing online feedback that motivates students to learn– Diane Lapp, with Thomas DeVere Wolsey & Patrick Ganz

Interactions in the classroom are no longer confined to face-to-face (FtF) discussions. In this article the authors provide insights into providing formative instructional feedback  using a range of digital tools that applies the strengths of FtF feedback, in terms of intent, tone, and format, in an online environment.

Critical Literacy With New Communication Technologies -Vivian Vasquez & Carol Felderman

In this article the authors explore components of critical literacy in the classroom including the relationship between language and power and the importance of inquiry-based questions stemming from the interests of children. With the introduction of digital technologies Freire’s notion of ‘reading the word and the world’ takes on new meaning in a  flattened world of global communities. The authors explore the  transformative power of digital technologies to develop critical literacies in the classroom.

Access to Texts on a Global Scale

Recently, I had the privilege of working with teacher educators, class teachers and children on a development aid project on literacy in Zambia, Africa. In one classroom I visited there were sixty little boys sitting at weather-beaten desks and the teacher was attempting to teach literacy from a single class reader-the one and only available book in the classroom. As literacy educators we know the importance of connecting the right book, to the right child, at the right time. However, access to texts, and more importantly equality of opportunity in access to texts, is a real issue in developing countries (and indeed among marginalised communities worldwide).

The World Internet Usage Statistics (www.internetworldstats.com) indicate that almost 35% of the world population are now online and that growth in access to the Internet in developing countries is advancing at a rapid rate. So perhaps access to books on the Internet may prove a feasible path to fostering literacy, and nurturing a lifelong love of books and reading, among children, both in developing countries and in marginalised communities worldwide. In this blog post I will review a number of organisations who are attempting to do just that.

Book abundance is the vision and mission of Unite for Literacy (www.uniteforliteracy.com). Mark Condon began creating libraries of inexpensive, culturally appropriate and linguistically rich picture books for children in marginalised communities in the 1990s. This initiative has grown into a “Wondrously Infinite Global Library” as noted on the Unite for Literacy Website. The site provides access to a growing number of electronic picture books that honour and celebrate the culture and home languages of a diverse range of children. These picture books can be read aloud in English but also, crucially, in a range of about 12 other languages such as, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, French, Russian and Vietnamese. Examples of the range of texts are shown in the screen saver from the Unite for Literacy website below

MArk condon

“The path to a literate life is a story that must pass through the heart.”  Mark Condon

We Give books (http://www.wegivebooks.org) is a website created by the Penguin Group and Pearson Foundation Group which provides Internet access to a range of  fiction and informational text books suitable for children up to the age of 10. These electronic texts can be read across a range of digital platforms and electronic devices. The site provides access to a range of award winning and recently published texts. For every book read from the digital library We Give Books donate books (almost two and a half million to date!) to charities and worthwhile causes in communities around the world.

When I was growing up swapping books among friends was one of our favourite pastimes. Little Free Library (http://littlefreelibrary.org) is based on the similar concept of ‘bring a book, take a book’.

little free library 3

This movement started in the US but is now slowly growing across the globe ( as shown in the map below) and may provide community-generated access to books. For examples of the creativity of people in creating mobile Little Free Library book stores visit Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/ltlfreelibrary/.

little free library 2

Finally, you will find a more extensive list of sites providing free electronic texts for children at http://www.techsupportalert.com/free-books-children

Note: Post updated 1-30-2017, video removed that was no longer available.

On the Beat at the 18th European Conference on Reading

A post from Bernadette

The 18th European Conference on Reading was held in in the beautiful town of Jönköping in Sweden from August 6th to the 9th. Over the space of four days delegates, from around the globe including, Europe, US, Canada, Russia, Asia, South Africa and Australia, met, listened, debated and forged collaborative links around issues relating to the conference theme of New Literacies, New Challenges. In this blog post I thought I would give you a flavour the wonderful keynote addresses presented during the conference. Local speakers provided stimulating and interesting keynote addresses to both open and close the conference. Professor Elsie Anderberg, from Jönköping University, addressed the issue of The Function of Language Use in Reading Comprehension in her opening address. Professor Stefan Samuelsson (Linköping University) provided intriguing insights from an international collaborative research project on Behaviour-Genetic Studies of Academic Performance in School Students.

Professor Jackie Marsh from the University of Sheffield provided a wonderful and thought provoking keynote address on Digital Futures: Learning and Literacy in the New Media Age addressing issues including family digital literacy practices and children’s use of virtual worlds. Jackie then provided fascinating insights from the Digital Futures in Teacher Education’ Project on aspects related to pedagogical strategies and design of curriculum. Rather than trying to ‘colonise’ children’s home practices with digital literacies, she urged us to try to build on and extend such literacies links; thereby bridging the dissonance between in-school and out-of-school literacies.

Digital Futures in Teacher Education

Digital Futures in Teacher Education

http://www.digitalfutures.org/

Professor Don Leu (University of Connecticut) delivered an engrossing keynote address entitled, The New Literacies of Online Research and Comprehension: Reading with a Lens to the Past and with a Lens to the Future. Don got to the “Heart of the Matter”, and effectively captured the feeling of most of us working in the area of digital literacies, when he quoted Don Henley from The Eagles, “The more I know, the less I understand.” Don addressed issues related to the ubiquitous nature of the Internet and other digital technologies in society and the deictic nature of literacy in the 21st century. He spoke convincingly on the need to ensure equity in, and equality of, access to digital literacies for all students regardless of SES. You can view the PowerPoint presentation in the link below.

The conference organisers, Ulla-Britt Person, Lena Ivarsson and other colleagues in the Swedish Council of International Reading Association (SCIRA), together with colleagues on the International Development in European Committee of the International Reading Association (IDEC) and the Federation of European Literacy Associations (FELA) are be congratulated for the successful organisation of a wealth of presentations and workshops across the four days of the conference.

Presentations and hand-outs from the conference will be available soon on the IDEC website.

So a truly great conference in a wonderful venue! Mark your calendar for the 19th European Conference on Reading to be held in Klagenfurt in Austria on 14th -17th July 2015.

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.

UDL Studio: Deepening response to literature

UDL Studio, a free digital tool (funded largely by the Carnegie foundation) has recently been released by CAST. UDL studio is underpinned by the principles of Universal Design for Learning . UDL Studio  joins other successful digital tools created by CAST. See for example my blog post on LEA Meets Book Builder. UDL Studio enables anyone to create media-rich resources, to actively engage and motivate students, and to respond flexibly to the needs of each learner; thereby ensuring quality and equality in access to learning for all.

UDL Studio offers templates to scaffold you or your students as you create content using multimodal elements, such as text, image¸ video, audio, and animation. You can explore the project library to view previous projects created by UDL studio users.
For example, Katherine Cooper has created a project around Charles Dickens’ classic tale A Christmas Carol. In the screen shot you can see links to audio recording related to character study. Students can also record their prior knowledge of the story through multiple modalities, such as writing, recording, drawing, or uploading a file attachment.

Katherine Cooper

Katherine Cooper

Meanwhile, Matthew Puma has created a resource to support his students while reading SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting. Students can explore historical information relating to the Titanic; inner feelings of the characters; and actions and events within the book. The screen shot below relates to a mind map of themes in the Titanic.

mind map SOS Titanic

My wonderful, final year, elective student teachers have begun to explore the possibilities presented by UDL Studio to encourage immersion in, involvement with, and interpretation of literature (Dwyer & Larson, 2013). We have begun a project around The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas/Pajamas by John Boyne. Our aim is to deepen engagement with the text through close reading to explore the structure of the text; the perspectives of the characters; the use of vocabulary; and historical perspectives relating to the text.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

We really like the tips and resources page which asks you to reflect carefully on how the use of the digital tool enhances children’s understanding of text; enriches the reading experience; and represents information in an engaging manner. The plethora of free digital tools include:

Recording and editing software
Audacity: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Free Sound Editor: http://www.free-sound-editor.com/
Audio Pal: http://www.audiopal.com/index.html

Video search engines and editing software
• Blinkx Video Search Engine: http://www.blinkx.com/
• Truveo Video Search: http://www.truveo.com/
• Video editing http://www.stroome.com/

Sources for images
• Pics4Learning: http://pics.tech4learning.com
• Creative Commons image search: http://search.creativecommons.org/
• Free Photos: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

Animation tools
• Gifninja: http://www.gifninja.com/
• Picasion: http://picasion.com/
• GoAnimate: http://goanimate.com/

Reference
Dwyer, B. & Larson, L. (2013). The writer in the reader: Building communities of response in digital environments. In Kristine E. Pytash & Richard E. Ferdig (Eds.). Exploring Technology for Writing and Writing Instruction. US: IGI Global

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