Generative Technology for Teacher Candidates: The Assignment

Generative Technology for Teacher Candidates:  The Assignment

Dana L. Grisham

My friend and colleague, Linda Smetana, and I have been working together since about 2004. She’s a full professor at CSU East Bay (Hayward, CA), from which I retired in 2010. Linda is one of those extraordinary scholars and teacher educators who stays close to her field—she teaches one day per week in a Resource classroom in the West Contra Costa Unified School District—and also works full time at the university, where she specializes in literacy teacher education in both special and general education. Recently, Linda and I have been investigating the intersections of literacy and technology in teacher preparation together and I’d like to share with you a project we just completed and the results of which are going to be published in a book edited by Rich Ferdig and Kristine Pytash, due out later in 2013.

Our belief is that “generative” technology needs to be infused into teacher preparation. Technology in teacher preparation tends to be “silo-ed” in the programs where we teach. Currently, candidates at our university have one technology course, based on the ISTE standards, but bearing relatively little on pedagogy for teaching. By generative technology, we mean that the technology is embedded in the content of the course in teaching methods, rather than something “added on.”

The basic framework that we used for the assignment was the TPACK model (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) that has appeared in this blog before:

TPACK

The TPACK model asks the teacher to look at the content of the lesson, or what we want students to learn, as well as the pedagogy (how best to teach this content), and then at the technological knowledge that might be advanced in the lesson. Where the three elements intersect is known as TPACK or the theoretical foundation and link between technology and praxis. In our courses, we have presented TPACK as the goal for integrating meaningful technology into lesson planning and teaching.

The participants in our recent study consisted of 21 teacher candidates in the fifth quarter of a seven-quarter post-baccalaureate teacher preparation program; 17 of these candidates were simultaneously completing their masters degree in education while 18 of the 21 participants were earning their education specialist and multiple subject (elementary) credentials.

In creating the assignment, we carefully considered the context for teaching of the candidates in the course, structuring the assignment so that all candidates could successfully complete it. Candidates had different levels of access to student populations. Accessibility ranged from 30 minutes a day three days a week, to the full instructional day five days a week.  Teacher candidates also taught different subjects among them: English, History, Writing, Reading, Language Arts, Study Skills, and Social Skills. To insure that teacher candidates considered all aspects of their assignment in their write-ups of the project, Linda provided guidelines for the reflection. Students were responsible for learning to use the tools they chose. Linda collected and we jointly analyzed the data. Findings from the research were uniformly positive. In fact, right now Linda is doing post-research interviews with a couple of the candidates who have really taken to the integration of technology into their teaching.

For the purposes of this post, I would like to share the assignment with you. In my next post I plan to share a couple of the projects. Teacher candidates were provided with guidelines for the technology assignment and provided with a list of potential tools that they might use for the assignment. They learned the TPACK model for planning. Below is the technology assignment from Linda’s syllabus and the list of technology tools (free or very inexpensive) provided for students to investigate. We offer this with complete permission for other teacher educators to use or modify for use in their courses.

The Generative Technology Assignment

The Common Core Standards mandate the use of technology for instruction, student work, and student response.  Students with special needs, especially those with mild moderate disabilities may not have access to technology or their access may be limited to hardware and software that may not be useful to support the learning process.

During the second month of the class, we will have three independent learning sessions.  These sessions are intended to enable you to complete the technology assignment.  This assignment focuses on integrating technology with academic skill development, core content with teacher and student creativity. The focus should be on an aspect of literacy or multiple literacies.

In this assignment you will use technology to develop a set of learning sequences for use with your students.  You may complete this assignment in groups of no more than two individuals one of the technology tools in the syllabus or one that you locate on your own.  If completed in pairs, the finished product must demonstrate increased complexity and include the work of students in both individuals’ classrooms.

Your technology assignment should enhance the learning of your students.  Prepare an introduction to the presentation to educate your viewer.  Think about the content of the presentation, reason for the your selection this medium and/or process.  Share how your presentation meets the needs of your students and reflects their knowledge. The assignment must incorporate student work.  Identify how the students participated in the development and creation of the assignment. 

Prepare a thoughtful reflection of your thoughts on the process and the final product including the preparation, implementation and evaluation of the product and the management of students and content. This reflection should be descriptive and include specific examples. It may be submitted as a word document.

Place your project on a flash drive that may be placed into the classroom computer for projection.  Use your student work of materials from the web, interviews, u-tube and anything else that will capture students’ attention. 

Technology Web Resources Provided to Teacher Candidates

VoiceThread http://www.voicethread.com.

Animoto http://www.animoto.com/education

ComicCreator http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/comic/index.html

Edmodo http://www.edmodo.com

Glogster http://www.glogster.com

Prezi http://www.prezi.com

Popplet http://popplet.com

Slidepoint http://www.slidepoint.net

Storybird http://storybird.com

Strip Designer http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/strip-designer/id314780738?mt=8

(iPad app)

Stripcreator http://stripcreator.com

Screencast http://screencast.com

Screencast-o-matic  http://screencast-o-matic.com

Cool Tools for Schools http://wwwcooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/Presentations+Tools

Toontastic http://launchpadtoys.com/toontastic/

In addition to the assignment, teacher candidates were provided with guidelines for reflection, seen below.

Questions to Guide Reflection

What and how did students learn? Include both intentional and unintentional lessons.
What did you learn?
What would you do differently if you were to do this project again?
What were the greatest successes of this project?
How would you improve this project?
What advice would you give a teacher contemplating a similar project?
What kinds of questions did students ask?
Where were students most often confused?
How did you address the needs of different learners in this project?
What resources were most helpful as you planned and implemented this project?

To scaffold teacher candidates application of technology to lesson planning for the project, each one provided Linda with a proposal to which she gave feedback. Each proposal contained the following components: Context, Students, Standards (literacy and NETS•S standards), Technology, Process, and Product.

Every student completed the assignment successfully and their reflections are highly interesting….more to come! In my next post, I will share with you some of the amazing projects that Linda’s teacher candidates produced.

References

Grisham, D. L. & Smetana, L. (in press). Multimodal composition for teacher candidates: Models for K-12 writing instruction. In R. Ferdig & K. Pytash (Eds.). Exploring Multimodal Composition and Digital Writing. Hershey, PA: I-G-I Global.

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technologiical Pedagogical Centent Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108, 6, 1017-1054.

Let the Reader Beware: Evaluating Digital Books

This week’s post is a guest presentation by Elizabeth Dobler from Emporia State University. Beth has been working in an area that looms large for all educators: evaluating digital books for use in the classroom. Beth has put together a rubric which I believe teachers everywhere will find useful for these essential evaluations. As a teacher educator, I am planning to use the rubric with my master’s level practicing teachers and I beiieve that teacher preparation programs need a useful tool like this for teacher candidates to learn about and use. It is with a great deal of pleasure that I offer Beth’s post on LiteracyBeat. DLG

Let the Reader Beware: Evaluating Digital Books

Elizabeth Dobler

Three things happened to me in the same month that led to my interest in the topic of digital books.  I received an iPad from my university, I began teaching a children’s literature course, and I watched first grade children create their own digital books.  So now, during the winter evenings, instead of watching television or crocheting, I am searching Amazon, the iBookstore, and Barnes and Noble for quality digital books for children that I can recommend to preservice and inservice teachers.

Through my perusal of many digital books, I have reached two conclusions.  First, digital books, or ebooks, have the potential to let readers interact with the book in amazing ways, which can be both motivating and distracting. Many digital books integrate multimedia elements, including text, images, music, sound effects, and narration. In Axel the Truck, published by Harpers Collins, this book for beginning readers provides simple text, colorful images, intro music, and truck sound effects. The reader may choose the narration feature or to read the book themselves.   A reader’s interactive finger tap or swipe can move objects or cause characters to speak. In the app book The Monster at the End of This Book, the beloved Muppet, Grover invites readers to tickle his tummy, upon which he giggles. Some digital books provide ways for readers to become part of the story, such as the app book Cinderella: A 3-D Fairy Tale, which uses  the camera feature of the iPad to place the reader’s own face in a mirror above the mantle.

When teachers, library media specialists, and caregivers choose digital books to use with children, care should be given to selecting books with multimedia elements that deepen the reader’s understanding and appreciation of the story, rather than distract from the meaning of the text. A study by the Cooney Center at Sesame Street Workshop, entitled “Print Books vs. E-Books” (Chiong, Ree, & Takeuchi, 2012), looked at the interactions between parents and their children when reading digital books and found that the enhanced digital book (one with multimedia elements) promotes discussion related to the digital design rather than the content of the book. Does this shift from a focus on the story mean we shouldn’t read ebooks with children? Absolutely not! Children need to experience lots of different genres and formats of books, both print and digital, to prepare them for the wide variety of reading experiences they will encounter in their future.

The second realization I had during my very unscientific-relaxing-on-the-couch study of digital books for children is the quality of these books varies greatly. With the advent of self-publishing and digital bookstores, the world of children’s literature is experiencing unprecedented change. Today anyone can publish a book and make it available in a digital bookstore. On the one hand, this change is highly motivating for our students, as they can see their ideas and writing come alive in a digital book, and this can be shared with others. On the other hand, because anyone can publish their digital book using relatively easy to use publishing software, the traditional system of checks and balances used to screen publications before putting them into the hands of children no longer applies. Books with inappropriate content or incorrect spelling, grammar, or punctuation are available for little or no cost. The book The Case of the Missing Banana, by Matthew Ryan, has bright illustrations and a simple, yet clever text. It’s also missing capital letters for proper nouns and at the beginning of sentences. The Quirky, Nerdy, and Entirely Original Elementary School Adventures of Derpy Dork by Jack Thomas, appears to be a cruder version of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Kinney, 2007). Lest I paint an unfair picture, many high quality digital publishing companies do exist. Nosy Crow and Callaway Digital Arts are two of my favorites.

Those who teach, love, and care for children must be the gatekeepers, teaching children how to make wise decisions about book selections of all types, and making these selections for children when necessary.  In order to do this effectively, we must be able to identify quality digital books.  I have shared my interest in digital books with fellow educators, and with their help, we created a simple tool for considering the quality of a digital book.  The Digital Book Evaluation Rubric guides teachers to consider the reading options, user friendliness, appropriateness, and polished appearance of a digital book. Please take the tool, use it, and send us feedback.  In fact, the process of evaluating an digital book works really well if you find a comfy spot on the couch, curl up with a blanket, your digital device of choice and enjoy a book or two.

Elizabeth Dobler is a literacy professor at Emporia State University, in Emporia, Kansas. edobler@emporia.edu

References

Chiong, C., Ree, J., Takeuchi, L., (2012). QuickReport: Print Books vs. E-Books. Joan Ganz Cooney Center.   http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/quickreport-print-books-vs-e-books/

Kinney, J. (2007). The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Amulet Books.

Quality Digital Books

Axel the Truck: Rocky Road (Harper Collins) by J. D. Riley, Illustrated by Brandon Dorman. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/axel-the-truck-rocky-road/id472125985?mt=11

Cinderella: A 3-D Fairy Tale (Nosy Crow). https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cinderella-nosy-crow-animated/id457366947?mt=8

The Monster at the End of this Book (Callaway Digital Arts/Sesame Street Workshop) by Jon Stone; Illustated by Mickael Smollin. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/monster-at-end-this-book…starring/id409467802?mt=8

Questionable Quality Digital Books

The Case of the Missing Banana by Matthew Ryan. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-case-of-the-missing-banana/id442569924?mt=11

The Quirky, Nerdy, and Entirely Original Elementary School Adventures of Derpy Dork by Jack Thomas. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/quirky-nerdy-entirely-original/id452819761?mt=11

Digital Book Evaluation Rubric

Type of Digital Book (check all that apply):

_____  traditional (print book turned digital)                            _____  gamified (book has embedded game elements)

_____  original (book written for mobile device only)           _____  movie and cartoon inspired

_____  uncertain/unknown

Robust Quality Adequate Quality Limited or Weak Quality
Reading Options Readers can choose options for reading, listening, viewing, or interacting with the text. I can adapt the way I “read” this digital book depending on my reading needs and interests. Or if I cannot choose, I at have several options available (read, view, listen). A limited number of reading options are presented, but the reader has no choice (i.e., audio and text). I can read and listen to this digital book, but cannot choose between one or the other. Reader has no choice of options beyond reading the text and viewing the illustrations. I only have the option of reading this digital book.
User Friendliness Provides various prompts, such as arrows or sounds, for accessing special features (i.e., turning pages, moving objects). Guides the reader towards interaction with the text. I can easily understand how to access all of the bells and whistles available in this digital book. Provides a limited number of prompts for accessing special features.  I can find the special features of this digital book with some exploring. No prompts are provided for accessing special features. The reader must dig to discover the features. I have to search to find the special features of this digital book and even then I may not find them.
Appropriateness The text (vocabulary and ideas) and illustrations are appropriate for the age level of the intended audience.This is an appropriate digital book that I would recommend to the children in my class. One or two questionable elements are present in the words and/or illustrations.  I should provide an explanation prior to sharing this book with my class. The topic, language, and/or illustrations are not appropriate for the age level of the intended audience. I would not share this digital book with my students because it is inappropriate.
Polished Appearance The text has been carefully edited for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  No errors are present. The illustrations are placed near the appropriate text. I can recommend this digital book to my students with an assurance of high quality. One or two small editing errors are present in the entire digital book, and these do not detract from the text. Illustrations are placed close to the appropriate text. I am aware of the miniscule number of editing errors, but feel the value of the digital book provides a balance. Numerous spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors are present in the text. Illustrations are repeatedly not placed near the text. There are so many editing errors in this digital book, I would be not share this with my students.

Created by Elizabeth Dobler and Daniel Donahoo

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

A Framework for Effective Technology Use in Online Teaching

Since my retirement from the California State University system, I have enjoyed teaching online at several universities. My field is literacy and I am a teacher educator, but I have always been interested in the intersection of literacy and technology. Thus my students, usually practicing teachers who are returning to the university for advanced degrees and meaningful professional development are usually eager to learn about new “tools of the trade,” especially for use their K-12 classrooms.

All of us know that today’s K-12 students tend to be intensive media users who use the Internet for many social purposes. Students use media and the Internet to respond to literature, create compositions and fanfiction, and to connect with others in interest-driven communities, both outside of school and in classrooms (Grisham & Wolsey, 2006; Wolsey & Grisham, 2012). But what are we doing to prepare teachers to address the learning needs of today’s tech-savvy students? In the context of the classroom, teachers choose the content. We know what we want to teach and what we want our students to learn. Can we (should we) try new technological tools to reach and teach our tech-savvy students? When looking for new technological tools, I look for ease of use, application to curriculum and instruction, and positive impact on affect and learning of mystudents. This is what we (Grisham & Smetana, 2011) call “generative technology.”

In the online teaching environment it is relatively easy to answer that, as teachers (and teacher educators) must learn to use some new tools in order to participate in online coursework. But I would argue that we need to be both savvy and strategic about the tools we require them to learn. It is not new, but I like to use the TPACK model in my planning (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) as shown in the figure below.

The TPACK framework or model suggests that three elements must be considered in planning instruction:  content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge. Where the three intersect may be referred to as the “sweet spot” of TPACK and where we should direct our attention when we plan instruction.

I’d like to give an example of this from my own work. I have taught research methods for many years, originally in the brick and mortar environment of Washington State University, where teacher candidates did action research for their certification and MA degrees. I taught it for almost a decade at SDSU, and recently I have been teaching it online for two other universities.

Content Knowledge:  Teachers need to know about research paradigms and how action research fits into their practice. They need to know how to frame a research question, how to do a literature review, collect and analyze data and how to present and discuss their findings.

Pedagogical Knowledge:  As the instructor, I need to engage these teachers in both learning and applying their new knowledge. The key is engagement.  I can lecture, using a PowerPoint presentation (and I do some of that), but I want them to think and interact with others over the content.

Technological Knowledge: I want to find a tool that is relatively simple to learn and use that will provide my teachers with something “new” and useful to them beyond their own immediate learning (hopefully, something they will use for their K-12 students).

In my research classes, then, I have used another fairly well-known tool called Voicethread to provide an opportunity for my teachers to think and respond to what they have read about action research and use a visual to prompt their reflections.

I created a 4-page Voicethread and provided audio directions for responding to each page. Then I suggested my students should respond to the prompt via audio, which they did. The following screen capture shows the initial page of the Voicethread and if you follow the link below, you can view the page itself.

http://voicethread.com/share/2802061/

Students responded thoughtfully and appeared to enjoy the process from the feedback I received. Several of them also talked about using Voicethread in their classrooms (the Voicethreads can be kept private) with their K-12 students. Their action research projects also seemed to reflect a deeper understanding of the purposes of action research and evidence-based instruction.

In the same classes, I asked students to prepare Glogs and Prezis to summarize their research reports and have been really pleased with the results. I’m grateful that I have the TPACK model to remind me that technological tools have to be used meaningfully.

In a prior blog posting I made the following recommendations for distributing technology throughout teacher preparation and professional development programs, but I think they bear repeating here:

Whether or not you are teaching online, I would suggest the following guidelines for teacher preparation (and teacher professional development):

1)   Work collaboratively within the university to distribute technological use across the teacher preparation programs instead of relying on stand-alone  “Ed Tech” courses.

2)   Seek workshops on technology use for themselves and to learn at least one new tool each academic year to apply to their own teaching.

3)   Where possible, seek student teaching placements for teacher candidates in classrooms and schools where technology is being used productively.

References

Grisham, D.L. & Smetana, L. (2011) Generative technology for teacher educators. Journal of Reading Education, 36, 3, 12-18.

Grisham, D. L. & Wolsey, T.D. (2006). Recentering the middle school classroom as a vibrant learning community: Students, literacy, and technology intersect. Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy, 49, (8), 648-660.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge . Teachers College Record 108 (6), 1017-1054.

Wolsey, T. D. & Grisham, D.L. (2012). Transforming writing instruction in the Digital age: Techniques for Grades 5-12. New York: Guilford.

 

What the NAEP2011 Writing Assessment Means for Technology Use in Schools

What the NAEP2011 Writing Assessment Means for Technology Use in Schools

On September 14, I attended a Webinar on the outcomes of the Writing 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress for Grades 8 and 12. The full report can be accessed at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/writing/.

As we know, NAEP assessments have occurred since 1969 and provide a pretty reliable snapshot of educational progress in the U.S. The 2011 writing assessment is the first that has used technology as part of the assessment.

All 8th and 12th graders who participated in the assessment did so using a word processing program on the computer, rather than using pencil and paper. Because of this, new scales and achievement levels were established and webinar presenters (including Arthur Applebee and Elaine Chin) were careful to stress that the findings could not be directly compared to past results for that reason, although results indicate students have the same strengths and weaknesses as revealed in the past by pencil and paper tests.

Also in the 2011 assessment, the types of writing required of students are in alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS, 2010) stressing the reinforcement of three writing capacities. These three types of writing prompts were used with different proportions of use for the two grade levels:

%  Assessment 8th %  Assessment 12th
Persuasion 35 40
Explanation 35 40
Convey an Experience 30 20

Scores were based on six performance ratings and scored as “first drafts” rather than polished writing samples. The ratings may be found in the report.

Writing prompts were provided with interesting technology. On a computer screen divided vertically like the pages of a book, the left half contained the prompt with specific types of multimedia, including an audio prompt at 8th grade and a video prompt at the 12th grade. In the webinar, a prompt for conveying information asked students to describe a desert island and the multimedia added the sound effects for the prompt.

There were a number of program tools that students could elect to use as they wrote (prompts were based on Universal Design) and students’ tool use was tracked and generally associated with higher scores…but more on that later.

Findings

The major assessment findings were that at both 8th and 12th grades, only about 24% of those assessed scored at the “proficient” level, as is seen in the screen shot from the website (below). About half the students assessed scored at the Basic achievement level.

Gaps continue to exist among ethnic groups and there is also significant variance for student performance by gender and school location.  For example, at the 8th grade level, the scaled scores showed Asian students scoring the highest at 165, while the lowest scoring ethnic group were Black students at 132.

There is also a rather large gender difference with the scaled score for 8th grade males at 140 and for 8th grade females at 160. Scores for 12th graders were closer, but the gap is still sizeable.

The following screen capture illustrates this point:

Finally, the school type and location appears to matter. While public schools comprised 92% of the sample, scores for students in private schools scored higher overall with students in Catholic schools scoring the highest.  Suburban school districts had higher scaled scores than did those in cities, towns, and rural locations. These scores can be seen in Table A:

At 12th grade, the highest scoring ethnic group was White at 159, while the lowest was Black at 130. The gender gap was somewhat less stark but still extant, as was the benefit of attending school in a suburb.

Poverty continues to make a substantial difference in students’ scores. Those eligible for free lunch had a scaled score of 134, while those who were not eligible had a scaled score of 161.

Technology Use

Beyond overall scores, there are many implications for educators. One question appears to have a positive answer: the use of word processing tools for the assessment appear to be more engaging.

Of interest to those who enjoy the intersections of literacy and technology are the findings that emanate from the word processing actions used by students. Questionnaires were given to teachers of 8th grade students completing the assessment. Teachers reported on how frequently they had students using computers to write and revise drafts. The data showed that 44% of students had teachers who reported using technology in writing; these students scored higher than those who had teachers who did not use technology as much in their writing.

As noted above, students who used the tools available (cut/paste, text-to-speech, spell-check, thesaurus) scored higher than students who did not use these tools.

For 12th graders the technology was a little more sophisticated, as the prompt included video as well as audio. In this sample prompt, students were asked to speak to an audience of college admission committee members to persuade them how technology is important and valuable to them. The video provided statistics of technology use.

Both 8th and 12th grade students who said the use a computer more frequently to edit their writing scored higher than students who did not.

Implications

For all educators, there is an urgent need to embrace technological tools for communication and composition in our homes and schools. There are examples everywhere of sound technology use in schools (see my blog on Literacy Beat dated August 22, 2012 on the use of Strip Designer for writing at the Kindergarten level).

This summer I taught a class on reading fluency and the students and I discussed writing as a part of reading fluency. The experienced classroom teachers in my class had a spirited discussion about the use of spell-check in composition, with half arguing that over-reliance on this would negatively impact students’ writing at the early elementary grades. While I am unaware of research that directly addresses this question, I believe that tool use is a hallmark of human beings and should be encouraged.

While the 2011 Writing Assessment did not include 4th graders, there was a separate study conducted to assure NCES that 4th graders could use the tools. While findings have not yet been released, they appear to be positive for tool use.  Right now, NCES is recommending that Keyboarding skills begin at third grade. Interestingly, early childhood education groups are recommending children learn to keyboard much earlier. I recall, from my own teaching in the early 1980s, teaching keyboarding skills to my first graders in a California public school.  I also offer this photograph of my son-in-law and my twin granddaughters (aged 3 and 1/2) on a “Digital Morning” with the understanding that teachers will increasingly see  tech-savvy students like these in their classrooms.

There are an increasing number of resources for learning about and using technological tools in the classroom. Most organizations are now providing online assistance to teachers in using technology. For example, ASCD now has a website with tools for teachers to learn to use the CCSS (http://educore.ascd.org/) and the International Reading Association is now merging their Engage feature with Reading Today Online to form a new blog. Such assistance is becoming more common. Of course, there are books out there, too, such as the one DeVere and I published with Guilford this year (see Bridget Dalton’s blog on Literacy Beat dated August 7, 2012).

Thus, I have ventured to suggest some recommendations for educators, as shown below.

Teachers need to:

1)   Find ways to incorporate technology into their classrooms with the tools (however limited) that they already have.

2)   Argue on behalf of technology, using the research evidence at hand—such as the 2011 NAEP Writing Assessment outcomes.

3)   Seek workshops and professional development opportunities to develop their own expertise in technology use.

Administrators need to:

1)   Support teachers’ use of technology in the classroom.

2)   Argue at the district level on behalf of technology use.

3)   Seek workshops and professional development opportunities for themselves and their teaching staff.

Teacher Educators need to:

1)   Work collaboratively within the university to distribute technological use across the teacher preparation programs instead of relying on  “Ed Tech” courses.

2)   Seek workshops on technology use for themselves.

3)   Where possible, seek student teaching placements for teacher candidates where technology is being used productively.

If you have other ideas, I welcome your responses!

References:

Wolsey, T.D. & Grisham, D.L. (2012). Transforming writing instruction in the Digital Age: Techniques for Grades 5-12. New York: Guilford.

Common Core State Standards Initiative (2010). Preparing America’s students for college and career. Washington, DC:  National Governors’ Association and CCSSO. Retrieved from: http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards.

Using Strip Designer for Literacy Learning

Using Strip Designer for Literacy Learning

“In order to be read, a poem, an equation, a painting, a dance, a novel, or a contract each requires a distinctive form of literacy, when literacy means, as I intend it to mean, a way of conveying meaning through and recovering meaning from the form of representation in which it appears.” (Eisner 1997, p. 353)

It has been 15 years since Eisner eloquently reminded us that we are moving from a text-based world to a multimodal one where we learn to learn from a fresh variety of sources and communicate generatively with a vast array of tools at our disposal. Schools around the U.S. have not always been quick to adopt such new tools and in some cases have moved to discourage the use of new literacies and evolving technologies in the classroom. In other places, such technological innovation is not only welcomed, but also supported.

We find a welcome case of such support in Napa, California, where a non-profit institution, NapaLearns (napalearns.org) has become a benefactor of technological innovation, providing grants to schools in the area for the purchase of tools and training. You may learn a great deal about the efforts of NapaLearns by visiting their website.

Here I would like to highlight one of the projects that NapaLearns funded. The project takes place in a public school and in the Kindergarten classroom of a very talented teacher, Ms. Martha McCoy. Martha and I became acquainted through her graduate program in Innovative Education at Touro University, where I taught research methods last spring.

In Martha’s words:

This year our kindergartners embarked on a great journey to explore the ways technology can be used to enhance their learning. In addition to crayons, paper, pencils, playdough, puppets, puzzles, play, manipulatives, and realia, we are learning with iPads.

Our students are primarily English Language Learners, 100% of whom are living in poverty based on qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Less than 2% of the students’ parents graduated from high school in the U.S. and 17/18 students only speak Spanish at home.  These students are at the greatest risk of school failure.

The strategy for use of the iPads was to provide early academic intervention focused on building English language vocabulary and school readiness in our most ‘at risk’ students. The iPad enhanced kindergarten project began as a partnership between NapaLearns, a nonprofit organization, Calistoga Family Center, a family resource center, and Calistoga Joint Unified School District. The partners share in NapaLearn’s mission to “re-imagine learning for all children in Napa Valley …to promote implementation of education innovation and promote student- centered 21st century learning…so our students can compete in a fast paced technology enhanced world.” (NapaLearns Mission Statement, 2010).

********

Martha completed an action research report to ascertain the effects of a partnership in her school between her kindergarteners (who knew iPads) and 6th graders at the school (who knew about writing). The Kinders and the 6th graders worked in cooperative pairs to create comic strip posters to show preschool children (who would be in K the next year)  what a typical day in Kindergarten looks like.

The Kindergarteners used their iPad cameras to take pictures of typical scenes in a Kindergarten day. They also drew pictures using Drawing Pad (see screen capture below).

 

 

The drawing pad application costs $1.99 and I purchased it to try it out. Don’t laugh (I’m not an artist!), but learning the program was simple and here is a terrible example.

For those of you who know my husband, Marc, he is well represented by a firetruck (we own one from 1949). Me, I’m always up in the air.

The students put this photos and text together using another iPad (and iPhone) application called Strip Designer (see screen capture below). This program costs $2.99 and I also downloaded and tried it out using photos.

Strip Designer also has a tutorial and is relatively easy to learn.  I’ve done a couple of the comic strips, but instead of sharing mine, I have Martha’s permission to share one her student did:

But probably the best way to get the essence of Martha’s work is to view her Animoto on the project, also created for the Innovative Learning program at Touro (under the auspices of Program Director, Dr. Pamela Redmond). You can view this at http://animoto.com/play/xLgpKJU7wrQjLe1qaVfWuQ.

You can also get more information about Martha on her weebly website: http://msmccoysclasswebsite.weebly.com/

One project is complete, but new learning continues. Martha is busy planning new efforts for this academic year. She has already designed lessons on digital citizenship for the K-6 team. She plans for 6th graders to learn about Internet safety, cyberbullying, and respectful (and responsible) digital behavior to prepare for teaching their Kindergarten buddies.  Then they will design posters, digital books, and skits with their Kindergarten buddies about how to be safe and respectful online. Martha plans to weave elements of Internet safety throughout their projects all year long and build it into their rubrics.

I can hardly wait to see the results!

In the meantime, I am planning a little research of my own with the collaboration of four high school teachers who will use Strip Designer to scaffold the literature they will be using in their classrooms. Much more on that later.

There are so many ways that the above two inexpensive programs can be used to scaffold our students’ learning. The Drawing Pad art can be emailed and archived, as well as placed in “albums” and books to be viewed online or printed out. Strip Designer is very productive also. I have written before with colleagues on the uses of graphic novels in special education (Smetana, Odelson, Burns, & Grisham, 2009; Smetana & Grisham, 2011), while having used them with mainstream classes. Storyboarding and graphic novel writing is made easy with Strip Designer. There must be many more uses of this that readers of this blog can envision! A very positive part of this is that one iPad can be used to do all of this. Martha has iPads for all her students, but even if you have one in your classroom, you can provide enormous benefits to your students with very little expenditure.

What are YOUR ideas for using these new tools? All ideas and comments are very welcome!

References

Eisner, E.  (1997). Cognition and representation: A way to pursue the American Dream? Phi Delta Kappan, 78, 349-353.

Smetana, L., Odelson, D., Burns, H. & Grisham, D.L. (2009). Using graphic novels in the high school classroom: Engaging Deaf students with a new genre. Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy, 53, 3, 228-240.

Smetana, L. & Grisham, D.L. (2011). Revitalizing Tier 2 interventions with graphic novels. Reading Horizons, 51, 3.

Multimodal Supervision of Literacy Lessons

Since my retirement from the California State University in 2010, I have become a self-styled “Internet Freeway Flier.”  A freeway flier is what we used to call instructors who were employed part-time by several community colleges or universities. Those intrepid individuals “flew” over the freeways of Southern California from one assigned class to another.  I like teaching online—although I also like teaching in the brick and mortar university—so in the past two years, I have been asked to teach online classes at five different universities in five very different programs. Each assignment has allowed me to investigate the intersections (pardon the pun) of literacy and technology.

Most recently I was asked to teach an online supervision course in the Reading Language Arts Authorization (RLAA) program at Fresno State University. The RLAA is a graduate level literacy program designed primarily for experienced teachers as part of a larger Master of Arts in Teaching program. Usually, teachers come to a brick and mortar clinic where children also come to be tutored. The teachers are supervised by university faculty to make sure that they learn how to assess the students, how to address students’ identified strengths and needs through tutoring, and how to evaluate the outcomes of instruction in order to plan their next instructional steps. This recursive process requires feedback from the supervisor to the teachers. I have taught in such brick and mortar clinics before.

In this case, Dr. Glenn DeVoogd, Chair of the Literacy and Early Education (LEE) program at Fresno State asked me to do an experimental class, which he and I will be writing about at length in other venues. But for this blog, I’d like to immediately share how this course was structured, how teachers responded to it, and what they say they learned from the process.

Teachers were enrolled at Fresno State in a course, LEE230, which used to be taught on campus.  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.

Teachers turned in weekly lesson plans twice; on the Sunday before the school week and Friday or Saturday, after the school week, they re-submitted the same lesson plans with detailed reflections on their teaching. We met twice on Elluminate for class sessions to talk about readings. Students participated in discussion boards on pertinent topics and did a WebQuest (https://literacybeat.com/category/webquest/) on the CCSS.

But the centerpiece of the clinical course was the use of a smart phone application, known as Qik (http://www.qik.com) which teachers used to record 5-10 minutes of a lesson three times over the five-week course.

About Qik

Virtually every smart phone is supported by Qik and there is a published list of those on the Qik website. You can pay for Qik, but the free application allows you to store 25 videos, more than enough for our purposes. You can also use Qik on your iPad.

Teachers could point the phone and press record and make a video immediately. The videos are directly uploaded and  stored on the teacher’s Qik site, which is totally private, and teachers can invite others to view their videos in several ways—for example, videos could be shared via Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter. For this class, teachers extended an email invitation to me so that I could view their work.

Prior to the start of class, I sent a Qik introduction of the course to all the teachers enrolled before class began.

To view my introduction to the course, go to: http://qik.com/video/50810210

Students found it easy to make the videotapes, but capturing the lessons was more difficult unless they had someone to help them. For example, one teacher propped her smart phone on the table, but the student got enthusiastic, knocking against the table and the phone fell over. After two times, the teacher asked the student to be careful. Another teacher held the phone herself and only videotaped her students.

Other teachers asked students to hold the camera on the action and the example you will see enlisted the help of a fellow teacher.

Once students learned how to share the videos by email invitation (see the double arrow at the top of the figure below), I could access them and provide a response.

Responses

 Interestingly, the responses I provided were much appreciated by the teachers, who loved the personal nature of audio (MP3) files. Previously, in this blog I have shared teacher candidate podcasts (https://literacybeat.com/2011/04/15/podcasting-to-teach-content-literacy) and in another project special needs students made audio retellings of a folktale in a PowerPoint presentation (Castek, Dalton, & Grisham, 2012), so I had some experience with making MP3 files.

But none of us likes what we look like on video or sound like on audio. I am no exception! So I gathered up my courage and decided to give audio responses to teachers’ lesson videos.

Being a Mac user to the core, I employed Garage Band to record my responses. First, I watched the teachers’ videos and made notes. I compared what I had seen in the video to the written lessons the teachers had posted in advance to Blackboard. Then, I recorded the responses, which varied from about 90 seconds to almost 4 minutes over the three videos submitted by all 13 of the teachers for a total of 49 responses overall.

Once the recording was made in Garage Band, I “shared” it with iTunes, converting to the MP3 file format. Then I downloaded the MP3 files and attached each one to an email to the teacher.

Based on questionnaires administered after the course, everyone LOVED the responses.  They felt a connection. I believe that teachers need validation for the work they do. Teachers can also accept criticism, as long as it is couched in positive terms. Writing can be very impersonal, but the voice can convey support.

In response to the question about the MP3 responses, here are what two teachers wrote:

“Again, something new to me in this class, but incredibly useful. The audio feedback was terrific. It made me feel like I was in an in-person class. Very personal. I think every online class should have this.”

“I enjoyed being able to gain almost immediate feedback from the videotaped lessons. It was nice to know that someone with experience could see areas of concern and help me shape my teaching more effectively.”

An Example of the Lesson and the Response

Written permissions were obtained for students to be videotaped and the teacher whose videos you see here granted permission for me to share her video.  The second file is the audio response to this lesson.

https://qik.com/video/51301456

LopezV3PedalPostReadResp

Concluding Thoughts

The growing number of online and/or hybrid classes is remarkable. Technology changes were referred to as “deictic” by Don Leu back in 2000 and deictic means a veritable onslaught of transformations that are irresistible and ever-evolving.  Combined with an economic downturn and increasingly diminished higher education budgets, administrators may increasingly turn to the more economic option of online classes. It is popular right now to regard online classes as somehow “less” than brick and mortar classes, and in some cases this may be true.

But online classes offer access to many graduate students who cannot attend a brick and mortar university. In another course that I teach at a different university, a middle school teacher from Happy Camp, California (way up in rural Klamath County), was able to improve his practice by learning in an Innovative Masters Degree program that afforded him new ideas, new strategies, new collaborations with colleagues, and new ways to serve his mostly Native American population of students.

In addition, we have new technologies (such as Blackboard, Elluminate, smart phones, and applications of all kinds) that permit us to make the online courses more personal and more relevant to the students we teach. We can give of ourselves as teachers and mentors through these new technologies. Our students can benefit from what we do online, as shown by the reactions of teachers to the LEE230 class.

I am greatly interested in what others think about online learning and hope you will read this blog and share your own experiences!

Webquest for CCSS

By Dana L. Grisham

Last year in this blog, I wrote about about TextProject (http://textproject.org) , a not-for-profit organization that supports struggling readers with appropriate texts see the earlier blog on TextProject at https://literacybeat.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/exploring-the-textproject-website-and-text-complexity/.  The site changes constantly, as new materials are added. Below is a screenshot of the current homepage.

The project is headed by Elfrieda Hiebert (Freddy to all) and recently, I have been working with Freddy to provide modules on text complexity to teachers and teacher educators for professional development.  The good news is that the modules (5 of them) will be posted to the TextProject website this summer; the better news is that everything will be FREE to interested parties. You will be able to download the modules and all materials that go with them at no cost. We recently made a research poster presentation on the modules at IRA. The poster shows you the content and instructional sequence of the modules and provides an overview of the final (5th module). Our poster is displayed below.

Speaking for myself, after three decades of teaching reading, I thought I understood text complexity. I found out that I had a somewhat superficial understanding when I began working with Freddy. So this blog post concerns several important understandings that relate to text complexity and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

One of the instructional tools that we decided NOT to use is a WebQuest, but for teachers and teacher educators, I think the WebQuest works well to acquaint educators with the CCSS and with some elements of text complexity. I decided to share the WebQuest with you here and you are invited to use it in whatever way you think appropriate. I have field-tested it with several groups of teacher candidates and most of them expressed appreciation for the “just in time” learning.

Critical evaluation of information is an important skill in a print-based or electronic environment. A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web (Internet). The WebQuest model was developed by Dr. Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University in February, 1995. (You can find out more about WebQuests by visiting the official website at http://webquest.org/index.php). http://webquest.org/index.phpThere are now a number of websites where WebQuests on various subjects may be downloaded and used.

For the Webquest on CCSS, if you are a teacher educator, I recommend dividing it into three parts for use during class sessions or completing it over several sessions of the class. If teacher educators have access to computer labs on campus, the students may work there during class (supervised by the instructor) and may work in pairs or small groups to complete the assignment. It may also be used in this way for professional development for practicing teachers.  Teachers who may be interested may adapt, skip parts that are not of interest to them, or focus on single questions they might want answered.

In order to understand the CCSS, you might also want to spend some time acquainting yourself and/or teacher candidates with the CCSS. One resource is a PowerPoint (in pdf format) presentation that is available through California State University’s Center for the Advancement of Reading (CAR) and available as a free downloadable pdf at http://www.calstate.edu/car/publications/. There are many helpful publications on the website in addition to the CCSS PowerPoint.

In closing, we know that CCSS will generate new assessments for our students, that state standards and curriculum frameworks will change, and that our students will be expected to read more non-fiction more closely and learn to read and write in emphasized genres. How can we use our professional judgment and available technological tools to aid this process? And how can we incorporate these standards into our teaching in a caring and thoughtful way?

The Webquest:

To complete this task, you must carefully read and respond to the questions. Please remember that this task is designed to assist you to become familiar with the Common Core State Standards and your specific content area standards to assist you in your professional life.

Learning Outcomes

  1. What are the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?
  2. How are the CCSS to be implemented?
  3. What is text complexity and why is it important?
  4. What is the difference between narrative and expository text? How does this affect our teaching of reading?

Websites for this Lesson

The following websites will be used in this WebQuest.

CCSS Website: http://www.corestandards.org/

Lexile Website: http://www.lexile.com/

TextProject Website: http://textproject.org/teachers/the-text-complexity-multi-index/

Activities: CCSS

  1. What is the stated mission (purpose) for the Common Core State Standards? What motivated the NGA and CSSO to generate these standards?
  2. How many states have adopted the CCSS? Has your state adopted the CCSS? If so, what is the URL (web address) for the CCSS in your state?
  3. What is the recommended percentage of literary and informational text at 4th, 8th, and 12th grade levels and what do you think this means for you as a teacher of reading?
  4. How are the English/Language Arts standards for K-5 and for Grades 6-12 organized differently? Why do you think this is?
  5. How do the CCSS standards define text complexity?
  6. Choose a grade level for K-5 (pages 11/12) and read the components; compare to the next or previous grade level components. In the Text Complexity section, what do you think is meant by the “text complexity band?”
  7. Look at page 31, Standard 10. What are the three factors for “measuring” text complexity?
  8. What constitutes “informational text?”
  9. Go to Reading Standards for Informational text, page 39/40. Choose one grade and read the components; compare to the next or previous grade level components.  What are the differences in text complexity in the two grades?
  10. Choose a grade level for literacy in History/Social Science (p. 61) paying attention to how Language Arts is integrated in Social Science. What does this mean to you as a teacher?  Why would this be important to a K-5 teacher?
  11. For the E/LA standards, there are three Appendices (these are NOT in the document you downloaded). Go back to the website and locate these appendices.  Download Appendix A. What is the subject of this appendix?
  12. What was the message of the ACT, 2010 report called Reading Between the Lines?  What is meant by “complex text” and what definition is given of this term in the literature review?
  13. What does Appendix A have to say about scaffolding reading instruction?
  14. What is the three-part model for text complexity (p.4)? Which one is measurable by computer?  What measure is used?
  15. Read the Key Considerations in Implementing Text Complexity (p. 8). What do we know about the tools for measuring text complexity?
  16. Looking at Figure 3, (p. 8), what can we say about Lexile Range changes?
  17. Why do the authors recommend that teachers decrease scaffolding and increase independence?
  18. Download Appendix B and read about the process of text selection for exemplars. Talk about your own definition of complexity, quality, and range. Why are these exemplars important? The authors of the CCSS make some caveats about the exemplars. What are they?
  19. Read the FAQs about the CCSS (on the website). What questions still remain for you?

Activities: Lexile

  1. Go to the Lexile website. Under “What is a Lexile?” read the text and considering scaffolding and independence, respond to the following statement:

“When a Lexile text measure matches a Lexile reader measure, this is called a “targeted” reading experience. The reader will likely encounter some level of difficulty with the text, but not enough to get frustrated. This is the best way to grow as a reader—with text that’s not too hard but not too easy.”

  1. View the video at http://www.lexile.com/about-lexile/lexile-video/. Should teachers allow students to read above or below their Lexile level? Why or why not?
  2. What should you say when someone tells you:  “Research says…”
  3. Books that have prefixes (IG, NC, etc.) before the Lexile level (called Lexile Codes) have meanings for teachers, librarians, and children. Focus on one of these Lexile Codes and tell why this is important.
  4. What is the relationship of MetaMetrics and the CCSS?
  5.  What questions still remain for you?In closing, we know that CCSS will generate new assessments for our students, that state standards and curriculum frameworks will change, and that our students will be expected to read more non-fiction more closely and learn to read and write in new genres. How can we use technological tools to aid this process? And how can we incorporate these standards into our teaching in a caring and thoughtful way?
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