Expanding the Scope of Digital Writing with iBooks Author

A New Post by Jill Castek

Tools for digital publishing are becoming much more sophisticated. With iBooks Author, it’s now easier than ever to create interactive and visually appealing iBooks for iPad. The Apple-provided templates feature a variety of page layouts. You can add your own text and images using drag-and-drop. Interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more can also be embedded. Completed books can be submitted iBookstore in a few simple steps. And before you know it, your students can be published authors.

Many teachers are now using the iBooks Author app to create iBooks. Some have used the ePub export option using Apple’s word processing program Pages to create PDFs that can be stored and accessed on iPads (using Kindle Reader for iPad).

Andrea Santilli and her seventh graders at Woodlawn Beach Middle School created a 133 page iBook entitled Creatures, Plants and More: A Kids Guide to Northwest Florida, that includes numerous images of creatures and plants. This book is an interactive field guide of Northwest Florida. The stories and photos are now a published collection that has become top seller in Apple’s iBookstore. For those interested in visiting Florida, or just reading about it, this book will bring you in contact with fascinating interactive photo galleries and videos along with detailed narrative descriptions.

Creatures, Plants, and More:   A Kid's Guide to Northwest Florida

Creatures, Plants, and More: A Kid’s Guide to Northwest Florida

Mr. Smith’s 5th graders created  Two Kids and a Desert Town. These special education students were greatly motivated to write for an authentic audience. The project integrated technology, provided opportunities for collaboration, and gave students the chance to reflect on their learning process. Having published this book, and knowing that individuals all over the world have downloaded it and read it, these students will forever see themselves as writers!

Two Kids and a Desert Town

Two Kids and a Desert Town

After the success of Desert Town, Mr. Smith’s students created a second iBook entitled 5th Grade: Reflections on our Year. This book showcases the growth made by each student across the year.  Reflecting on their progress has encouraged them to see themselves as readers and writers.

5th Grade:  Reflections on our Year

5th Grade: Reflections on our Year

Other creative teachers, such as Chris Schillig, and his students created spin-offs works including It Was A Dark and Stormy Classroom. This book is made up of more than 40 of their collaborations and solo stories — an anthology of crime, murder and clues that proves detective fiction is alive and well in the 21st century.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Classroom

It Was a Dark and Stormy Classroom

Mr. Schillig’s AP English class tried their hands at modernizing The Canterbury Tales and created Canterbury Remixed. As you peruse this book, you can see how engaging this tools in iBooks can really be!

Canterbury Remixed

Canterbury Remixed

If you’re interested in learning the specifics of iBooks Author and are attending the International Reading Association conference in San Antonio (April 19 – April 22), check out Genya Devoe’s session entitled Using iBooks Author to Bring Content To Life with Your Students. The session will include an introduction to iBooks Author and an extensive step-by-step presentation in how participants can use iBooks Author to meet the differentiate needs of students and engage students in literacy in a new, exciting way. This session will take place Sunday April 21st from 9am – 10am in the Grand Hyatt Lone Star Ballroom E.

IRA 2013

IRA 2013

If you’ve used iBook author and have a book or experiences to share, please leave a comment. It would be great to hear from you!

Digital Concept Mapping

A new post from Jill Castek

kids at workI started a new study last week with colleagues Heather Cotanch, Rick Beach, John Scott and 6th grade math and science teacher Laura Kretschmar from Lighthouse Community Charter school in Oakland, CA – a frequent collaborator. This work explores middle school students’ and teachers’ experiences with using digital technologies for learning. While I’ve done other studies like this over the years, this one has a distinct focus on student interviews to document learning perspectives.

The school had recently purchased rolling carts of Google Chromebooks, which offered an inexpensive solution to facilitating online work. As a regular user of Google tools I was excited to see the wide-array of apps that can easily loaded on Chromebooks.

chromebooksmore chromebooks

The sixth grade students had begun a unit on climate change and were eager explore some ways digital technologies could be used to enhance their learning experiences. To dig into the project, we began with a familiar process – compare and contrast. In this case, students were examining the concepts of weather and climate to better understand long and short-term changes in the atmosphere. We agreed that after reading, discussing, and generating examples, organizing ideas into a concept map was the best way to create archive of their thinking. We used the free tools from Mind Meister (see http://www.mindmeister.com) as the platform. We made this choice because of the abundance of free templates, the ease of use in incorporating images into the maps, and the ability to showcase the completed maps in a zoom-in and out Prezi-type way.

Concept-mapping apps help students visually represent logical or causal relationships between ideas associated with a certain phenomenon. In using concept-mapping apps, students identified a variety of key words associated with climate and weather and visually organized the logical relationships between these words. Students could insert the words into circles or boxes, drawing lines between ideas with spokes into which they inserted sub-topics. These connecting lines served to define the logical relationships between ideas, for example, how a new word might serve as an illustrative example of a major topic.

Within many concept-mapping apps (such as Bubble.us or Webspiration)  students can create an outline list of words with subcategories within those words, and will then generate different types of maps using these outlines. Many concept-mapping apps also include the ability to color-code ideas as a means of visually representing different categories of information.

Use of concept-mapping apps helps students collaboratively develop and expand topics. Online collaboration to create, revise, and develop maps with others is also a key feature. By sharing the same concept maps, a group of students working on the same project can visually represent their thinking for each other so that they are literally and figuratively on the same page. Students can then pose questions of each other based on their maps, for example, questions about connections between ideas or the need for more information to solidify understanding of a topic. While concept mapping can also be accomplished using paper and pencil, revision capabilities are limited. In the digital form, substantial changes can be made effortlessly, making revision more palatable to students.

While I’m still archiving the students examples and analyzing the interview data we collected, this experience with digital concept mapping suggested that students were able to visually link concepts through logical connections or groupings.  The act of organizing their ideas fostered students’ use of causal/hierarchical thinking. They were motivated to view each other’s maps, which led to collaborative brainstorming that prompted revisions. There’s more to come once the data are analyzed, but I was excited to share my “in-process” thoughts while they were fresh in my mind.

If you’ve used other tools for digital concept mapping and have some insights to share, please leave a comment!  Thanks!

Book Review: Using iPad and iPhone Apps for Learning Literacy Across the Curriculum

A new post by Jill Castek

The Literacy Beat bloggers are back on the beat!  We’re rested and relaxed from the winter holidays with lots of great new ideas to share.  Stay connected with us over the next several months. We’ll once again be posting dynamic new content weekly. This week’s post is dedicated to a incredible new e-book that has inspired me to think in new ways about incorporating tablet technologies into literacy and content instruction.

Schools all over the world are making iPads a part of the classroom experience.  Yet how can we best use this tool in ways that support student learning? Rick Beach and David O’Brien from the University of Minnesota offer their insights in  Using iPad and iPhone Apps for Learning Literacy Across the Curriculum.  It is one of the best professional books I’ve read this year.  Not only  is it one of the only books out there that explores tablet use (an area that has grown exponentially in the last year) but it tackles this content from a literacy and learning perspective aimed at supporting teachers’ pedagogy.  The e-book was released on Dec. 26th and is available from Amazon as a Kindle Edition and on Apple iTunes Books.

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 1.28.27 PM

Each chapter of the book addresses an important area of literacy instruction. For example there are chapters focused on Writing to Learn, Discussing to Learn, Using Audio and Video to Learn and Using Images to Learn (to name but a few). Each content genre that is covered showcases new dimensions of literacy and learning that apps make possible. Echoed throughout the text is an emphasis on learning contexts such as focused collaboration, peer-supported reading and writing, use of visual and multimedia to express ideas, sharing learning with audiences, and student-teacher communication.

Beach and O’Brien think about the uses of apps in terms of their affordances.  They define app affordances as the particular features of apps and the ways they mediate the uses of literacies and show tangible ways that app affordances serve as tools connecting the student with certain goals for learning. They assert that these affordances are not in the apps themselves but rather are part of the learning context.  This way of thinking suggests that using tablets purposefully in the classroom requires creating a context in which apps are a part of the instructional context for learning (not the end in and of itself).

Reading about apps for iPads, iPhones, and other portable technologies, sparks a desire to check out the features and explore possibilities. For this reason, the e-book format is perfect for this type of text. Some of the most powerful examples of the potentials of apps demonstrate how they can be used for building conceptual understanding and communicating ideas through use of concept-mapping, screencasting, or video production apps. Beach and O’Brien show how these apps allow students to access information and create their own products that include rich visual representations.

The book includes numerous links  that bring readers directly to examples  that illustrate the authors’ key ideas. But what sets this book apart from others is its range of resources referenced.  A supplementary wikhttp://usingipads.pbworks.com  and website http://www.appsforlearningliteracies.com provide even more to explore in the form of resources and further reading.

Congratulations to Rick and David on an incredibly useful and timely book.  While many e-books are not lendable, my Kindle edition indicates I CAN in fact lend out my e-copy.  Feel free to add a comment below if you’d like me to share with you.

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

A post by Jill Castek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

Insights From A Service Learning Project: Creating Digital Projects with iPads to Encourage Safe Driving

A new post by Jill Castek

Melanie Swandby, a 7th grade teacher at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, CA was conducting a service learning project geared toward promoting safe driving habits.  Melanie was happy to explore digital content creation with her students, extending her original vision for the project with the goal of producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style were appropriate to task, purpose, and audience (CCSS Initiative, 2010). She invited Heather Cotanch and I to explore the use of iPads to create digital products that would resonate with teens and the wider community. We were excited to witness the content creation process which included elements of collaboration, experimentation, and flexible grouping to support peer facilited tech-help.

Why Digital Content Creation?

Digital tools are transforming what it means to be literate in today’s world. In the past, it may have been that decoding words on a page was enough to consider a student literate. Today, we live in a world with ever increasing importance on digital tools and technologies as a means of accessing and sharing ideas.  Students need to become facile with the full range of communicative tools, modes (oral and written), and media. Having the ability to comprehend, critically respond to, and collaboratively compose multimodal texts will play a central role in our students’ success in a digital information age (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2007; IRA, 2009).

Setting the Context for Digital Content Creation

Melanie’s class  worked to actively create projects that resonated with their intended audience without needing elaborate direction with the use of iPad apps. First, we provided a basic overview of the affordances of three digital composition apps (ShowMe www.showme.com, VoiceThread www.voicethread.com, and iMovie for the iPad www.apple.com/ipad/from-the-app-store/apps-by-apple/imovie.html – these three content creation apps were chosen because they allow users to integrate still images, include a drawing tool, and have the capacity to include voice and sound effects).  Then, we shared an example product from each app and students were off and running. They soon discovered many features of the apps themselves as they worked.  This new knowledge was distributed throughout the classroom as peer support and flexible grouping was implemented.

Students completed digital products can be viewed from their student-created website Hitting The Road Safe http://hittingtheroadsafe.webs.com and at Safe Driving VoiceThreads https://sites.google.com/site/swandby/safe-driving-voicethreads and also ShowMe http://www.showme.com under the username jill.castek@gmail.com and password safedriving.

iMovie. While using iMovie, students worked in groups and took on different roles such as creators, actors, and editors. Collaboration came in many forms, for example, some students did not want to appear on camera, but were willing to write a script and film a partner.

 Other groups took turns incorporating found pictures and discussing sequencing to communicate a strong, clear message. Because of the ease of use and multiple options within the iMovie app, the editing process can become never ending.  To support a more skilled use of the app, we pointed students toward a YouTube editing tutorial. Students who found themselves with extra time added captions or experimented with the background music offered within the tool. These “extras” gave the movies a professional feel while extending the students’ knowledge of the technology and supportive the processes of reflection and revision.  While the iMovie app proved easy for students to navigate, explore, and edit, teachers would be well advised to guide students through ample planning of their project during their first few interactions with this tool.

ShowMe.  Possibly the greatest successes were achieved with students use of the ShowMe app. Like iMovie, it produces a video, but its affordances allowed students to deliver the most complete, succinct messages of all three tools (student work is available at showme.com under the username jill.castek@gmail.com and password safedriving). During the showcase at the end of the project, the student audience commented on the ability for students to appropriate humor about a serious topic to be showcased. This was achieved through the use of voice, drawing, and integration of selected images. This app has limitations in the amount of media that can be uploaded and may have prompted the students to choose wisely from their options, making the message clear rather than being lost in elaborate visuals.

From the first introduction of this app, the students demonstrated an eagerness to peruse the tools and begin incorporating images, drawing and voice together rather than compiling images for a later use (a pattern we noticed with other tools). Even after several projects were lost due to glitches with the system, students simply started over learning from their mistakes, making strategic use of the drafting process, and integrating their new knowledge into final products.

VoiceThread.  This tool offered the most structured means of conveying ideas and the students took to the tool readily.  Once slides containing images were created, they could be moved around as the message was drafted and revised. Once sequenced, students could voice over the visuals to communicate their message.  Completed VoiceThreads can be viewed at https://sites.google.com/site/swandby/safe-driving-voicethreads.

Students created multiple drafts of their VoiceThread project and practiced their voiceover several times to ensure the tone and quality of the message was spot on. Unfortunately, the VoiceThread interface selectively saved some of voiceovers, which required students to re-create their projects more than once.  However, this redrafting wasn’t something students balked at and the message conveyed in each subsequent draft was more extensive, and richer in vocabulary and details.  The limits of the technology were not discouraging, but rather a valuable introduction to the process of creating technology-based multimodal products.

What Did We Learn?

Students completed projects included a logical sequence but also incorporate personal touches through the use of music, voice, sound effects, and pictures remixed and used in creative ways.  By including a specific focus on intended audience, Melanie’s students were readily able to form and frame a persuasive message. For example, students who chose parents of teen drivers as the target audience drew on experiences from their out-of-school lives and combined them with statistics from a school-based text. This resulted in charts and graphs representing percentages, an articulated message free from teenage jargon and pictures free from gore (as opposed to an increased shock value to presentations geared toward teen drivers).

Collaboration is key. Collaboration was widely fostered by encouraging students to turn to each other as resources and to help each other figure out how to accomplish their goals. For example, one group of students was using the ShowMe app and wanted include text in their presentation (there is no feature in which students can type using a keyboard). Students offered each other a workaround demonstrating the use the notepad feature and taking a screenshot to import it into the project. Other students offered another option and hand-wrote text on a piece of paper in bold marker and took a picture to import into the project.  Still others shared how to use their finger to write the message manually. As was the case here, students often knew what feature that they wanted and found innovative ways to use the app to meet their goals. These observations reinforce the idea that step-by-step instruction by a teacher is not necessary before students use new apps.  We discovered taking the time was not worthwhile and may, in fact, detracted from the collaborative and discovery nature of the work and curtail digital competence.

Time for experimentation is vital.  We recognized at the outset of the project thatstudents were eager to learn how to use the apps offered to them in the act of content creation.  While our instincts told us to model for students, it became increasing clear to us that experimentation with the apps supported student learning much more efficiently.  It became evidence that when technology is being used, a new role for the teacher is created.  She is no longer the “sage on the stage” and must be more comfortable circulating to support implementation by being the “guide on the side.”

Creativity and humor were strategically to convey ideas. As students created their projects, they infused persuasiveness through their use of creativity and humor.  Creativity extended well beyond being able to draw well.  When asked to reflect on the project, students reported being more engaged in the digital creation process, than the paper and pencil task (even though they needed to develop digital skills quickly to use the tools).  They also enjoyed viewing the projects created by other classmates (even though they were very familiar with the content contained within them).  Students created multiple digital drafts of their project (and were glad to do so).  They appeared to use the multiple drafts to improve the project iteratively.  If a student wanted to revise or rethink a portion of the digital creation, the opportunity to do this was manageable as opposed to the static poster version from which the students began. As pairs worked collaboratively, new ideas for improvement were shared amongst partners, which led to subsequent (improved) drafts. Even though students might have stumbled through the first couple of tries, they got better at it each time. Persistence was key!

Student Insights

Through the implementation of this project, we aimed to test a process by which students could create digital products (including drawings, images, and voice)  that could be shared with a school and community audience.  At the end of the project, students were asked to share what was different about digital content creation. One student remarked, “It’s more creative and more fun to play around with. It’s more exciting. You can put your voice into it and you can make it more fun.” This student aptly points out that digital projects are flexible.  If a student wants to revise a portion of the digital creation, this is manageable. In contrast, changes on a static page can be messy or difficult and offer little room for rethinking of an idea. Another student shared, “You can use funny pictures but you can still have a serious message.”  This learner points out that students could develop and incorporate their own multifaceted literacies. Although humor was never mentioned as a component of the project, students freely infused their personalities through media to reach their intended audiences on a level that demonstrated a high degree of literacy skill. A third student pointed out, “It’s a lot faster than when we usually do projects, you can write in different ways like voicing your message.”

Communicating with a Real Audience

In viewing the final projects,  the audience (made up of members of the school and community) found the addition of suspenseful music, images, and the story-lines conveyed through multiple modes generated a tangible impact that was memorable. Witnessing the audience’s reaction interaction was one way that the students owned their success. It was clear that all students felt accomplished and through the act of digital content creation, they became more skilled in the digital literacies that are a vital  part of our 21st century world.

References

Common Core State Standards Initiative. 2010. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Available at http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf

International Reading Association. (2009). Integrating literacy and technology in the curriculum: A position statement.  Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2007). Learning for the 21st century. Available at http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/reports/learning.asp

Supporting English Learners’ Literacy Development in a Digital Age

A new post by Jill Castek

Lit Beat is back in action!  It’s wonderful to have had a bit of the summer to relax, refresh, and explore new ideas.  Wishing you an upcoming school year filled with promise.  I hope this post sparks your thinking.  Please post a comment to share additional connections or implementation ideas.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Supporting English Learners’ Literacy Development in a Digital Age

The diversity present in our classrooms requires us to think differently about the literacy instruction we offer our students. We need to offer new opportunities for students learning English to enhance and extend their language, literacy, and content learning.  This new post suggest ways to (1) use digital videos and animations to promote students’ vocabulary development and content knowledge, (2) use bilingual texts to encourage language and content learning across the curriculum, and (3) involve students in sharing ideas with the aid of digital tools.

Using Digital Videos and Animations to Promote Vocabulary Development and Content Knowledge

ELLs benefit from a multi-faceted approach to learning that makes use of interactive visuals.  The Internet offers easy access to a great many of these visuals across a range of topic areas. Providing students opportunities to view media that presents ideas both textually and visually creates a meaningful learning context that supports the acquisition of academic vocabulary in writing and speaking (Dalton & Grisham, 2011).  Using digital resources brings concepts to life for students. Pairing them with opportunities to read, write, and share ideas helps support and enhance ELL’s content understanding.

Sea Otter Interactive

Children of all ages and backgrounds seek to better understand the fascinating animal species found in our world.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium, home of several sea otters and other marine creatures, makes reading about animals an adventure.  The Sea Otter Interactive http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/media/all_about_otters/whatsanotter01.html  is one of many resources that will spark students’ curiosity about the natural world.  The visual support offered by the animated otter, along with the illustrative diagrams and animations, provides visual support that aids students in making connections across languages.

Sea Otter Interactive developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Providing opportunities for students to discuss the interactive in their native language before participating in whole-class discussion can reinforce these connections.  The native language discussion serves as a form of language rehearsal where students can organize their thinking, plan, test their ideas, and make appropriate revisions before sharing their thoughts with the whole class. Discussion techniques such as Turn and Talk or Think-Pair-Share are some examples of ways to provide opportunities for language rehearsal.

When introducing a new interactive to your class, set up a digital projector and talk through one part of the resource as a demonstration while generating guiding questions together as a class. Then, offer students time to explore the digital resource in small groups during literacy center time.  This second self-guided viewing will provide a means to read for a purpose, investigate the questions posed, and deepen students’ interest.

Below is a brief list of videos and animations that connect to common content topics covered in elementary and middle grades:

BBC Schools Science Clips

Carbon Cycle

Discovery Dino Viewer

Endangered Animals 

Habits of the Heart

NASA eClips

PBS Play Amazon Explorer (Rainforest) 

Water Cycle Interactive from Discovery Education

To locate additional resources in curriculum areas you teach, search Google by typing in your topic area + interactive (e.g. solar system + interactive).

Using Bilingual Texts to Encourage Language and Content Learning

Effective literacy instruction makes connections to students’ linguistic, literacy, and cultural resources. These resources can be used to support learning in their second language. Utilizing educational resources in both languages builds students’ cognitive flexibility and increases meta-linguistic awareness (Gort, 2008). Bilingual websites such as Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Pup’s Supper/La Cena del Cachorro http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/lc/activities/book_pups_supper.asp encourage home school connections and encourage learning across the curriculum.

Bilingual English/Spanish e-book about Sea Otters developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium

NASA’s Sun-Earth Day Multimedia Children’s Books http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/2006/multimedia/books.php are free animated multimedia books that present concepts both visually and textually.  Because these resources make it possible to see and experience phenomena such as aurora, they support the development of language, literacy, and content simultaneously. Accessible in both English and Spanish, each book poses essential questions and presents concepts that help students address them. Related resources such as an image gallery and dictionary, extend ideas presented in the text.

The Rainforest Alliance Virtual Story Books http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/kids/stories offer engaging and colorful fiction and non-fiction books in three languages English, Spanish, and Portuguese.  These texts engage young readers by introducing them to children who live in areas that surround rainforests.  The imagery and first hand accounts captured in these unique texts make students more aware of these diverse environments and the wildlife that inhabit them. Exploring these engaging texts extends emergent bilingual students’ comprehension and vocabulary while helping them make connections between languages.

The International Digital Children’s Library http://en.childrenslibrary.org/ is a portal site that makes children’s books from around the world available in a variety of languages. Over 2,800 books are available in 48 languages, free of charge. The simple search feature makes it easy to find books that match the age range and interest level of all students. Each text includes a feature that allows the reader to switch the language for instant translation. Because the books on this website do not require a trip to the library, students can access them at school and at home.

Sharing Ideas with the Aid of Digital Tools

The Internet has made it possible to write in a variety of forms and reach a wide audience almost instantaneously. By introducing new outlets for sharing ideas, ELLs can make important connections between reading and writing.

Wordle http://www.wordle.net/  is a resource that makes it possible for students to generate word pictures using an assortment of words that they chose (in any language).   How frequently the inputted terms appear determines the size, placement, and prominence in the final product. The interface eliminates common words such as “the” or “and” so that key words take on greater emphasis. The selection of layout schemes can be used to highlight ideas and relationships among terms.

This easy-to-use resource provides students a powerful tool for expressing their developing understanding of words, concepts, or ideas in a motivating and engaging way.  For example, Wordle can be used to extend quick write activities.  For example, after reflecting, students can be paired up in small groups to input their writing into the interface. Printing out students’ Wordles and creating a gallery walk can be a useful review and reflection activity to summarize what they have learned about a topic they’ve studied. Repetition of similar learning statements in this case would be beneficial since key concepts would pop visually and aid students in recalling important ideas. These alternatives for formal writing activities would also provide teachers a way to formatively assess students’ understanding of content studied.

ELL students can create Wordles in their home language.  Below is one that Iliana created to reflect the concepts she had learned about the sun and its importance the solar system.  She placed a tilde ~ between words that she wanted displayed together, such as sistema~solar so that these terms would appear side by side.

Iliana’s Spanish wordle about the sun and its importance the solar system

RealeWriter (“Really Writer”) http://www.realewriter.com/ is a free Web site that invites users to upload images or drawings, write their own text, and publish professional looking books that can be printed or posted online. Educators have used RealeWriter to author books collaboratively as a class project and also as a tool for individual student authors. Innovative educators all over the world have used these resources to help students express ideas.  The ease of the software enriches the writing experience and helps English learners find their voice as writers.  RealeWriter  turns writing into an experience that is enjoyable, authentic, and social.

To get started with RealeWriter, explore the wide selection of student published books.  Topically focused texts can be found by typing key words into the site-specific search engine at the top of the page. Clicking on the featured or popular books tab to view examples that will appeal to all ages and interest levels. El Mercado  is a delightful Spanish/English bilingual book that takes readers on a trip through a market place in Mexico City in search of a birthday present for six-year-old Sean.

Reflecting on Implementation

As new technologies continually emerge, new skills and strategies will be required by students to effectively make use of them. Though many teachers have yet to possess these skills themselves, it is nonetheless our responsibility as educators to provide an educational context in which all students can acquire them.  Extending these digital learning opportunities is central to students becoming participatory citizens and achieving success in school, higher education, and the workplace.

References

Dalton, B. & Grisham, D. (2011). eVoc strategies: A dozen ways to use technology to build vocabulary.  The Reading Teacher, 64, 306–317.

Gort, M. (2008). “You give me idea!”: Collaborative strides toward bilingualism and biliteracy in a two-way partial immersion program. Multicultural Perspectives, 10(4), 192-200.

Expressive Learning: Encouraging Students’ Multimodal Expression to Enhance Content Learning

A New Post by Jill Castek

I’ve been exploring the use of iPads to support literacy and science learning in middle school classrooms throughout the school year.  One of the most powerful ways I’ve found to help students make deep and lasting connections to content learning is to design meaningful classroom projects that engage students in working collaboratively to convey ideas  using digital tools that support multimodal expression.  As student design and create, they purposefully use key vocabulary and integrate examples that illustrate their thinking.  Student projects can be celebrated, showcased, and shared with an authentic audience made up of peers, teachers, and the wider community.  They’re also a great way to formatively assess student learning.

Students work collaboratively on digital projects to support content learning.

The Power of Student Collaboration

By working collaboratively, students are challenged to think through the important processes of choosing a focus, reflecting on what they know and how to represent it, and designing an action plan. As peers enact their plans, they critique and rework their representations iteratively until they’re satisfied their work has achieved the intended goal.

Working with iPads has provided students easy-to-use apps that support drawing and annotating images, inserting photographs, and creating voiceover capabilities. These features make it possible for students to express their understanding in multiple ways through multiple means, an aspect central to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This post focuses on two examples of digital collaborative projects and the apps that supported their creation.

ShowMe for the iPad

ShowMe (see http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/showme-interactive-whiteboard/id445066279?mt=8) is an FREE iPad app that allows users to use images, drawing tools, and voiceover to communicate ideas.  Once a project is created, it can be shared on the ShowMe website http://www.showme.com/ or embedded into any digital forum (blog, wiki, website, etc.)  While this tool is often used by teachers in a receptive way, for example to deliver short lessons or tutorials to students,  I was interested in getting ShowMe into students’ hands so they could use its features creatively to express their understanding of concepts and ideas (thus enhancing and extending content they had learned).

Using ShowMe to Summarize Important Ideas from Reading

Linda Wilhelm’s 7th graders at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill, CA were studying genetics in their Science class.  ShowMe was used to support an enhanced jigsaw activity where students created were expected to weave key ideas from their textbook and web-based reading into a short project that expressed their understanding of the content and provided examples. There were several subtopics; and pairs were assigned one of four themes to convey:  1) Some genes are dominant while others are recessive, 2) Mendelian laws apply to human beings, 3) All cells arise from pre-existing cells through the process of cell-division, 4) Sex cells have one set of chromosomes, body cells have two.

Students were shown a sample ShowMe project created by the teacher to give a sense of what was possible with ShowMe (which included importing images, drawing features, stop and start capabilities, and voiceover).  Then, a project rubric was distributed and discussed with students to convey expectations for the project.  Finally, students were provided time to plan and record their ShowMe projects.

Although storyboarding on paper was modeled and provided as an option, students preferred to draft their ideas directly into ShowMe.  As they drafted, they created multiple takes that were played back and evaluated by students iteratively.  Critiquing and revising with the ShowMe tool was immediate and satisfying for students and sparked careful re-reading and reflection on the texts provided.  It also sparked discussion on important aspects of visual literacy as students carefully thought through what images would best help illustrate their main points.  Throughout, collaboration was evident and a vital part of the digital content creation process.

ShowMe Student Examples

Click on the URLs provided and the ShowMe projects will open in a new window:

Using iMovie for the iPad to Construct, Explain, and Show Understanding

Leon Young’s 6th graders at Realm Charter School in Berkeley, CA were studying plate boundaries during a plate tectonics unit.  They designed and built their own scientific models to show the characteristics of plate boundaries in different locations around the world.   Students were then invited to create a short video using iMovie to showcase and explain their model to their classmates and school community.

Pairs of students worked together to think through how to convey science content through their video productions.  As they discussed shot selection, they showed a keen awareness of audience and purpose and found meaningful ways to explain scientific terms and concepts for those unfamiliar with the content.  As was the case with the ShowMe projects, students created multiple takes and revised iteratively as they reflected on word choice and overall flow of ideas.  The result was a strong and solid representation of what they learned that showcased both creativity and collaboration.

iMovie Student Example

Using Digital Tools to Support Multimodal Expression

When asked about the making these digital products students said the work was “fun, active, and creative.”  Not only did these projects support engagement with content, they also supported the development of vital 21st century literacies.  Students were able to showcase their learning in ways that involved multimodal expression which requires higher level thinking skills such as synthesis, evaluation, and critique (and are also central to the Common Core State Standards).

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide for the use of ShowMe, iMovie, or other iPad apps that support literacy and content learning, click on the Step-by-step Guide to iPad apps and HandoutForIRAPreCon.  These presentation materials are from the IRA session that Jen Tilson and I delivered in Chicago, IL in May 2012.  Other speakers’ session materials, including Bernadette Dwyer’s handouts, can be accessed from the IRA TILE-Sig website at http://tilesig.wikispaces.com/Conference2

Add a comment to this post and share ways you’ve had students to create content and reflect on learning through the use of digital tools.  Sharing examples is a great way to get our collective juices flowing and sparks our creativity.  In the process, we’ll learn about a range of new tools and techniques for teaching and learning with technology. Enjoy!

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