Lesson Planning as Collaboration in Digital Environments

Thanks to Susan Toma-Berge for this guest post on LiteracyBeat this week.  Susan is Coordinator of the Multiple Subjects Program at the University of California, Irvine. ~DeVere

Collaborating with colleagues and students is almost effortless since I started using Google Apps with my students, primarily Google Drive.  Recently, our campus adopted Google Apps for Education, which gave us the option of merging our existing campus email with Gmail.  I thought that alone was pretty harmless and uneventful, until I started exploring the possibilities.  Now my ability, and that of the teacher candidates with whom I work, to collaborate on documents, gather information, and archive information has increased and the process is much more streamlined.

Class Discussion

When I first learned of Google Drive a few years ago, I knew only of Google Docs.  Our campus email was not integrated with Google at the time so I had two separate email accounts – my campus email and my Gmail.  I used my personal Gmail account and utilized Google Docs as a way to archive important documents (like drafts of my dissertation).  I attempted multiple times to use Google Docs in my teaching by writing out discussion questions for students to answer in small groups during class.  I was able to do this by creating a Google Doc, then share it though the link provided when I added other viewers who could edit.  I then either emailed the link to my class, or added it to my class website.  The goal was to be able to have all my students work on different questions then have the ability to project the whole document to the class for our whole group discussion.  It was meant to replace using chart paper and markers that were a staple of our group discussion and sharing.  The students would then have notes from each of the other small groups who worked on different questions, and all these notes were saved on my course website for the remainder of class.

Without fail, I had students who could not access the document for one reason or another.  Some had difficulty if they did not have a Gmail account.  Others simply could not see the text on their own laptops.

Collaborating

In the not so recent past, asking my students, all pre-service teachers, to collaborate on a document meant sitting down together hunched over the same computer screen with one typing.  This style of collaborating had benefits, because they were able to share ideas and instantly put them in words.  The downside was finding a time for both of them to work together to devote to this task.

If they could not meet in person, the task meant working independently at their own computers then merging text together once they shared their writing through email or with a flash drive.  This was effective because each could each compose on their own time and share when done.  The downside to this method was limited face to face collaboration and the writing was frequently disjointed because they usually divided the task into parts.  This type of collaboration also made it difficult to keep track of the most current version of the document, especially if multiple revisions were emailed back and forth.

Now that all my students’ campus emails are linked with Gmail, they all have Google accounts so they have many more options for collaborating.  They meet face-to-face during class time, but work on group assignments using Google Docs.  When working on a lesson plan together, my student teachers have reported sitting at their own computers at home while writing up a shared lesson plan.  They use the chat feature to discuss what ideas are included.  The collaboration is in real time and both student teachers have the most recent version of their document.

Pairs of student teachers used Google Docs for their weekly lesson plans, as well.  They maintained a shared document with the mentor teacher so everyone was aware of the week’s plans and any changes made.  The mentor teacher shared these plans with me so I was also able to monitor my pre-service teachers’ weekly progress. Each lesson evolved, collaboratively, over time and in the cloud. See figure one, below, for an example of the final product.

final lesson plan

Figure 1: Final Collaborative Lesson Plan Contributed by Jasmine Hwang and Tawnee Houses

The unit plan (figure 2, below) was created by a mentor teacher, Johnnie Perry, when he had two student teachers in his classroom. They used the Google doc to keep updated versions of their weekly plans available to all three of them.

figure 2

Figure 2: Shared Unit Plan by Johnnie Perry, master teacher, and two student teachers

Collaborative Research

I also teach a class in the masters of art in teaching (MAT) program where my students are required work in a small group to write an action research proposal.  The majority of my students wrote their group papers using Google Docs.  Even though they met face-to-face twice a week in class, group members had to open their own computers as they discussed the themes of their literature review or selected instruments for data collection.  During this conversation, one or more members of the group put these ideas in writing during this collaboration. As an instructor, it was gratifying to hear these rich conversations and see their projects develop as multiple colored dots, representing each author’s cursor, floated across the screen.  This type of collaboration ensured all students in the group had the same version, even if one member was away that day.  These students also mentioned using Google Hangouts to discuss their writing when they composed from home.

Potential

I’m positive that we have just scratched the surface on how using a cloud-based shared document, like Google Docs, can aid collaboration and writing, especially for student and novice teachers.  The potential for teachers to share ideas and put them down on “e-paper” is unlimited – even at brick-and-mortar institutions like mine, where most of the classes are “on-the-ground.”  How do you facilitate collaboration for your student teachers and teachers in training?

 

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

A post from Bernadette

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

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

subtext annotations

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

References

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

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!

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.

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.

Using Online Reciprocal Roles to Support Collaborative Learning

A post from Bernadette

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

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

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

Eileen (pseudonym) explained the role thus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do I introduce these roles in the classroom?

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

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

References

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

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

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

Bringing it Together: Utilizing Digital Tools for Collaborative Learning Opportunities

A post from Bernadette

Digital tools can promote collaborative and social learning opportunities, enhance literacy development and extend the boundaries of the classroom. Digital tools can be used in ways that support receptive, expressive and generative processes. This coming semester I want to explore, with my teacher candidate students, the possibilities presented by a range of digital tools. In this post I will explore the possibilities presented by Voicethread and Thinglink

Voice Thread

Voicethread for educators (http://ed.voicethread.com/#home ) provides an interactive online forum for conversations and student collaboration. Voice threads are collaborative multimedia slide shows which integrate images, documents, and sound files. A voicethread workshop, with easy to follow instructions of how to create a voice thread, can be found here or you can view online tutorials.

Voice threads allow for anytime, anywhere conversations, and allow participants to annotate and comment asynchronously in five different ways: using voice (via a microphone), text (using a keyboard), audio file, video (with a web cam) or annotation through doodling. Participants click on ‘Record’ or ‘Type’ to add a comment which then appears around the border of the image, slide or video. Teachers can create free education accounts for their students. Participant identities are represented through images or avatars (created in for example, Doppelme.com) which are added to the accounts. The interplay of multimedia and commentary are essential parts of the process and encourage student response. Students can respond through for example, asking questions; offering opinions; or making text-to-self, text-to-text or text-to-topic connections.

At voicethread4education wiki (http://voicethread4education.wikispaces.com /) you can view 26 different ways to use Voicethread for language arts and the content areas in the classroom.

Here are some of my favorites for language arts from the list:
#1 A mystery scene: What is happening and what might have caused it? What vocabulary can be used to describe the scene?

#5 Video : view, comment on and review a short video. For example, comment one of the vocabulary videos produced by the class group.

#7 Novel: comment on a character or protagonist from a novel.

#10 Inferencing: what were they thinking? Providing an image from the creative commons on Flickr and asking students to comment. Great for developing inferencing and reinforcing vocabulary.

#14 Digital Portfolio: Students could create a digital portfolio using images video and text.

Thinglink

Thinglink (http://www.thinglink.com/ ) is a digital tool that allows students to explore topics through collaborative discussions. Students can insert interactive links to tag an image by adding pop up multimedia hot spots. Hotspots can link to music, audio files, video, descriptions, definitions or quotations.

In the Thinglink example from http://auntytechideas.tumblr.com / images were added to illustrate the target word Perseverance.

Thinglink Hot Spots for the target word Perseverance include a dictionary definition, a quotation using the word and a short video showing how people from a range of backgrounds (e.g. sports, music, politicians) persevered against the odds. You could also add examples for the target word used in a context, an audio file for pronunciation (great for English Language Learners), or a vocabulary video to illustrate usage ( Bridget  previously blogged about vocabulary videos on Literacy Beat ).

A photo collage created in Photovisi (http://www.photovisi.com /) could be created by groups of students to tag each image with a pop up of descriptive adjectives, synonyms or antonyms. Further information on Thinglink can be found on Donna Baumbach’s list of ways to use Thinglink in the classroom on Google docs or alternatively you can visit Pininterest to view how teachers have used Thinglink in the classroom  here

So in the dying embers of your summer vacation do take time to mess around, play with and explore the possibilities presented by these digital tools to enhance literacy development in your classroom. Happy exploring! Good luck with the new semester!

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!

The 4 R’s of Collaborative Writing: Reading, Rating, Remixing, and Revising

A new post by Jill Castek

For the past several months I’ve been working with fifth and sixth graders in two urban schools in Berkeley and Oakland, CA. The project is designed to enhance integrated literacy and science learning and to explore how iPads can be used to support student engagement, self expression, and learning.  Although I’ve been involved in using laptops extensively with students in classrooms, shifting to explore science learning through iPads has been a true learning experience.

I’ve discovered that many applications and strategies for collaboration I’ve always drawn from aren’t directly transferable to working with a small touch screen.  However, because collaboration is a vitally important part of learning,  I’m dedicating this post to  approaches for facilitating collaborative writing.

One free platform I’ve used for collaborative writing is Mixed Ink www.mixedink.com.  This educator friendly tool allows small groups or the whole class to reflect on several versions of a text written on the same topic and to weave ideas  from peers’ work into a single text that credits multiple authors.  An overview of how the Mixed Ink tool works can be seen in the short video clip below entitled Mixed Ink for Educators.

Collaborative Writing with Mixed Ink:  A 5th Grade Example

Ms. Kretschmar’s students completed a waste audit to analyze the waste their school produced. Prior to beginning the collaborative writing assignment, students discussed their experiences with the waste audit and shared ideas about how to communicate the surprising results they found to the school and community at large.  The five phases  the class engaged in as they documented and shared their experiences included:  1) writing;  2) reading; 3) rating; 4) remixing; and 5) revising.  Not only is each aspect an important part of productive collaborative writing, these steps also address the Common Core State Standards that emphasize the use of digital technologies for reading and writing as support process skills such as collaboration, listening, and speaking.

Ms. Kretschmar’s students draft their waste audit letter to the school community.

With the aim of helping the school and community become more mindful about their output of trash, Ms. Kretschmar structured a five paragraph writing assignment for her students and assigned each table group to complete one paragraph.  Once she distributed Letter4School (a set of graphic organizers to support students when drafting), she encouraged table groups to discuss ideas before writing their paragraphs as individuals. Then,  students used the graphic organizers and iPads to complete a first draft.

Next, students learned about online collaborative writing using Mixed Ink and discussed the process of peer support for adding content, revising language choices, and reorganizing their presentation of ideas.

Then, students read each other’s work (staying within their original paragraph groups).  After presenting the purpose of reading and rating, Ms. Kretschmar had students rate each other’s work using a system of stars which ranged from 1/2 star (needs more development) to five stars (very well developed).   As students read their peers’ work, they looked out for ideas  and language they could incorporate into their own piece to improve it.

Using their peers’ pieces as mentor texts, students remixed new drafts  by incorporating in elements of each others’ wording and language into their own piece (creating co-written pieces with multiple authors).  The image on the left shows how the crediting process works (with each author recognized as contributing an element to the piece).

Students then rated each of the new paragraphs again.  Mixed Ink uses a specially designed algorithm that surfaces the most complete and well-written piece based on student ratings.  This featured “featured” version can then be discussed in terms of its organization, use of language, organization, or other characteristics.

With help from the students, Ms. Kretschmar compiled the top rated five paragraphs into a completed piece that incorporated all students’ voices.    The final version can be accessed by clicking on 5thLetter2Community.  It takes advantage of the collaborative writing process in the creation of a well-organized, well-structured final product.

A full set of slides documenting  Ms. Kretschmar’s collaborative writing lessons can be viewed here.

Collaborative writing in a digitally enhanced way has several benefits.  First, it is a process that draws upon the strengths of the collective. Although one student may be stronger in critical thinking skills, another may excel in organizing or adding detail to a piece. By working in groups, students learn from each other while they complete an assigned task in ways that benefit the whole group.  In addition, students working in collaborative groups can take advantage of other group members for  peer review as they complete writing projects.  More and more workplace activities involve working in these sorts of collaborative project teams. Giving students opportunities to work collaboratively can help prepare them for the advantages and pitfalls of collaborative work on the job.  I’ve seen collaborative writing activities such as the one featured here, support students’ abilities to work together and problem solve while providing the context for content-rich conversations.

We are eager to promote an exchange of ideas on this forum.  We invite you to please add a comment to share experiences you’ve had with collaborative writing.

%d bloggers like this: