Access to Texts on a Global Scale

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

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

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

MArk condon

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

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

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

little free library 3

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

little free library 2

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

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

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Collaborative Digital Reading Response

A post by Jill Castek

I’ve gotten excited about the possibility of engaging students (both K-12 and university) in collaborative digital reading responses.  I have found that encouraging students to use embedded discussion tools (where they can dialogue about WHAT they’re reading WHILE they’re reading) prompts engagement in the reading process and supports deep and meaningful discussion.  I’ve been exploring a range of digital tools that facilitate this process (Diigo, DocAS, and iAnnotate).  I’ve recently learned about a new option called Ponder.  This post focuses on the affordances of these tools.

Ponder is a collaborative reading tool that links your students together in a community where each individual member can create reading responses in the form of annotations and reflect on the annotations of other students.  In the process of engaging in an online dialogue, students deepen their understanding of material become more active and engaged readers.

Image

Ponder has a few notable benefits:  1) it’s free, 2) it’s already set up to support teachers (clustering students in to classes), 3) it enables content sharing amongst all the individuals who are invited into the class, and 4) it makes a suite of powerful analytics available to better understand what students are getting out of the reading they’re doing.

Ponder is different from other social sharing sites like Diigo because it requires readers to extract a key excerpt from a reading assignment, reflect upon it by assigning a pre-populated “sentiment” to it (e.g. I’m confused, I’m skeptical, I disagree, among many others), and then tie it to the concepts they are studying by tagging it.  Instantly, the reading responses are viewable by other students and available for additional comment.  Assigning a pre-scripted annotation  to an except through Ponder, as opposed to a free response using a sticky note as in Diigo has both plusses and minuses.  First, it support students in thinking through, and in essence, synthesizing a response as opposed to simply posting an initial reaction.  And secondly, the statements provided can act as a scaffold for learning how to construct a reading response.  On the flip side, students may very well want to say something original to their peers about the content or pose a question for further reflection.   Unfortunately, these are not viable options through Ponder.

Ponder provides analytic tools to help teachers and instructors monitor reading engagement and identify students who are falling behind before it becomes a barrier to success.   Teachers can then use the reading responses students have entered in Ponder to help them identify portions of the readings that were confusing. Analytics can also determine which segments contain particularly controversial ideas that can be used to target focused and purposeful in class discussions.

While I’ve primarily used Diigo for collaborative response, I’m intrigued by the idea of playing with the pre-populated response options in Ponder as a means of reflection.  It may free up the burden of saying something original and encouraging students to think critically about the text and the ideas it contains in a more supported way.  I’m interested to collect students’ preferences to learn more.

One additional affordance is of interest.  Ponder tracks and archives the web articles that readers follow up to read after the assigned reading.  These topics show up as related themes and are displayed on the class Ponder home page.  These web texts offer additional reading allowing reader to dig deeper into the topic of the reading.  The fact that these suggested readings stem from students’ actual web explorations has crowd sourcing potential.

If you’re interested in trying out Ponder, leave a comment and let us know how it goes.  I’ll do the same and we can compare notes.   Happy reading!

Goodnight, iPad!

by Dana L.  Grisham

Goodnight, Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown (1947) with pictures by Clement Hurd, is a classic piece of children’s literature often given as a baby shower present in board book form. According to Wikipedia, it was one of the “Top 100 Picture Books” of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.

The story is about a little bunny who has been tucked in bed and is about to go to sleep. He looks around the room at pictures–a cow jumping over the moon, three little bears, and at real animals such as two little kittens and a mouse. He also looks at a quiet old lady who was whispering “hush.”  The little bunny says “goodnight” to the room; to the moon, the cow, the light and the red balloon (a favorite of my own granddaughters) and the book ends with a goodnight to “noises everywhere.”

Goodnight, Moon

Goodnight, Moon

Let us fast forward to 2011. A new book makes the scene, called, Goodnight, iPad, by Ann Droyd (surely a pseudonym)*, published by Blue Rider Press (Penguin Group).

Goodnight, iPad

Goodnight, iPad

 

In this book, instead of a little old lady saying “hush,” there is a little old lady trying to sleep. Why can’t she sleep? Because in a “bright buzzing room” there are a number of electronic devices being use by critters vaguely resembling bunnies (think baby “minions”) who are wide awake. Even the fireplace is a giant TV with a “virtual” fire. Eminem is singing as a ringtone for a mobile phone and there are taps that signal text messages “with no end.” The old lady has had it! She gathers up their devices and throws them out the window,  saying “Goodnight” to each of them, while ignoring some pretty dramatic protests from the bunnies/minions. She tucks them all in bed and now she can, at last, sleep in peace and quiet.

The last panel is one of the little guys in bed with a book, a flashlight, a cat, and a mouse. What are they reading? Goodnight, Moon, of course!

Last panel

Last panel

 What can we take away from a comparison of these two iconic books?

First, our lives have changed irretrievably in terms of everyday activities. Technology, which Don Leu described as “deictic” or constantly changing over a decade ago (Leu, 2000), has unmistakably gathered momentum and may be seen as revolutionary rather than evolutionary.

Second, EVERYONE, virtually without exception, around the entire planet, is involved in the revolution. Mobile devices, tablets, Youtube, social networking sites, e-games, and LCD HDTVs, ringtones and texting, Twitter, and so on….digital literacies!

Third, we have technophobes who gloomily predict the end of civilization as we know it (Goodnight, iPad seems to fit) contrasted with technogeeks, who want more changes faster and see the resulting energy as a renaissance and a leveling of society (Gorbis, 2013). Who do we believe?

Finally, what does this mean to education? Kevin Leander (2009)  has characterized the responses that educators (and others) have to the changes we are experiencing. He notes four types of response to digital literacies: (1) resistance or steadfast adherence to print-based literacies; (2) replacement, or discounting of print-based literacies; (3) return, or valuing of digital literacies only as they support print literacies; and (4) remediation, or the attempt to redefine  literacy learning through adoption of a “parallel” pedagogy that values both print and digital literacies. I was trying to decide my own stance on “literacies” and found myself in the remediation phase. Interesting that, for the first time in my life, I am in remediation!

But literacies are social as well as academic and the popularization of online communication has brought that further into focus. Are we headed for an era when so-called “school literacies” are denigrated to the resistance phase?

Needless to say, I don’t have the answers, but I do have some observations on how literacy proceeds in the early years and how technology is involved in that development. The observations are of my own children and grandchildren and while that is not at all scientific, there are some semi-respectable precedents for it (think Skinner box).

Example 1.

When my son, who is a pilot in the Army National Guard, was sent on a second tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2012, he left behind his wife and a two-week old baby son. This tour of Afghanistan differed greatly from his first tour in 2003, when letters (pen and paper) and emails were the extent of communication. Once, when a Blackhawk helicopter crashed, he was allowed to phone home to tell his parents that it did not involve him. That was revolutionary at the time.

On this tour, he was able to purchase reliable Internet time in his quarters on the base in Bagram and Apple technology allowed him to Facetime almost daily with his wife. In addition, they purchased a camera system that worked with iPad and iPhone and he was able to observe the baby in his crib. In terms of more traditional literacies and technology, he purchased a book about dads and babies and audio-recorded his voice so that he could “read” to his son while deployed. Attached is a picture of the baby listening to his father “read” the book.

Listening to Dad read.

Listening to Dad read.

Happily, my son came home safely and now reads “real” books to his son, including his favorite Red Truck (Hamilton, 2008). Can Red Truck make it up the hill? Red Truck can! Red Truck will! ZOOOM! Red truck goes to the rescue and when my son reads to my grandson, they make the sounds dramatically together. Incidentally, Red Truck is available as an ebook.

Zooom!

Zooom!

Example 2.

I also have twin granddaughters who are now four and a half. In my September 2012 Literacy Beat blog, I shared a picture entitled “Digital Morning,” which I’m reposting below. You can see Dad on his laptop, and the twins–one on an iPad and one on an iPhone.

Digital Morning

Digital Morning

The twins love to read print books, but they also love to explore literacy online.

Both of them LOVE the iPad and use it for lots of things, such as puzzles, art, coloring, and literacy learning.  Recently, they have been exploring two Apps, Reading Ravens (http://www.readingraven.com/ ) and Hooked on Phonics (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hooked-on-phonics-learn-to/id588868907?mt=8).  Both provide experiences with phonological awareness, with phonics, with word patterns, tracing letters on the screen, and with beginning reading. Both are interactive in different ways. Both take very different paths to the same end. Both are very engaging to my four-year-old granddaughters.  In my next post, I will explore these two Apps and provide a list of resources for early literacy development.

I began this column with the book Goodnight, iPad because iPads play an increasing role in literacy these days. One resource that I have found valuable is Using Apps for Learning with Literacy Across the Curriculum, by Rick Beach and David O’Brien (2012). In a review of the ebook, Don Leu termed the increasing use of iPads as “…perhaps the most profound change taking place in literacy and learning today” (p. ii). Naturally, I downloaded this book to my iPad and it offers a useful framework for thinking about how to employ the apps across grade levels and content/discipline areas. They include an Apps for Learning with Literacy website and a resource Wiki for readers. Last each of 12 chapters provides a wealth of resources for educators. Enjoy!

* Actually by David Milgrim, an author, illustrator, and cartoonist, who is “very interested in how we got to be who we are.” Check him out at http://www.davidmilgrim.com.

References

Beach, R. & O’Brien, D. (2012). Using apps for learning with literacy acros the curriculum.

Gorbis, M. (2013). The nature of the future: Dispatches from the socialstructed world. New York: Free Press.

Leander, K. (2009). Composing with old and new media: Toward a parallel pedagogy. In V. Carringtron and M. Robinson (Eds.), Digital literacies: Social Learning and classroom practices (pp. 147-162). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Leu, D. J., Jr.  (2000). Literacy and technology: Deictic consequences for literacy education in an information age. In M. L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, and R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of Reading Research, (Vol. 3, pp. 743-770). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Exciting Summer Professional Development Offerings

A post by Jill Castek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News from the International Reading Association Conference

The International Reading Association conference took place April 19 – 22nd in San Antonio, Texas. We were thrilled that all of us were able to attend and participate in IRA board activities, committee meetings, SIG sessions, preconference institutes, and workshops. Below are highlights from the conference.

• Bernadette was officially inaugurated onto the IRA board of directors. Her vast experience with teaching and learning in Ireland has yielded a goldmine of ideas that will help IRA forge ahead in new and innovative directions. She is sure to share many useful insights about the use of technology to support reading, writing, collaboration, and learning. We’re excited about what lies ahead for Bernadette and for IRA.

• Dana was honored with the Computers in Reading Research Award. This award is given by the TILE-SIG to honor reading researchers who have made a significant contribution to research related to classroom literacy instruction and technology integration. Her recent book Transforming Writing Instruction in the Digital Age (co-authored with DeVere) provides professional development for teachers and techniques for integrating writing with Web 2.0 technologies. This ground breaking work, coupled with Dana’s work in digital vocabulary learning and teacher development, sets her apart as an exceptional scholar who is committed to supporting the work of teachers and teacher educators. Her keynote address will be presented at 2014 TILE-SIG session during the New Orleans conference.

• DeVere presented an interactive session at preconference institute organized by Kathy Ganske: Making a Difference through Writing. Participants explored two aspects of working in digital environments: How to work with digital sources to inform their writing and how to bring together digital images and composing processes, as means for increasing language learning. Participants learned how to use online tools their students can employ to draw or reuse images found on the Internet in service of writing as a means of learning. Examples of digital stories that combine images and words were provided, and participants with computers or smartphones had the opportunity to try some of the tools. By linking the parts of the brain that process images with those parts that process language, written work improves and so does student learning. Follow this link to view the presentation slides and resources.

• Bridget presented her innovative work on multimodal composition at the ‘Meet the Researchers’ poster session. She reported on a study conducted with Blaine Smith of Vanderbilt University that examined how two urban middle school youth collaboratively composed a digital video retelling of a folktale. Drawing on Camtasia real time video screen capture of the youth’s composing processes, their retelling products, and their perspectives on composing, they created an in-depth portrait of this pair of engaged, successful storytellers. The study supports the integration of multimodal composition into the literacy program, highlighting the value of teaching within a scaffolded digital composition workshop model.

• Jill, together with her colleague Heather Cotanch from the Lawrence Hall of Science, presented a workshop entitled Enhancing Literacy and Content Learning Using iPad Apps for Digital Content Creation. This hands-on learning experience involved participants in designing instructional experiences that actively engage students in creating digital content. Three digital content creation tools were used: 1) iMovie, a video creation app that makes shooting and editing a video simple, 2) ShowMe, an app that makes it easy to create a storyboard with images and drawing and includes a voiceover feature, and 3) VoiceThread, a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images and allows creators or viewers to add voice over, text, and video commentary. During the workshop, participants worked collabortively on iPads to create a product using one of the applications introduced. This full immersion approach mirrored what students face in the classrooms as they engage in digitally enhanced learning. Selected final products were shared and celebrated. Participant observations about the learning process were discussed with an eye toward design principles for implementation.

We hope you’re able to join the fun at next year’s IRA conference that will take place May 9-12, 2014 in New Orleans.

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!

Literacy and Technology Special Issue from Research in the Schools

It’s snowing here in Boulder and time for me to catch up on some reading!  Guest edited by Marla Mallette, this special issue from Research in the Schools focuses on ‘Literacy and Social Networking’.

The articles can be accessed online at http://dtm10.cep.msstate.edu/rits_191.htm.

As you can see from the table of contents below, the authors address a broad range of topics, from Diane Barone’s article on young children’s experience with social media and Web 2.0, to Frank Serafini’s piece on reading multimodal texts in the 21st century, to Don Leu and Elena Forzani’s article on Web 2.0 –  now and into the future!  Blaine Smith and I also have an article in this issue about how teachers design Internet-based literacy and learning lessons with Strategy Tutor, a free online authoring tool developed by Cast, Inc. (www.cast.org).

Enjoy reading and please post a comment, question, or related resource.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

TABLE OF CONTENTS

In the latest issue: Spring, 2012, Volume 19(1)
(Special Issue on Literacy and Social Networking)

Mallette, M. H., & Mthethwa, P. M. (2012). Guest editorial: Web 2.0 and literacy: Enacting a vision, imagining the possibilities. 19(1), i-iv.

Barone, D. M. (2012). Exploring home and school involvement of young children with Web 2.0 and social media. 19(1), 1-11.

Dalton, B., & Smith, B. E. (2012). Teachers as designers: Multimodal immersion and strategic reading on the internet. 19(1), 12-25.

Serafini. F. (2012). Reading multimodal texts in the 21st century. 19(1), 26-32.

Alvermann, D. E., Hutchins, R. J., & McDevitt, R. (2012). Adolescents’ engagement with Web 2.0 and social media: Research, theory, and practice. 19(1), 33-44.

Beach, R. (2012). Uses of digital tools and literacies in the English language arts classroom. 19(1), 45-59.

Karchmer-Klein, R., & Shina, V. H. (2012). 21st century literacies in teacher education: Investigating multimodal texts in the context of an online graduate-level literacy and technology course. 19(1), 60-74.

Leu, D. J., & Forzani, E. (2012). Discussion, new literacies in a Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, …, [infinity] world. 19(1), 75-81.

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