Picture Book Abundance: Will It Ever Happen?

A guest post by Mark Condon

Can you envision book abundance, worldwide?

Given the importance of good picture books to beginning readers, the goal of establishing picture book “abundance” is one that everyone can endorse. Supporting it as a cause and making it happen, however, are two very different things. Do the math. There are over 7 billion people in the world. Perhaps 10% of those people are birth to age 8, the ages for which picture books tend to be most important. That’s 700 million children. Now, many of those have plenty of picture books, but more of them do not.

However, for the sake of conversation let’s say 350 million children who need access to abundant picture books don’t have it.

So, how many picture books qualify as “abundant” enough to support each of those kids in learning even basic reading ability? A convenient and defensible number is 100. That comes from Evans and colleagues(2010) who discuss what they call “family scholarly culture” a terrific concept that describes families that read and discuss books together. In their longitudinal study of 27 countries with data covering 20 years, Evans et al display graphics indicating that almost regardless of parent education or income, the number of books in the home is the best predictor of school success, and each book added to the home, up to just about 100 seems to increase that prospect of academic advancement. So, 100 books is certainly abundant enough.

So let’s see, 350,000,000 kids x 100 books, that’s 35 billion books needed. Oh, and that number increases each year with the addition of another 4 million or so new children added to the world’s population. Sadly, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation doesn’t have enough money to make even a small dent in that, even if they could get books (written, edited, printed, bound, stored, and transported) at a cost of $1 apiece, they then have to get the books into those children’s homes.

So, let’s face facts, book abundance – 100 books for every child in the world – will never happen… WAIT!…or will it?

The Digital Solution

The alternative solution to the one I posed above of course is digital books. By leveraging the rapidly expanding digital network system around the world and then populating a library with 100+ creative-commons copyrighted, mostly non-fiction (the intention being to create generally universally interesting content) picture books and then translating and narrating those books in nearly 7000 languages (I know, I know, but stay with me), it could work.

Look at the Global Book Publication Matrix, below.

Global Publishing Matrix

Global Publishing Matrix

Digital books can be created that are offered as a Global Public Good, i.e., A resource that is free for all (no login) and inexhaustible (digital).  That’s the goal of Unite for Literacy, a small “social enterprise” company in Colorado that has a free library that went online in August 2013.


Unite for Literacy to date actually has more than 100 books available in a free online library (www.UniteforLiteracy.com) and each one offers English text and is narrated in up to 18 world and indigenous languages. With the current languages, nearly half the families around the world can access the library and read the English book, listen to the English narration and/or listen to a book narration by a fluent native speaker of their home languages.

Plans include adding books created in collaboration with the content experts at local cultural institutions (museums, galleries, performance groups, sports teams, etc.) and of course adding more languages. Japanese was just added, Turkish and Slovak are on the way and Navajo and Cherokee are in the works. Also, when time and budget permit the books will be readable in the all of the world’s languages of instruction (about 200 by our count) as well.

Unite for Literacy is supported by generous corporate and organizational sponsors, all committed to world literacy and actively advocating for literacy in their communities. It is further being promoted by a growing number of educators, librarians and advocacy groups that take the online library link out to the communities that they serve. Sponsors are publicly recognized in the communities that they serve and on the companies’ websites, as well as in the library. Sponsorships are available for providing existing books for new language communities, for underwriting book authors to create new titles or to advocate for particular books with which they wish to be associated. Community literacy advocates take advantage of additional web resources to promote family readership and the accessing of books at home and school.

Digital Book Readers

Digital Books from Unite for Literacy

Free, digital, narrated, picture books are the game changer. There are efforts well under way as this is written that seek to create inexpensive smartphones and free or nominally priced mobile Internet access around the world. Those efforts, backed by the titans of digital communication, will in a very few years put the riches of the Internet within reach of even those living in poverty. When these digital books become eventually available in all 200+ world languages of instruction and those texts are accompanied by on-demand narrations in the almost 7000 indigenous and immigrant mother tongue languages found in homes that send their children to those instructional settings, then in fact worldwide picture book abundance will be a reality.

Unite for Literacy is working to make a contribution to that effort.

Reference:

Evans, M., Kelley, J., Sikorac, J., & Treimand, D. (2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations.  Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28, pp. 171–197.

All images in this post courtesy of Unite for Literacy.

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Recommended Preschool Apps for Literacy Learning

By Dana L. Grisham (with thanks to Darah Odelson!)

In this blog, I have focused from time to time on the literacy experiences of my own family. You probably know I am a grandmother with twin granddaughters who will soon turn five and that I have a grandson who is almost two.  Having been both a teacher and a professor, I have long been fascinated by the acquisition of literacy in our young and the changing literacy landscapes as technology becomes more prevalent in all our lives. Most of us, myself included, struggle with the rapid and dramatic changes. The field of education is similarly in flux.

My granddaughters will attend kindergarten next fall, but they have also spent two years in a good preschool environment. They are lucky to have parents who are actively involved in providing them with rich language experiences, too.

In my September 18, 2013 post, I showed a photo I called “Digital Morning” with the twins and their dad engaged on iPhone, iPad, and laptop. The girls are adept at using electronic devices, but they have traditional literacy skills also.  I decided to find out what is out there for preschoolers and write a post on the preschool apps that my family likes (and thos that are recommended by “experts”). So here we go!

First, let me emphasize that there are MANY (!!!) apps for all age levels.

I want to review two that I particularly like here.

Reading Raven is one of the Apps that I, personally, love.  The cost for the app is $3.99, which makes it more expensive than most, but it does a lot for the money. It has been reviewed favorably by many review sites.Reading Raven 1

There are five levels in the app as shown in the screen shot below:

Reading Raven 2

Level 1 is relatively easy, but fun. In the first part, a bird flies over the top of the screen with a letter in its beak. Then letter is dropped and a voice makes the sound of the letter. The child uses a finger to touch the letter as it falls  (there is a voice that makes the letter sound) and drag the falling letter to a flower at the bottom of the screen with the same letter. If the child does it correctly, the voice says the sound of the letter, the name of the letter, and a picture of a word that begins the letter (example: “n” is “net”). The raven smiles from the bottom of the screen as he moves through the levels with you. The part my granddaughters liked most was tracing the letter on the screen. A green arrow tells you where to start and end. A child’s voice encourages you.

Level 2 features a circus motif where letters are dropped from a high wire into the mouths of hungry lions. Level two also adds small decodable words such as rat and mat.  Also beginning in Level 2, children can record their voices reading the words and the program reads the child’s voice back (hat, mat). The focus moves to onsets and rimes. (h-ot, c-ot). Toward the end of level 2, the child has the opportunity to read and record a short connected sentence such as, “ant in can,” where the words match the patterns already learned. Level 2 finishes with  multiple word sentences to read and record. See the screen shot below:

Reading Raven 3

Children can earn stickers to decorate a treehouse when they complete portions of a lesson correctly.

The colorful scenes with animated movement and narration  (as well as childrens’ voices that encourage the learner, are all attractive features.

A second app appreciated by my daughter for her twins is Hooked on Phonics.Hooked on Phonics 1

 Based on the original Hooked on Phonics (the print version), this one has been updated with the same types of interactive reading games as Reading Raven along with embedded eBooks with audio, musical soundtracks, and the ability to track the child’s progress. This one is also rated 4 Stars plus, but costs a great deal more, ($49.99 for the entire program, although you can purchase portions for as low as $4.99) aside from the free trial offer. In the trial, I listened to the sound of “t” to the doo-wap sound of Earth Angel:

Hooked on Phonics 2

Like Reading Ravens, a great deal of time is spent on phonological awareness and phonics, with catchy and engaging ways to make words.

HOP Staircase HOP word families

The student goes up a staircase to each new level.

HOP Staircase

As mentioned there are numerous (!!) apps for literacy learning on the iPad. There are also groups that are dedicated to helping the consumer judge which apps are good quality for the money that parents will spend.  A brief and partial list of such websites concludes this post.

I hope that parents and educators can agree that today’s children need both traditional and digital learning for their development as literate beings!

A Brief List of Websites for Preschool Apps:

1. Parents.com 10 Best Apps for Preschoolers

http://www.parents.com/fun/entertainment/gadgets/best-apps-for-preschoolers/

2. Apps for Homeschooling

http://appsforhomeschooling.com/2013/homeschool-phonics-app-review-reading-raven-app-review/

3. KinderTown Educational App Store for Parents

http://www.kindertown.com/

4. Slideshare (50 free apps & early literacy)

http://www.slideshare.net/elloyd74/ipad-apps-early-literacy-25-fantastic-free-apps-for-prereaders

5.  I can teach my child! Top 10 Educational Apps for Preschoolers

http://www.icanteachmychild.com/2012/09/the-10-best-iphoneipad-apps-for-preschoolers/

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.

Let the Reader Beware: Evaluating Digital Books

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

Let the Reader Beware: Evaluating Digital Books

Elizabeth Dobler

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

Quality Digital Books

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

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

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

Questionable Quality Digital Books

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

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

Digital Book Evaluation Rubric

Type of Digital Book (check all that apply):

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

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

_____  uncertain/unknown

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

Created by Elizabeth Dobler and Daniel Donahoo

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

Using Strip Designer for Literacy Learning

Using Strip Designer for Literacy Learning

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

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

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

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

In Martha’s words:

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

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

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

********

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can hardly wait to see the results!

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

Digital Technologies for Literacy in Early Years Classrooms

A post from Bernadette

There is considerable evidence that young children (aged from 0 to 6) are immersed in a digital world from birth. For example, surveys conducted in the U.K. revealed that young children were active users of digital technologies engaging in a range of multimodal experiences (Marsh, 2005).

However, recent research has highlighted a dissonance between technology use in the home and at school and indeed a general under-utilisation of digital technologies in early years classrooms (Aubrey & Dahl, 2008).

Given that young children are engaging with digital technologies and digital practices in the home the possibilities afforded by these early digital experiences need to be more fully explored and accommodated within the classroom curriculum.

So how can we utilise digital technologies in ways that support children as readers, writers and thinkers? How can we use technologies to support the development of essential early literacy skills and increase motivation and engagement with literacy and learning?

I have been reflecting about this recently and here are some tentative musings and suggestions.

• Young children should engage with digital literacies in ways that encourage “playfulness, agency and creativity” (Burnett, 2010). Indeed, research has shown that children can draw on narratives and characters from their use of multimedia in their own play (Pahl, 2005).

• Digital technologies should not replace ‘busy’ workbook type activities in the classroom in drill-and-practice type scenarios. Freddy Hiebert noted, in her Frankly Freddy column, that “tricked out rote exercises will not support children’s love of language and literacy in the long run” (Hiebert, 2012).

• Digital technologies and multimodal texts offer the potential to support the development of early literacy skills. They present multiple means of representation, provide robust supports to meet the diverse needs of pupils in the classroom, and reduce the barriers to text (e.g. decoding difficulties) through embedded supports.
BookBuilder from CAST (CAST.org ) is a particular favourite of mine and I have previously blogged about how BookBuilder can enhance the Language Experience Approach

• Digital technologies should complement or supplement teacher read aloud. For example, children can listen to or re-read favourite class room texts though storyline online, developed by the screen actors guild (http://www.storylineonline.net/) or through apps such as, a Story Before Bed-Personalized Children’s Picture books.

• Digital technologies should build on the creativity of children, provide opportunities for engagement and response and encourage children to become authors and producers of text. In addition digital technologies should encourage experimentation and expression with regard to the generation and construction of a story or message. Apps such as, Sock Puppets allow child to create a story, choose a background and record their voices. The sock puppets then automatically lip-synch to the child’s recorded voice. Other examples include Strip designer, for creating comics; Book Creator for Ipad and Story kit for creating stories to share with an audience outside the classroom walls.

• Digital technologies can supplement the development of fine motor skills for handwriting. Apps such as, Dexteria, which was developed for children with special needs, develops fine motor skills e.g pincer movements, finger strength and hand movements and letter formation. Watch the You tube video and you’ll see how appealing this app is. I would caution, however, that to my mind, nothing replaces concrete materials, like pegs and peg boards, sand trays, and making letters with plasticine for the development of fine motor skills for handwriting.

Would love to hear your views on ways to embed and integrate digital technologies to support literacy development in the early years classroom. Jill has recently blogged on Expressive Learning: Encouraging Students’ Multimodal Expression to Enhance Content Learning and using apps for education so do read her blog here.

References
Aubrey, C. and Dahl, S. (2008). A review of the evidence on the use of ICT in the Early Years Foundation Stage. BECTA. Accessed online May 2009 at: http://partners.becta.org.uk/uploaddir/downloads/page_documents/research/review_early_years_foundation.pdf

Burnett, C. (2010). Technology and literacy in early childhood educational settings: A review of research. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 10(3), 247-270.

Hiebert, E.H. (2012) Children’s literacy learning and screen time accessed June 2012 at http://textproject.org/frankly-freddy/children-s-literacy-learning-and-screen-time/

Marsh, J., Brook, G., Hughes, J., Ritchie, L., Roberts, S. Wright, K.(2005). Digital beginnings: Young children’s use of popular culture, media and new technologies. Literacy Research Centre, Sheffield

Pahl, K. (2005). ‘Narrative spaces and multiple identities: Children’s textual explorations of console games in home settings’ In: J. Marsh (2005) (Ed.), Popular Culture, New Media and Digital Literacy in Early Childhood, pp. 126-143.London: Routledge.

A post from Bernadette: LEA meets Book Builder

The Language Experience Approach (LEA) (Hall, 1986; Stauffer, 1970) is to my mind an organic approach to the teaching of reading. Organic in three ways: firstly, LEA constructs a reading curriculum based around the lived and shared experiences of children; secondly it welcomes the cultural backgrounds of children; and thirdly LEA affirms the child’s own language diversity and language patterns within the developed reading materials. LEA helps to develop early literacy skills such as, phonological awareness, phonics, concepts of print, word identification strategies, vocabulary, oral language development, reading comprehension and reading fluency.

My students have used the LEA approach successfully with children on Teaching Practice placement in schools. Lately, we have begun to use online ebooks as a way to create, share and publish our LEA stories. This has helped to accommodate the LEA approach within the 21st century classroom.

We have developed ebooks with audio, video and image support. In addition, we have begun to use Book Builder, a free downloadable digital tool, developed by the CAST organisation (http://bookbuilder.cast.org/).

Book Builder offers a “scaffolded digital reading” environment (Dalton & Proctor, 2008) and is underpinned by principles of universal design for learning (UDL) (Rose & Meyer, 2002). In essence, this means that reading is accessible to all through the provision of a myriad of learning supports, multiple means of representation in audio and visual modes, and ways to build engagement and expression. Book builder is easy to use with a comprehensive how to Tips and Resources page.

Katie Murphy and her 1st grade students have been crafting the story of Karl the Teddy and his Adventures. So far in chapter one he has been to the St. Patrick’s Day parade where he took part in festivities (an experience that all of the children can relate to); and in chapter 2 Karl the Teddy has met Lucky Duck and together they are saving Easter from an evil bunny who has stolen all of the chocolate (luckily they succeed!). I visited the classroom today where Karl and Lucky Duck take pride of place on Karl’s adventure table. The children were clearly engaged in writing and illustrating the story and loved the avatar coaches who prompted them to add details to the story; to forge connections between their own lives and those of Karl, to make predictions or to read the story aloud. You will have to wait a while to read the story on the public domain on the CAST website, as the children informed me they are already planning more adventures for Karl in chapter 3!

Lucky Duck took the bad Easter Bunny to jail and splashed water all over him and he was a good Easter Bunny again.

In the meantime, take a look at one of my favourite books on the CAST web site: Play Ball with Me! A Joel and Angel Book written and illustrated by Ann Meyer. The book features Anne’s two dogs in a story of the trials of friendship and is beautifully illustrated by her own digital photographs of her two charming dogs, with audio links, and a helpful illustrated glossary of terms. It features a text-to-speech feature but develops more than just listening comprehension.

copyright Ann Meyer

copyright Ann Meyer

One of the strengths of Book Builder is the presence of avatar coaches. These coaches can be customized, by the teacher, to the learning needs of the child where each coach can help the child to develop response; expand vocabulary, build strategy usage (e.g. making predictions, forging connections, asking questions). (Elmo is the sweetest avatar coach of all!) The children can also craft their own responses to answer teacher provided questions. Therefore, in providing a customized reading environment it affirms the uniqueness of the child as a reader, writer and thinker.

Percie, Emo and Can-do coach avatars

Emo a coach avatar

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