Welcome to Google Hangouts for English Language Learners

Going to a conference is always a good professional development experience. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the CATESOL Regional Conference in Southern California and attended a great session I had chosen for two reasons: (1) I am always interested in the use of technology for instructional purposes and this was a session on using Google Hangouts, and (2) as co-author of a recent book on translanguaging (Lubliner & Grisham, 2017) I love learning about ways we can serve our emergent bilingual students more effectively. The intersection was highly beneficial and I made the acquaintance of two colleagues working toward the same. The result is this invited blog (and stay tuned for one next month. I hope readers will find this useful and gain some instructional ideas from Kate and Kim! ~Dana

Google Hangouts

Difficulties presented by disengaged, shy, or unmotivated students in an English language learning environment can be detrimental to achieving learning objectives which are necessary for building student confidence in their language skills. Teachers can use multiple techniques to motivate learners, but some students, especially younger learners, do not flourish solely in a classroom setting. They crave and are distracted by the immediate gratification and acceptance they receive through the internet and social media platforms. Furthermore, beyond homework, students tend to disassociate their school life from their personal life, leaving little time for reflection or applied learning in the world beyond the classroom doors.

For younger students, who Twenge (2009) refers to as “Generation Me,” disengagement can be directly linked to the fact that they don’t solely exist in a real world setting. They learn and live very much in an online world, where they work endlessly to project idealized personas as a true extension of themselves. The implications of this technological reality for teachers is that they must not only tap into the real self students bring into the classroom, but also the digital self they work so hard to build to communicate who they are online.  Thus, by creating a space for the digital self in the learning process, teachers will find more opportunities to hold their students’ attention and promote meaningful learning. By creating an online community alongside the real world classroom community “Generation Me” students can build what Coleman (1988) refers to as social capital through negotiating meaning, sharing information, and demonstrating their own knowledge and value to their classmates. This type of communal and shared learning increases learner autonomy and authentic use of classroom knowledge inside and outside of the classroom.

This raises the question, how do we get our classrooms to straddle the worlds of digital and reality? How do we bridge the gap to effectively improve student learning? In this 3-post series, we will provide one way of addressing this question by introducing you to the multimedia communication app Google Hangouts and illustrating multiple methods of using the app to take your classroom into your students’ digital playing fields.

BASIC USES

Classroom Management

Google Hangouts is foremost a tool for communication. As a modern messaging app, it is intuitively used by most students. Once you create a group, your students have access to their peers in a unique way that you can use to your advantage. Students quickly become engaged with this tool as it mimics the social media platforms they use outside of school.

  1. Communication
    1. Teachers can send reminders to students about homework, community events, and other opportunities for students to practice English outside of school.
    2. Students can easily ask the teacher or their classmates questions relating to course content and language learning.
    3. Students can snap and share content in and out of class by taking photos and sharing them to the group. While we encourage note-taking, a quick photo at the end of class can ensure they have the material before running to their next class.
  2. Increase Language Output
    1. Shy students come out of their shell and are able to show off their grammar expertise in this low stakes environment.
    2. Conversations go beyond classroom walls, as students interact with one another for assignments or for fun.
  3. Build Community
    1. Giving students a safe space to practice English with one another relieves the pressure from becoming “friends” on other forms of social media.
    2. Students can easily share interesting things they find with their classmates, from language practice tips to cultural nuances. Teachers can encourage sharing articles, videos, and other relevant links as appropriate to their situation.

Classroom Enhancement

Bringing students’ digital selves into the classroom is an effective way to bring their attention to a lesson. Although students are inside the classroom, it allows them direct access to the outside world, endless realia, and personal examples. The ease with which the app allows you to share and view posts builds learner autonomy by giving students an active role in building the lesson around their interests and experiences.

Warm Ups

Google Hangouts can be a useful tool to help ease students into a lesson using realia and their own interests to get them focused.

  1. Emoji Story: Put students in pairs. Have students tell the story of their previous day in emojis and post it in Hangouts. Then, have students guess their partner’s activities.
  2. Class Poetry: Going around the classroom, each student can add a line to a poem in Hangouts (this could be based around the theme of the lesson or include review points from the previous lesson). When you’re done, post the poem on Reddit.com and see how many likes it gets by the beginning of the next class. This is a great one for building camaraderie.
  3. Create a daily challenge: This can be as simple and fun as giving students 2 minutes to post the cutest baby animal picture or funniest meme they can find and voting on the best one. On the other hand, quotes, pictures, trivia questions, riddles, music, and so much more can all be used to introduce the topic of the lesson in a fun way. Sharing so much content right at the beginning of class is going to inspire conversation and activate background knowledge around a topic.

Grammar Lessons

After teaching your grammar point, students can use Google Hangouts to show their comprehension. Instead of asking students to give you verbal or written examples individually or at the board, have all students send an example of the grammar point to the Hangout. This allows you to view all students’ work at once, and to easily correct it as a class instilling the good habit of proofreading, and reading aloud to check for errors.

Building upon this, you can connect it to the outside world by giving students a few minutes to search the Internet for examples of the grammar IRL (In Real Life), and then identify the various uses of each point.

Reading

Teaching students to be active readers can be quite the challenge, but Hangouts can help. First, assign a short silent reading assignment at the beginning of class. You can even post the reading in the Hangout to keep your lesson paperless and eco-friendly.

  1. Vocabulary: As students read, ask them to use the dictionary feature to look up words they don’t know, and have them post those definitions to the hangout. This creates an automatic vocabulary list for you to use for quizzes, homework, review, writing assignments, and other activities. Furthermore, it lowers the students stress levels because they will see that everyone has questions versus only one student being brave enough to ask.
  2. Summaries: Read together as a class, but after every paragraph, have students summarize the paragraph. As a class, students can review the summaries and decide which ones are most accurate. You can then piece the most accurate ones together to create a summary of the whole reading for the class to keep for review or a study guide.
  3. Questions: Good readers ask questions and make connections. When reading in class, you can focus on teaching students about using different types of questions to help them be better independent readers. Focusing on one style of question at a time, you can ask students to create their own questions to discuss the reading in small group. This can range from pre-knowledge and comprehension questions to evaluation and synthesis questions. For example, first, walk students through a set of questions designed around using context clues to help find the meaning of a word. Then, have them do the same with a word from the reading they were unsure of while posting the questions they used to find the meaning in hangouts. This is an effective way to emphasize the benefits of slowing down, asking questions, and realizing you can find the answer without anyone’s help or a dictionary.

GET STARTED WITH HANGOUTS

Signing Up

Google Hangouts is free to use, all you need is a Google account. If you already have a Gmail account, you can use it or create a new account just for use in your classroom. Don’t have a Google account yet? Follow the instructions below.

*All students must also have a Google account to participate in Hangouts chats*

  1. Go to www.google.com
  2. Click “Sign In” on the top right hand side of your web browser:

    Hangouts 1

    Signing in

  3. Click “More Options,” then, “Create an Account”
  4. Enter your desired login information.
  5. You now have a Google account.

Signing On

To access the Google Hangouts app on your web browser, follow the steps below.

  1.  Go to: hangouts.google.com
Hangouts 2

Go to Hangouts

2.  On the left side of the screen, click “New conversation”

Hangouts 3

New Conversation

3.  Select “New group” and enter the Gmail addresses of your students. You can give your group a Name. When you have all the addresses in, click the green check mark.

Hangouts 4

New Group

4.  A chat box will appear on the right side of your screen with all of your participants.

 

Hangouts 5

Chat

5.  Send your first message! Try “Hello, class!”

 

Hangouts 6

Hello Group Controls

Using the App

Now that you have your group set up, there are a few key features to notice. Note the colors on the image below, as their functions are described in detail below.

RED: This icon shows how many people are in the chat. If you click on it, you can see a list of participants. In this list, you can add or remove participants.

BLUE: These are your chat settings. In this menu, you can change your group name, set up notifications*, archive your conversations, and adjust your joining settings. (*If you do not want to receive an alert every time someone posts in the group, uncheck the “Notifications” box.)

BLACK: Live video chat. This calls everyone in the group and uses your webcam or cell phone camera.

PINK: Send pictures or videos to the chat.

GREEN: Emojis! Students love to express themselves with emojis.

Reminders:

  • Set ground rules for your Hangouts groups. Include students in the process of rulemaking, but be sure to include one that defines what is appropriate (example: Do’s and Don’ts for Hangouts)
  • Determine ahead of time how much you will commit to using Hangouts outside of class with students, and make it clear to them. Example: “I will only check Hangouts until 4 pm, and then I will turn off notifications,” or, “I am not available to respond outside of school hours”
  • When using Google Hangouts you will need wi-fi, and we recommend always providing an example of exactly what you want students to do in the app, versus a written or verbal direction
  • Screencasting or projecting Hangouts for the whole class on a larger screen still allows for a main focal point and creates a sense of responsibility for the students to provide good content
  • Be flexible. Technology in the classroom doesn’t always go as planned, so make sure you have backups or alternatives for when this happens.
  • Get creative. Have fun, think outside the box, and enjoy using this free tool in your classroom!

Stay tuned for our next blog for more ways to use Google Hangouts in your classroom!

References:

Alptekin, C. (2002). Towards intercultural communicative competence in ELT. ELT Journal, 56(1), 57-64. doi:10.1093/elt/56.1.5

Brindley, J.E., Walti, C., & Blaschke, L. (2009). Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v10i3.675

Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94. doi:10.1086/228943

Lin, J., Peng, W., Kim, M., Kim, S. Y., & Larose, R. (2012). Social networking and adjustments among international students. New Media & Society, 14(3), 421-440. doi:10.1177/1461444811418627

Lubliner, S. & Grisham, D.L. (2017). Translanguaging: The key to comprehension for Spanish-speaking students and their peers. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Tang, Y. (2006). Beyond Behavior: Goals of Cultural Learning in the Second Language Classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 90(1), 86-99. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2006.00386.x

Twenge, J. M. (2009). Generational changes and their impact in the classroom: teaching Generation Me. Medical Education, 43(5), 398-405. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03310.x

About Kate and Kim 

Kimberly Guppy

Kimberly is an adjunct ESL instructor at Los Angeles City College in Los Angeles, California. She received her M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction (TESOL emphasis) from the University of Kansas in 2015 and began teaching at an IEP in Los Angeles. As a professional, Kimberly is a member of both CATESOL and TESOL, and is the coordinator-elect of the Technology-Enhanced Language Learning Interest Group in CATESOL. She is also developing the new catesol.org website, which is set to launch in Fall 2017.

Kate Lulinski

Kate is the Academic Coordinator for the IEP program at Cal America Education Institute in Koreatown, and recently started teaching ESL for the Los Angeles Community College district.  She can be reached at mskatelu@gmail.com

Kate and Kim

Kate and Kim

Online Cognate Resources for Vocabulary Development

A Guest Post by Patricia Acosta and colleagues

Patricia and her colleagues at Eastern Oregon University compiled this list of online resources for vocabulary development using cognates. Thanks, Patricia, for sharing!

Cognates are words that have the same or similar spelling and meaning in two languages. Teaching cognate awareness is a way to build academic vocabulary and reading comprehension.  By connecting two words in two languages, knowledge of the word and concept in the native language transfers to English.

The following is a list of cognate resources.

Provides a list of English and Portuguese, Italian and French cognates.

Provides a list of English and Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and Romanian cognates.

Provides strategies for teaching cognates, videos, and a list of English and Spanish cognates.

Provides more than 25,000 frequently used English and Spanish, French, and Portuguese cognates.  Provides an Online Dictionary of Cognates, Google Chrome Cognate Highlighter that will automatically highlight cognates, false cognate awareness, information on psycholinguistic aspects of cognates, free materials, and other resources.

Provides a list of English and Spanish cognates that have the same spelling and words that vary slightly in spelling.  In addition, provides a list of false cognates; words with similar spelling but have very different meanings.  Vocabulary flashcards, vocabulary quizzes, spelling quizzes, matching, word order quizzes and multiple choice quizzes are available.

Provides a list of Russian and English cognates.

Provides a video and list of English, Spanish and Arabic cognates.

Provides 1001 English and Spanish Cognates.  List includes words with the same spelling in both English and Spanish and words with similar spelling.

Subject specific English and Spanish cognates from A-Z. Cognates are organized in alphabetical order and by subject; language arts, math science and social studies.

Provides English and Spanish cognates, as well as false cognate awareness. Lists cover common Greek and Latin Roots, common English and Spanish cognates in alphabetical order and cognates for weights and measurements.

Read more about Cognates on Literacy Beat.

Credit: This list of cognate resources was compiled by students from Eastern Oregon University, ED 556 Applied Linguistics, Winter Term 2017 course.

Patricia Acosta is an in-district substitute. She also taught Spanish Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon, and she is a graduate student in the READ Oregon program at Portland State University. Her teaching endorsements include Spanish, ESOL, and library media.

Education Dictionaries and Glossaries

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey 

In August, I published a post with links to discipline-specific glossaries and dictionaries. Because the internet has such a wealth of resources, it is sometimes difficult to find the sites you want or the key words for a search you need. Lists with links can help readers find the resources they need quickly. Continuing the dictionary list tradition, I compiled some general education dictionaries online. The criteria for inclusion are the same as in the discipline-specific post, except that the resource audience includes teachers and parents.

Parents may want to catch up on the words teachers use. Because schools and states purchase materials from different publishers, sometimes differing terms are heard in the faculty lounge or the school board room. The underlying ideas may be the same, but the word to describe that idea could differ from district to district.  Here are some resources to learn more about the words teachers use.

Reading Rockets

Reading Rockets

Language and teaching strategies: Effective teachers use a variety of strategies to guide their students. This glossary from Reading Rockets organizes them by the type of language learning task (phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing). http://www.readingrockets.org/strategies


 

Glossary of Language Education Terms

Wikipedia

English Language Learners: WikiProjects Glossaries provides this resource that includes terms used in teaching English language learners (students whose first language is not English). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_language_education_terms

The United States Department of Education also publishes a useful glossary of terms related to teaching English language learners. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/ell/glossary.html 

 


 

Teachnology glossary

Teach-nology

General Teaching Glossary: General terms that go beyond those used just in language learning environments can be found on the Teach-nology site. http://www.teach-nology.com/glossary/

 


 

Fractus Learning Technology Terms for Teachers

Fractus

Technology in Education: As technology becomes an increasingly useful component for teaching, new terms have made their way into the classroom. Learn some of them on the Fractus Learning blog.    http://www.fractuslearning.com/2013/03/04/technology-terms-for-teachers/

Another useful site with technology terms, but not specifically for educators or parents, is Netlingo.com


 

Understood Disability Important Terms

Understood

Special education: The field of special education has its own set of terms, often derived from policies and laws that govern special education settings.  Look them up on the Understood website.          https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/getting-started/disability-important-terms/terms-you-may-hear-from-educators


What other categories should be added to this link list? Are there other dictionaries or glossaries that you can suggest for any of the categories in this post?

 

Student Oral Language Observation Matrix: Spreadsheet Style

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

A time-tested standby to help teachers understand English learners’ oral language proficiency is the SOLOM or Student Oral Language Observation Matrix. The instrument is not a test, but it is an informative assessment that teachers use to inform instruction. There are many versions in html, Word, and PDF, but an interactive version in Excel (.xls) may prove useful.

SOLOM and Excel

SOLOM is in the public domain, so you may find some variations in the various published versions of the Matrix.   Teachers and teacher educators use the Matrix, developed by the San Jose (California) Bilingual Consortium, for a variety of purposes:

  • It fixes teachers’ attention on language-development goals;

  • It keeps them aware of how their students are progressing in relation to  those goals; and

  • It reminds them to set up oral-language-use situations that allow them to observe the student, as well as provide the students with language-development activities.

    Source: Center for Applied Linguistics

Download SOLOM (Excel)

Download SOLOM (Excel) here.

The Box.net file opens in preview mode; to download, find the upper right ↓ download arrow. Figure 1 shows where to locate the download icon.

SOLOM (Excel)

Figure 1: Download from Preview Mode – SOLOM Excel

What are the advantages of the Excel version of SOLOM?

  1. You can replicate this SOLOM digitally without killing any trees (no paper needed).
  2. You can add sheets for each student to keep all your results in one file.
    • Each sheet is accessed by the tabs at the bottom, left, of the spreadsheet. See figure 2. This template includes three sheets, but you can add more if you need them. Start here to learn how.

      Excel Tabs

      Figure 2: Excel Tabs

    • If you choose to do so, you can calculate results across sheets – a topic for a future post.
  3. The Excel spreadsheet does the calculations for you, an important feature if you have many students’ results to enter.

Want to review some common Excel terms? Navigate here. Maybe you want to dive into Excel vocabulary a bit more deeply? Point your browser here.

SOLOM Practice on YouTube

Several good YouTube videos allow you and your colleagues to practice using SOLOM. Try this one. This Playlist may also be useful.

Excel Geek?

If you happen to be an Excel geek, you can read this paragraph. Otherwise, just skip to the “Sources,” below. Excel is a powerful spreadsheet that harnesses the calculating abilities of the processor on your computer (or in the cloud). This version of SOLOM employs the COUNTA function to actually count the number of entries for each column, the SUM function to add up the column totals, and the VLOOKUP function to assign overall scores to a proficiency level. Shout out to gebobs for helping me find the function I should use instead of the one I was unsuccessfully trying to use!

SOLOM Sources

The best original source for SOLOM I can find is found at http://www.cal.org/ and opens as a PDF.

I adapted SOLOM for Excel from Arch Ford Educational Service Cooperative;  in Word format at SOLOM. (note: I removed the word “even” from cell B8).

Please share your variations and adaptations of SOLOM (Excel) in the comments section. What might you do to improve this tool? How have you used apps other than Excel to improve SOLOM or similar assessments

The Whole-Class Great Debate: A Discussion Strategy for English Language Learners

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey & Dana L. Grisham

A rule of thumb we have come to find helpful in any language learning environment is that the more one uses a language, the more likely it will be that proficiency develops in that language. Of course, effective instruction, useful models, and other resources are all important, as well.  A resource from the Common Core State Standards website suggests that English language learners, among other things, should have:

  • Opportunities for classroom discourse and interaction that are well-designed to enable ELLs to develop communicative strengths in language arts;

  • Ongoing assessment and feedback to guide learning (p. 2).

Recently, we had the opportunity, as part of a delegation to meet with education leaders in China, to observe a class of middle school age students debate a topic as a way of integrating speaking, listening, and presentation tasks at Tiantong Education Group’s teaching center in Shenyang, China All of the students are English language learners.. The teacher called the process “debate” but we have modified this title a bit to differentiate it from other debate protocols to “Whole-class Great Debate.”

2014-10-14 17-39-10

The students had just returned to class after a national holiday, and, as you may be aware, China is grappling with pollution that causes health problems for many citizens (for example, read this news article about pollution in Beijing).  Students were asked to “state up their opinion” as to whether it was a good idea to stay home during the holiday or to go somewhere, such as the beach.

Students sat in rows, two on each side, facing each other. Initially, a student on each side states an opinion that staying home or going out for the holiday is their preferred option.  Each side then adopted one of the two stated positions.  They met in small groups to come up reasons in support of staying home or going away. Next, a student stated the opinion to which the other side responded. Students they returned to their group to determine counterarguments to those they heard. The process began again. A selected student (a volunteer in the class), then summarized the group’s position.

So far, this seems much like a typical classroom debate. However, to keep the students engaged in the discussions and to encourage them to listen to one another, the teacher developed protocols for speaking to the class. Students were encouraged to stand up and speak up taking turns from one side or the other. The spontaneous nature of standing and speaking motivated students to listen so they might speak. However, at times, more than one student from a side might want to speak. They learned to call “I’m, first” but sometimes it was hard to tell who was actually first. To keep everything moving and in control, students could use a version of “rock paper scissors” to decide who would actually speak first. Finally, each side met again to review their opinions and the counterarguments to their opinions, and a final summary speaker was elected.

ELLs at Tiantong Education Center

The teacher did choose a colleague to come in and evaluate the debate and select a winner based on a rubric for developing and stating an opinion, but it was clear that the debate’s main goal was interaction in English requiring students to listen carefully to each side, discuss their opinions and those of the other side, then speak publicly about it.  The teacher recognized the strengths of each team’s presentation. We hope you enjoy watching this video of the Whole-class Great Debate.

IAIE Representatives

Representatives from IAIE include Jin Zhang, Dana Grisham, Thomas DeVere Wolsey, Marc Grisham.

Reference

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2012). Application of Common Core State Standards for English language learners [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/application-for-english-learners.pdf

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.

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.

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