Meet the Influencer: Peggy Semingson

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Literacy Beat bloggers have long taken inspiration from Peggy Semingson’s dedication to using technology to advance learning. We wondered what she is currently working on professionally for our Influencer series. Her answers follow. 

I was asked to write for Literacy Beat about some of the latest projects and ideas I have been working on as they relate to the intersection of literacy and technology. A few of those ideas are shared here. Comments are most welcome!

Peggy Semingson

Peggy Semingson

What trends do you see having a significant impact in the coming 5 years in the space where technology and literacy meet?

There are two ideas I will briefly share: Open educational resources and self-directed teacher professional development via social media (e.g., Twitter).

Lately, I’ve been hanging out with librarians and attending library-focused presentations and events. Librarians are truly on the cutting-edge of the future and are in tune with trends like the changing nature of information and literacy access. One of the main topics of focus among librarians and those in the broader education community has been the concept of open educational resources, or OER.

Generally, OERs are text-based and multimodal resources freely available on the Internet. They are intentionally made and created to broadly share knowledge and information with the goal that others can remix and/or reuse the content to meet their needs. MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses that are offered free of charge), such as those offered by edX, are steadily used by educators and others to participate in open learning and connected with others online. Teachers are providing MOOCs in more grassroots ways, for instance, through Canvas.

OERs, including free courses such as MOOCs, are increasing access to learning and are of importance in underserved areas like third world countries and for those who just need or want to learn a skill or acquire knowledge outside of formal schooling.

What is exciting is these open and freely available resources are gradually replacing expensive textbooks. I’m a firm believer that learning materials should be mostly current and with digital and open resources, they can be more readily updated. I have personally contributed to the OER space also in terms of my YouTube channel which has almost a million minutes of viewings! The most popular video is on the topic of phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics. I think this topic is confusing to a lot of people, globally, so I’m glad I can help add some clarity there! I also share micro-podcasts on literacy topics in my podcast channel on SoundCloud.

One of my goals is to revamp my professional website, Virtual Gadfly, to focus more on sharing concrete tools for K-12 teachers. Future plans include expanding my YouTube channel to include videos on other complex ideas in literacy, such as dyslexia and other high-interest topics.

Also of interest are creating more of what I call dialogue videos, where I am informally talking with another educator about a specific topic in an unscripted way. I have done some dialogue videos with my colleague Dr. Jodi Tommerdahl and she brings her background in neuroscience and linguistics into our conversations on literacy topics of mutual interest. These videos are then also incorporated into my literacy teacher education courses and they are freely available online.

Beginning Reading: Dialogue with Dr. Peggy Semingson and Dr. Jodi Tommerdahl

Another idea I am seeing is the whole idea of teacher professional development as incretamixes_twitterasingly decentralized away from formal training led by schools, districts, or outside vendors. Increasingly teachers are taking learning into their own hands via social media (e.g., Twitter), digital platforms, and mobile learning (m-learning).

We are all seeing and participating in self-directed learning, or what I call “DIY PD” (do-it-yourself PD) such as scheduled Twitter chats, hashtag learning and awareness (e.g., #weneeddiversebooks), crowdsourced resources, and direct teacher-to-teacher supports. This is part of a broader trend of decentralized learning across multiple social media platforms. I appreciate the grassroots nature of these types of digital learning activities that teachers can participate in. The dialogue taking place on Literacy Beat is another example of educators engaged in “DIY PD” and learning. I would like to do empirical research in this area of self-directed teacher professional development soon. Recently, I wrote a column about the use of Twitter in learning about young adult authors recently in The ALAN Review.

What significant event in your life changed the focus of your work?

Teaching online, starting in 2008, made a huge impact on the focus of my practice and research. At first, I was a complete “deer-in-the-headlights” about teaching online and really didn’t know what to do or what my role was as an instructor. Most people need an overarching framework to guide their thinking about teaching online.

Related to digital teaching and learning, I learned about the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework from a former professor I still keep in touch with, Dave Caverly at Texas State University, San Marcos (in Texas). Learning about the Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007) changed my whole approach to digital teaching and learning as a teacher educator!

The focus of COI is three-fold (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). First, there is the teacher presence and role in the course. Second, there is an intentional fostering a sense of trust and social presence in the course. Third, the teacher actively facilitates a cognitive presence, or an inquiry and problem-solving approach in the course.

It has worked quite well as a foundation and framework for my own teaching. I also create a lot of my own materials, mostly multi-modal. I have been well supported in my ongoing learning in digital teaching and learning by the Center for Distance Education at The University of Texas at Arlington.

What research are you currently working on related to literacy and technology?

I’m working with a small team of colleagues to analyze how a major literacy organization exchanges ideas in networked ways through Twitter. We are incorporating data analytics (“big data” approaches to research) as well social network analysis (SNA) of the publicly posted Tweets from a major conference. We are using mostly computational tools to look at the data.

It’s really fascinating! This ties to my earlier point about teachers seeking to enhance their own learning spaces and backchannels outside of more traditionally sanctioned (e.g., school district or formal schooling) contexts. I’m really interested in how teacher knowledge production about literacy works in self-directed professional development digital spaces like Twitter, blogs, and other online forums. I believe that literacy organizations and publishers will play a big part in helping to facilitate such “backchannel dialogue” related to professional learning about literacy. Stay tuned for more on this soon!

I am affiliated with a small group of colleagues (“Obnoxious Academic Consortium”) in literacy. We want to advance thinking in our field about multimodality in literacy and academia. We want to also advance the idea that there are other venues besides traditional print journals to network and exchange ideas. The blog for this group is here.

Reference

Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet & Higher Education, 10(3), 157-172.

Meet Peggy:

Dr. Peggy Semingson is an associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Arlington where she teaches online courses in Literacy Studies. Dr. Semingson has experience as a classroom teacher and reading specialist in both Southern California and Texas. Her research interests include social contexts of literacy learning, digital pedagogies, and online literacy teacher education. She has published in Teachers College Record, Language Arts, and Research in the Teaching of English. She was awarded the Jeanne S. Chall Research Grant from Harvard University in 2009–2010. She is on Twitter: @PeggySemingson. Her blog is: http://virtualgadfly.com

Contact Peggy at peggys@uta.edu

Peggy and Dexter

Peggy and Dexter

Connecting Multicultural Education and Multiliteracies

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

During the last year, Dr. Diane Lapp and I had the opportunity to work with several prominent thought-leaders to explore how multiple literacies and multicultural education intersect and promote greater learning and understanding amongst our students. The result, under the guidance of Dana Grisham, was a themed issue of Reading and Writing Quarterly that was just released online. In the introduction, Diane and I wrote, “Digital technology, whose users comprise ever-changing communities, permits previously disconnected worlds to find commonalities and explore differences. Technology has the potential to connect students and educators across cultures, and, at the same time, make it possible for students to participate more fully in their own cultures” (Wolsey & Lapp, 2015, p. 97).

cover of Reading & Writing Quarterly  journal

The six articles in the current special issue of Reading and Writing Quarterly each address topics that demonstrate how technology can facilitate learning, build students’ understanding of their culture, and construct bridges across and to other cultures. The table of contents may be found below. Please take a few minutes to visit the special issue on the Taylor and Francis website (preview and abstracts) or through your university electronic library resources.
• Imagining Writing Futures: Photography, Writing, and Technology by Cheryl A. McLean & Jennifer Rowsell

• Fostering Students’ Science Inquiry Through App Affordances of Multimodality, Collaboration, Interactivity, and Connectivity by Richard Beach & David O’Brien

• iPad Deployment in a Diverse Urban High School: A Formative Experiment by Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher & Diane Lapp

• The Council of Youth Research: Critical Literacy and Civic Agency in the Digital Age by Antero Garcia, Nicole Mirra, Ernest Morrell, Antonio Martinez & D’Artagnan Scorza

• Multicultural Education and Multiliteracies: Exploration and Exposure of Literacy Practices With Preservice Teachers by W. Ian O’Byrne & Shane A. Smith

• A Digital Tool Grows (and Keeps Growing) From the Work of a Community of Writers by Nancy L. Roser, Melissa Mosley Wetzel, Ramón Antonio Martínez & Detra Price-Dennis

Reference:
Wolsey, T.D. & Lapp, D. (2015). Introduction to teachers and students as creators in blended learning environments. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 31(2), 97-101. doi: 10.1080/10573569.2014.963906

Literacy Instruction in a Brave New World: A themed issue from Kappan

Phi Delta Kappan has just published a themed issue on “Literacy Instruction in a Brave New World” (November, 2014, volume 96, No. 3). For a short time period, you may view and download all of the articles online, for free.

http://pdk.sagepub.com/content/current

magazine cover shows child reading on a tablet

Literacy Instruction in a Brave New World

As literacy and technology expert Mike McKenna states in the opening to his article,

“Technology integration into language arts instruction has been slow and tentative, even as information technologies have evolved with frightening speed. Today’s teachers need to be aware of several extant and unchanging realities: Technology is now indispensable to literacy development; reading with technology requires new skills and strategies; technology can support struggling students; technology can transform writing; technology offers a means of motivating students; and waiting for research is a losing strategy.”

We have a lot to learn, a lot to accomplish, and we need to pick up the pace! I found this issue both practically valuable and thought provoking.

Please go to the Kappan website http://pdk.sagepub.com/ and search for the current November 2014 issue, or click on  http://pdk.sagepub.com/content/current to go directly to the table of contents. I’ve listed the table of contents below (note that Jill has a piece on online inquiry and I have a piece on eText and eBooks). Enjoy!

Literacy Instruction in a Brave New World – Table of Contents

Michael C. McKenna, Literacy instruction in the brave new world of technology

Joan Richardson, Maryanne Wolf: Balance technology and deep reading to create biliterate children

Christopher Harris, Fact or fiction? Libraries can thrive in the Digital Age

Samina Hadi-Tabassum, Can computers make the grade in writing exams?

Melody Zoch, Brooke Langston-DeMott, and Melissa Adams-Budde, Creating digital authors

Bridget Dalton, E-text and e-books are changing literacy landscape

Diane Carver Sekeres, Julie Coiro, Jill Castek, and Lizabeth A. Guzniczak. Wondering + online inquiry = learning

Gail Lynn Goldberg, One thousand words, plus a few more, is just right

Kristin Conradi, Tapping technology’s potential to motivate readers

Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning

Book  cover of Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning

When friends write a book, of course, you’re excited for them and can’t wait to read it.  What’s even more wonderful is when you read the book and it’s terrific – one that you know you will use in your own teaching. Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning by Colin Harrison and fellow Literacy Beat bloggers Bernadette Dwyer and Jill Castek is just such a book.

I found this book to be exceptionally useful for many reasons, but I will highlight just two of those reasons here.

First, Colin, Bernadette, and Jill are not only experts in technology and new media; they are first and foremost experts in literacy instruction. They have taught children how to become engaged and successful readers and writers, and they have taught and collaborated with teachers on effective literacy instruction and technology over many years. Their deep knowledge and on-the-ground experiences with children and teachers is demonstrated in every chapter. They speak directly to teachers, acknowledging the realities of today’s schools and the pressure to achieve high academic standards with all students, while offering a vision and concrete classroom examples to inspire us to embrace the challenge.

Second, this book provides a comprehensive blueprint for integrating technology so that children are more successful with print-based reading and writing AND are developing the new literacies of reading, learning, and communicating with eBooks and on the Internet. Bernadette, Jill and Colin complement a chapter on reading eBooks and digital text with two chapters on Internet inquiry – one focusing on the search process and the other focusing on how to compose and communicate through multimodal products. These are areas where we need to make tremendous progress if we are going to prepare our students for a future world that will be more multimodal, more networked, and more dependent on individuals who are creative, strategic, and collaborative.

I’ve copied the table of contents below. You will see that this book offers teachers multiple pathways for moving forward on their own journeys of technology and literacy integration. Enjoy (I know I will)!

Table of Contents

  1. Using technology to make the teaching of literacy more exciting
  2. Strategies for capitalizing on what students already know
  3. Strategies for using digital tools to support literacy development
  4. Strategies for using eReaders and digital books to expand the reading experience
  5. Strategies for teaching the information-seeking cycle: The process stage of searching for information on the Internet
  6. Strategies for teaching the information-seeking cycle: The product stage of searching for information on the Internet
  7. Strategies for encouraging peer collaboration and cooperative learning
  8. Strategies for building communities of writers
  9. Strategies for building teachers’ capacity to make the most of new technologies

Talking Drawings

by Rebekah Lonon with Karen Wood and Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This is the third in a three-part series exploring conversation and collaboration opportunities using digital tools. Rebekah Lonon describes how she uses “talking drawings” to promote academic discussions in her classes and explains how she uses the Educreations digital tool with her students.

My second-grade students enjoy using the talking drawings strategy regularly in all content areas. I always begin by having the class close their eyes and imagine a mental image of a word or concept. Once they open their eyes, they immediately draw the image they made in their minds. This gives me great insight into their prior knowledge of the topic, and it helps me tailor my instruction for the coming unit. I recently used this strategy to introduce a unit about properties of matter, and I learned that my students associated the word “matter” with something being wrong (“What’s the matter?”). I knew then how my unit needed to be planned.

When it is available for our use, I like to incorporate a digital tool. In this case, I used www.educreations.com because it provides an online venue for creating related drawings. Educreations is also available as an app for mobile devices. After their initial drawings, students independently read a passage, entitled “Why Does Matter Matter?” by Kelly Hashway (n.d.) from the website http://www.superteacherworksheets.com about the states of matter and then they discussed their drawings and thoughts with a partner. Next, they returned to Educreations to create a new drawing, based on their new knowledge. If technology is scarce, students can create their drawings in pairs or small groups, using paper with Crayons or markers. To reflect on what they learn and, as a means of integrating writing with the reading and drawing process, I always ask them to compare their original  and after reading drawing. In this instance, one partner group exclaimed aloud, “Matter DOES matter!” as they drew examples of each state of matter. Another partner group continued their reflection process as they wrote in their journals.  Seeing their developing knowledge when using this strategy is an effective assessment tool for me.

View the video to hear Rebekah explain talking drawings using Educreations.

Bibliography: 

Hashway, K. (n.d.). Why does matter matter? [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/matter/matter-article_WMTBN.pdf

McConnell, S. (1992/3). Talking drawings: A strategy for assisting learners. Journal of Reading, 36(4), 260-269.

Wolsey, T.D., Wood, K., & Lapp, D. (in press). Conversation, collaboration, and the Common Core: Strategies for learning together. IRA e-ssentials series: What’s New?Newark, DE :International Reading Association.

Wood, K. D., & Taylor, D. B. (2006). Literacy strategies across the subject areas. (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

About the contributors:

Rebekah Lonon teaches 2nd-grade for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina

Karen Wood is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

 

Apps a Plenty, Apps Galore! Starting on an iPad App Adventure

I’m on the literacy faculty at the University of Colorado-Boulder.  Although I try to integrate technology into my teaching in thoughtful and creative ways, I don’t always succeed.  Typically, it’s due to lack of time, or the right hardware or software access, or the right know-how!  This month, the School of Education received a generous gift of 30 iPads to use in our Literacy Classroom.  My immediate reaction:  What a fabulous opportunity to explore how the undergraduate reading methods class and I will use this gift over the remainder of the semester.  So, in that spirit, my next few posts will focus on how it’s going, what I’m learning, and what I wish I never had to learn!

A General Web Resource on Teaching with iPads

Way back when (yes, all the way back to the 1990’s), I used to consult Kathy Schrock’s website when I had a technology question.  I was delighted to find that she has a special website dedicated to all things iPad related!  Whether you’re a beginner or novice user of iPads, there are things to learn from Kathy and the many educators who contribute resources and teaching strategies to this site.

http://www.ipads4teaching.net/

screenshot of Kathy Schrock's website on teaching with iPads

iPad Posts from Dana Grisham

And, for those of you working with young children, visit the recent posts from Dana Grisham about developing emergent literacy with iPad apps.

  • Recommended pre-school apps for literacy learning

https://literacybeat.com/2014/02/27/recommended-preschool-apps-for-literacy-learning/

  •  Goodnight, iPad!

https://literacybeat.com/2013/09/18/goodnight-ipad/

Essential Apps for our CU- Boulder Literacy Classroom

As soon as we got word that we were going to be receiving the iPads, I immediately began to think about “essential apps”.  Our budget was limited, so I knew I needed to be strategic in what we purchased (in a later post I’ll focus on free apps).

#1:  A Drawing App

To begin, I knew I wanted a drawing program to support multimodal composition. I knew that we would be able to use it for responding to literature with color, drawing, photos, and images remixes, as well as creating illustrations for the students’ original picture books and trying out the  ‘sketch to stretch’ reading comprehension strategy. I also wanted the drawing program to be one that could be used in elementary schools, since my goal was that the CU future teachers would first compose with the drawing tool themselves, and then apply it to teaching children.  After reviewing multiple programs and getting advice from teachers in our masters’ program, I selected Drawing Pad ($1.99).   It’s simple and intuitive, yet allows you to create some pretty amazing images fairly quickly!

Drawing Pad ($1.99)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/drawing-pad/id358207332?mt=8

Drawing Pad App logo

screenshot of Drawing Pad tools

#2:  A Book Creator App

My  second priority was to purchase Book Creator, another composing App that packs a lot of communication potential into a simple, yet powerful tool.   I knew my good friend and colleague, Debby Rowe from Vanderbilt University, was successfully using Book Creator with pre-school and kindergarten children.  Further, some Colorado elementary school teachers in our masters program tried it out in their classrooms last semester and gave it a favorable rating.  Based on these positive reviews and my own experimentation with a free version, I decided that Book Creator would be a good match for our needs.   It was more expensive — $4.99 – but it seemed worth it not to experience glitches that sometimes occur with a free version.

Book Creator ($4.99)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/book-creator-for-ipad/id442378070?mt=8

Book Creator logo

screen shot of Book Creator composing tool

Taking That First Step

So, with 30 iPads and two essential Apps, I am ready to begin the adventure of Ipad and App integration into my reading methods course.  I’ll let you know how it’s going next month.  I should warn you that I am a PC person.  I love my Apple smart phone, but am not nearly as fluent working on a MAC or an IPad as I am on a PC.  So, the learning curve will be steep and I’m feeling some anxiety about the process.  Ready, set, go!

If you have advice, suggested Apps, please post a response.  I thank you in advance,  Bridget.

Literacy Research Association Conference 2013

All five authors of this blog on literacy attended the Literacy Research Association’s 63rd Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas this past week. All of us are long time members of LRA, with my attendance dating back to 1992. This year’s conference theme was Transformative Literacy: Theory, Research, and Reform, a theme to which the five of us can really relate.

In our posts over the past three years, we have discussed many of these issues and contributed what we can to the discussion. The conference offered a broad spectrum of literacy research–from more traditional elements to the latest thinking in technology applications for literacy. The conference was amazing–the Omni Hotel is new, clean, elegant, and most important–FRIENDLY. There were numerous instances of kindness and care from the staff of the hotel that touched us–particularly as we all became somewhat “housebound” by the freezing weather front that swept down from the arctic.

When most of us arrived on Tuesday, December 3, the weather was a balmy 79 degrees Fahrenheit, but by Thursday, the temperature never rose higher than 27 degrees and by Friday, the high was 23 degrees with winds that exacerbated the cold. It was ironic to look out at the heaters on the outside patios and see icicles!  Contrast these two views  a view from the hotel. The first is Wednesday and a similar view on Thursday. Brrrr!

photo(1)

photo(2)

Inside, it was another story. This conference was put together with wonderful sessions–thanks to all the Area Chairs and Reviewers who selected the sessions and to all the presenters for their literacy research!

A highlight of the conference included a Presidential speech by Rick Beach of the University of Minnesota on the possibilities and affordances of online literacies. In addition, the speech was broadcast live to YouTube and links were provided during the speech so the audience could follow along. http://tinyurl.com/pgnbp2u Log in an take a look at a very valuable resource for online and multimodal composing! If you want to try Google Hangouts, go to Ian O’Byrne’s test flight at https://plus.google.com/u/0/111576401886299659895/posts/aKsxDawviHA?cfem=1 

The President’s Reception was held on Wednesday evening and the Literacy Beat bloggers were there. In addition, many of the people who work hard to make the conference a success, such as Board members and committee chairs were in attendance. Ian O’Byrne and Greg McVery, both essential to the new technologies for communication at LRA and Andrea Boling (Chair of the Technology Committee and e-Editor at LRA) at the President’s Reception on Wednesday evening.

kThree Tech

The next picture is of the five of us–Literacy Beat authors:  from the right, is Bernadette Dwyers, Bridget Dalton, Jill Castek, DeVere Wolsey, and yours truly. We always treasure the opportunities to interact in the same space and time (as we mostly always communicate from afar) and this conference was no exception. It should be noted that Bernadette is on the Board of the International Reading Association and that DeVere is the incoming LRA Publications Committee Chair. photo(4)

We all made presentations at the conference, caught up with our colleagues, and participated in various interests group throughout the conference.

Because of the freezing conditions, getting out of Dallas was somewhat challenging. One group of colleagues from Vanderbilt University, their flights cancelled, rented a car and drove home–a trip of 12 hours! Almost everyone experienced a delay, a cancellation, or a complete disaster. One colleague went to the airport in the middle of the night, put herself on the standby list and waiting almost 12 hours, eventually making it home.

For those of our readers who attend conferences, we’d like to encourage you to attend next year, if possible–on Marco Island in Florida, December 3-6, 2014. Hope we won’t have snow and hope to see you there!

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