2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Vocabulary Video Contest from the New York Times’ Learning Network

I’ve been exploring Vocab Vids as an engaging, multimodal approach to vocabulary learning.  I’ve seen how students from third to twelfth grade, as well as undergraduate and graduate students,  invest themselves in exploring word meaning, brainstorming skit ideas, and then shooting a video to express the word.

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I was delighted to receive a message last week that led me to the New York Times Learning Network’s blog featuring their Vocabulary Video contest (hurry, the contest ends, Dec. 5!).  In celebration of nearing publication of 1000 words in their word of the day blog, they have invited students from ages 13-10 to create and upload 15 second videos illustrating one of the featured daily words.

Even if you don’t enter the contest, I recommend that you check out the Learning Network’s  post to learn more about vocabulary videos.  They feature several teacher blogs and online references that are likely to be helpful in supporting vocabulary instruction.  I was happy to see that they also featured my Literacy Beat post, Vocab Vids.

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If your students post their vocab vids, please let me know.  I would love to see them and hear about your process.

Preparing Teachers to Teach Writing Using Technology by Kristine E. Pytash, Richard E. Ferdig, Timothy V. Rasinski, et al. , 2013, ETC Press

Thanks to ETC Press and editors Kristine Pytash, Richard Ferdig and Timothy Raskinski, we have a valuable new resource to guide our work integrating technology into writing instruction.

The book is available online and can be downloaded freely at: http://www.etc.cmu.edu/etcpress/content/preparing-teaching-teach-writing-using-technology

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I have copied below the description of the book, followed by the table of contents.  I encourage you to download the book and then sample chapters of interest.   Note that there is also a link to supplemental materials for Rish’s Chapter 1, Beach and O’Brian’s Chapter 5, Collet’s Chapter 8, and McIntyre’s Chapter 10.

As we all know, it is expensive and time consuming to develop, edit, and publish professional books.  I applaud the editors and ETC Press for freely offering this resource.  The work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.   That is, you are free to share the work, with attribution; you may not use it for commercial purposes (to learn more about this level of use, go to  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/

Book description

Technology is changing not only how people write, but also how they learn to write. These profound changes require teachers to reconsider their pedagogical practices in the teaching of writing. This books shares instructional approaches from experienced teacher educators in the areas of writing, teacher education, and technology. Chapters explore teachers personal experiences with writing and writing instruction, effective pedagogical practices in methods writing courses, and professional development opportunities that effectively integrate technology into the writing classroom and contribute to students’ growth as writers and users of technology. While the chapters in this collection are written to inform practice, they are written from a theoretical and empirical base by research-oriented educators in our field. Each chapter provides a research base for a particular instructional approach, a description of their strategy, and examples from instructional settings that highlight how the pedagogical practice advanced the knowledge of the teachers in the areas of writing instruction and technology.  This collected volume provides as up-to-date understanding of how teachers are prepared to teach writing using technology.

Foreword (David Reinking)

 Preservice Teacher Methods Courses

1.  Exploring Multimodal Composing Processes with Pre-Service Teachers (Ryan M. Rish)

2.  Developing Preservice Teachers for 21st Century Teaching: Inquiry, the Multigenre Research (Carol Wickstrom)

3.  No more index cards! No notebooks! Pulling new paradigms through to practice (Nanci Werner-Burke & Dawna Vanderpool)

4.  Exploring Writing with iPads: Instructional Change for Pre-Service Educators (Joan Rhodes)

In-service Teacher Methods Courses

5.  Fostering Student Writing-to-Learn through App Affordances (Richard Beach & David O’Brien)

6.  Virtual worlds, videogames and writing instruction: Exploring games-based writing practices across content areas (Hannah Gerber & Debra Price)

7.  Engaging Teachers in Digital Products and Processes: Interview Feature Articles (Susan D. Martin & Sherry Dismuke)

Working with Teachers in the K-12 Setting

8.  Helping teachers make the shift: Professional development for renovated writing instruction (Vicki S. Collet)

9.  Teaching Long-Term English Learners to Write in Content Areas: The Application of Dynamic and Supportive Instruction (Nancy Akhavan)

10.  Technology and Writing Instruction: Three Cases in a Title I Elementary School (Beverly McIntyre)

Beyond Professional Development

11.  Write, Respond, Repeat: A Model for Teachers’ Professional Writing Groups in a Digital Age (Troy Hicks, Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, Jeremy Hyler, & Amanda Smoker)

12.  Comic life + writing = motivated student writers: Incorporating visual graphics to teach writing (Lynda Valerie & Farough Abed)

Composition Coursework

13.  Errors and expectations in the electronic era (Jesse Kavadlo)

14.  E-feedback focused on students’ discussion to guide collaborative writing in online learning environments (Teresa Guasch, Anna Espasa & Paul A. Kirschner)

15.  Writing with Wikipedia: Building ethos through collaborative academic research (Frances Di Lauro & Angela M. Shetler)

Conclusion

16.  Assessing the impact of technology on preparing teachers to teach writing using technology (Kristine E. Pytash, Richard E. Ferdig, & Timothy V. Rasinski)

Exploring Multimodal Composition and Digital Writing

In addition to the free ETS Press volume on writing and technology, Ferdig and Pytash have also recently published an edited volume, Exploring Multimodal Composition and Digital Writing.

http://www.igi-global.com/book/exploring-multimodal-composition-digital-writing/75468.

As a contributing author, I just received my hard copy of this handbook and am looking forward to exploring the various chapters in depth (and especially the chapters written by my Literacy Beat colleagues Jill Castek and Dana Grisham!).  The book is quite comprehensive and should be an important resource for the field.  Topics include:

  • Collaborative writing tools
  • Digital Assessment
  • Digital Media
  • Information and Communication Technologies
  • Multimodal Writing
  • Online Writing Communities
  • Technology-Facilitated Revision
  • Writing Processes

There is so much to learn about technology, media, and literacy, that I feel rather overwhelmed at times (actually, more times than I care to admit!).  I appreciate the opportunity to learn from the authors represented in these two books, one of which is freely downloadable, and know I will find support for my quest to become a creative and thoughtful multimodal composer and teacher.  I hope you find these books useful to you on your journey and welcome response and comments about your work.    BD

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.

The Literacy Beat Team has Gone Fishing

But we will be back in August!

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Photo source: Ronald Laubenstein, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Public domain)

Students revise their writing by listening to a digital reading of their text via Text-to-Speech tools and the VOKI Avatar

Good writers often read their writing out loud as they are composing and revising.  Sometimes the focus is on checking for meaning and the flow of the language.  Other times the focus is on checking that the sentences are the right length and are appropriately punctuated.  Of course, not everyone is comfortable doing this, and some may get so caught up in reading what they intended to say, that they aren’t able to listen critically and notice what’s not working.  This blog post features 2 tools, a text-to-speech reader that is available in most word processors and VOKI, a free talking head avatar.

Add a text-to-speech tool to your toolbar

Did you know that most computers and word processing programs now have a free text-to-speech tool that you can install on the toolbar?  I use a PC, so I’ll focus on the Microsoft tool that will read aloud written text in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote. You can choose your voice and the rate of speed. You simply highlight a word or section of text and click the speak tool on your toolbar to listen to your text being read aloud.  Granted, TTS tools still have voices that are a bit robot-like.  However, the focus here is not on expressive reading, but rather, listening to catch major editing issues.

Directions for adding TTS to your Quick Access Toolbar can be found online at:

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/using-the-speak-text-to-speech-feature-HA102066711.aspx

Listen and Revise with TTS

There are several ways to use TTS as a revision and editing support.  Of course, depending on the length of the text, you can always listen to the text in its entirety to get an overall sense of how it’s working.  Below are some targeted revision/editing strategies that can make the process more manageable for writers.

Targeted revision and editing with TTS

Paragraph Sense

Highlight a paragraph and then click on the Speak tool in your Word toolbar.

Listen and ask:

  1. Does this paragraph make sense?
  2. Does the lead sentence engage you and/or give you a sense of what the paragraph will be about?

Text Sense

Highlight the opening sentence of each paragraph and listen to hear how the paragraphs are building on one another to create an overall text that meets your genre requirements and writing goals.

Listen and ask:

  1. Do the opening sentences give you a sense of how the text is building to tell a story or present an argument?
  2. Are there some paragraphs that seem to be standing on their own, and aren’t connected to the rest of the text?
  3. Are there big jumps between paragraphs where I need to make a transition?

Run-on sentences and fragments

This is a quick and easy check.  The TTS tool will read along at the same rate, pausing only for punctuation. Run on sentences and fragments without punctuation will sound very strange!

Listen and ask:

  1. Do I have any very long sentences that are hard to understand?
  2. Do I have some sentences that aren’t complete?

Spelling check

Listening to check spelling will only capture misspellings that result in a phonetically different pronunciation. For example, typing ‘happee’ for ‘happy’ will sound okay.  Typing ‘hape’ or ‘hapy’ for ‘happy’ will not!  This process does help writers learn to listen for misspellings, which can be useful.  However, you will want to connect this kind of spelling editing check with the use of the embedded spell checker tool or an online dictionary.

Listen and ask:

  1. Do my words sound right?

VOKI:  Listen to an animated Avatar read your writing to help you review and revise

http://www.voki.com/

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VOKI is a free online tool that even young children can use to create an avatar who will then read the text they have typed in aloud to them.  Clearly, this can be engaging for students, since it allows them to create a reader and watch the reader speak their text.  It only takes a few minutes to customize your avatar. Then, you choose the TTS read aloud option and enter your text.  If the text has been created in a word doc, you can copy and paste it into the text input box. You may preview it, save it, and/or email it.  All of your saved avatars will be available in your ‘my avatars’ space.

A word of caution – there is a 60 second restriction on each Avatar speaking segment on the free VOKI and 90 seconds on the school paid version.  You will be surprised at how much the avatar can read aloud in 60 seconds.  However, if the text is longer than 60 seconds, have students entered in portions (perhaps at the paragraph level or beginning, middle, end, of the text, etc.).

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This screenshot shows that I’ve created my cat avatar and typed in my text so that the avatar will read my text aloud with a TTS voice.

Hear from  students about how VOKI is a fun way to help them with their writing

The VOKI website features videos created by teachers illustrating how they use VOKI in the classroom. Watch this video of Mr. Young’s classroom to learn from his students how they use VOKI to help them review their writing.  One student realizes his text doesn’t make sense, another  decided that he needs more sentences, a third notices that periods are missing, and a fourth hears mispronunciations that some spellings need correction.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/Y9gHpIH9RTA

child typing text for VOKI avatar to read aloud

Please share your strategies for using TTS and Avatars to support your students’ literacy.

Exciting Summer Professional Development Offerings

A post by Jill Castek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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