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!

boy-fishing-at-portage_w483_h725

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/

Image

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.).

Image

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!

Power Up What Works!

I want to share an excellent resource to support technology integration, the Center for Technology Implementation’s Power Up What Works website (http://powerupwhatworks.com).  With funding from the US Department of Education, EDC, AIR, and CAST have partnered on this project to develop a comprehensive set of online resources for using technology to support literacy and math (of course, I have focused my attention on the literacy materials!).

What makes Power Up unique is its special attention to the needs of students who struggle with learning, including students with special needs.    As a member of the Power Up Advisory Board, I’ve had the opportunity to see the resource evolve and want to share a few of my favorite features.

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Power Up with Technology Blog

Stay connected and get up-to-date information and teaching ideas through the Power Up with Technology blog.   The April 17 blog post caught my eye, since it was about “create your own interactives”, something that I find key to my own teaching. It highlighted three resources that offer lots of potential:

Did you notice that the blogger noted whether the resource was free and/or fee-based?  I find this incredibly helpful, since like most teachers, I have limited funds and want to take advantage of the high-quality free resources that are available online.

You can find the blog on facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/PowerUp-What-Works/127625650650645?group_id=0

The Learning Center

http://powerupwhatworks.com/content/render/LearningCenter

The Learning Center has a wealth of information and resources to explore. Since literacy is my thing, I’ve spent most of my time in the Reading and Writing sections.  In Reading, the focus is on comprehension and vocabulary, while the Writing section focuses on supporting the writing process, from idea generation to publication.  Throughout, you’ll notice the links to the Common Core State Standards.  You can get information at the level and type that is useful to you. For example, each of the Reading sections includes an overview of the strategy (e.g., self-questioning, summarizing, visualizing, context clues, s semantic mapping and word analysis), a description of how to teach the strategy, an extended classroom example, a list of resources, research, and tech tips.

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PowerUp Your School

Teachers are the ones leading the way on integrating technology into their teaching and their students’ learning.  While teachers are ‘making it happen’, sometimes one classroom at a time, we know that more is usually required to sustain effective technology integration over the long term.  If your school is interested in developing a school-wide plan for integrating technology, Power Up offers a range of resources to support you in developing a school-wide plan and building a team that will work together to support one another in making technology a meaningful part of children’s learning.

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I know the Power Up team is eager for feedback, so let them know what you find especially helpful and share suggestions for improvement.

Generative Technology for Teacher Candidates: The Assignment

Generative Technology for Teacher Candidates:  The Assignment

Dana L. Grisham

My friend and colleague, Linda Smetana, and I have been working together since about 2004. She’s a full professor at CSU East Bay (Hayward, CA), from which I retired in 2010. Linda is one of those extraordinary scholars and teacher educators who stays close to her field—she teaches one day per week in a Resource classroom in the West Contra Costa Unified School District—and also works full time at the university, where she specializes in literacy teacher education in both special and general education. Recently, Linda and I have been investigating the intersections of literacy and technology in teacher preparation together and I’d like to share with you a project we just completed and the results of which are going to be published in a book edited by Rich Ferdig and Kristine Pytash, due out later in 2013.

Our belief is that “generative” technology needs to be infused into teacher preparation. Technology in teacher preparation tends to be “silo-ed” in the programs where we teach. Currently, candidates at our university have one technology course, based on the ISTE standards, but bearing relatively little on pedagogy for teaching. By generative technology, we mean that the technology is embedded in the content of the course in teaching methods, rather than something “added on.”

The basic framework that we used for the assignment was the TPACK model (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) that has appeared in this blog before:

TPACK

The TPACK model asks the teacher to look at the content of the lesson, or what we want students to learn, as well as the pedagogy (how best to teach this content), and then at the technological knowledge that might be advanced in the lesson. Where the three elements intersect is known as TPACK or the theoretical foundation and link between technology and praxis. In our courses, we have presented TPACK as the goal for integrating meaningful technology into lesson planning and teaching.

The participants in our recent study consisted of 21 teacher candidates in the fifth quarter of a seven-quarter post-baccalaureate teacher preparation program; 17 of these candidates were simultaneously completing their masters degree in education while 18 of the 21 participants were earning their education specialist and multiple subject (elementary) credentials.

In creating the assignment, we carefully considered the context for teaching of the candidates in the course, structuring the assignment so that all candidates could successfully complete it. Candidates had different levels of access to student populations. Accessibility ranged from 30 minutes a day three days a week, to the full instructional day five days a week.  Teacher candidates also taught different subjects among them: English, History, Writing, Reading, Language Arts, Study Skills, and Social Skills. To insure that teacher candidates considered all aspects of their assignment in their write-ups of the project, Linda provided guidelines for the reflection. Students were responsible for learning to use the tools they chose. Linda collected and we jointly analyzed the data. Findings from the research were uniformly positive. In fact, right now Linda is doing post-research interviews with a couple of the candidates who have really taken to the integration of technology into their teaching.

For the purposes of this post, I would like to share the assignment with you. In my next post I plan to share a couple of the projects. Teacher candidates were provided with guidelines for the technology assignment and provided with a list of potential tools that they might use for the assignment. They learned the TPACK model for planning. Below is the technology assignment from Linda’s syllabus and the list of technology tools (free or very inexpensive) provided for students to investigate. We offer this with complete permission for other teacher educators to use or modify for use in their courses.

The Generative Technology Assignment

The Common Core Standards mandate the use of technology for instruction, student work, and student response.  Students with special needs, especially those with mild moderate disabilities may not have access to technology or their access may be limited to hardware and software that may not be useful to support the learning process.

During the second month of the class, we will have three independent learning sessions.  These sessions are intended to enable you to complete the technology assignment.  This assignment focuses on integrating technology with academic skill development, core content with teacher and student creativity. The focus should be on an aspect of literacy or multiple literacies.

In this assignment you will use technology to develop a set of learning sequences for use with your students.  You may complete this assignment in groups of no more than two individuals one of the technology tools in the syllabus or one that you locate on your own.  If completed in pairs, the finished product must demonstrate increased complexity and include the work of students in both individuals’ classrooms.

Your technology assignment should enhance the learning of your students.  Prepare an introduction to the presentation to educate your viewer.  Think about the content of the presentation, reason for the your selection this medium and/or process.  Share how your presentation meets the needs of your students and reflects their knowledge. The assignment must incorporate student work.  Identify how the students participated in the development and creation of the assignment. 

Prepare a thoughtful reflection of your thoughts on the process and the final product including the preparation, implementation and evaluation of the product and the management of students and content. This reflection should be descriptive and include specific examples. It may be submitted as a word document.

Place your project on a flash drive that may be placed into the classroom computer for projection.  Use your student work of materials from the web, interviews, u-tube and anything else that will capture students’ attention. 

Technology Web Resources Provided to Teacher Candidates

VoiceThread http://www.voicethread.com.

Animoto http://www.animoto.com/education

ComicCreator http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/comic/index.html

Edmodo http://www.edmodo.com

Glogster http://www.glogster.com

Prezi http://www.prezi.com

Popplet http://popplet.com

Slidepoint http://www.slidepoint.net

Storybird http://storybird.com

Strip Designer http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/strip-designer/id314780738?mt=8

(iPad app)

Stripcreator http://stripcreator.com

Screencast http://screencast.com

Screencast-o-matic  http://screencast-o-matic.com

Cool Tools for Schools http://wwwcooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/Presentations+Tools

Toontastic http://launchpadtoys.com/toontastic/

In addition to the assignment, teacher candidates were provided with guidelines for reflection, seen below.

Questions to Guide Reflection

What and how did students learn? Include both intentional and unintentional lessons.
What did you learn?
What would you do differently if you were to do this project again?
What were the greatest successes of this project?
How would you improve this project?
What advice would you give a teacher contemplating a similar project?
What kinds of questions did students ask?
Where were students most often confused?
How did you address the needs of different learners in this project?
What resources were most helpful as you planned and implemented this project?

To scaffold teacher candidates application of technology to lesson planning for the project, each one provided Linda with a proposal to which she gave feedback. Each proposal contained the following components: Context, Students, Standards (literacy and NETS•S standards), Technology, Process, and Product.

Every student completed the assignment successfully and their reflections are highly interesting….more to come! In my next post, I will share with you some of the amazing projects that Linda’s teacher candidates produced.

References

Grisham, D. L. & Smetana, L. (in press). Multimodal composition for teacher candidates: Models for K-12 writing instruction. In R. Ferdig & K. Pytash (Eds.). Exploring Multimodal Composition and Digital Writing. Hershey, PA: I-G-I Global.

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technologiical Pedagogical Centent Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108, 6, 1017-1054.

Literacy and Technology Special Issue from Research in the Schools

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

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

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

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

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

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Gone Fishing…Back in August

photo of fisherman casting at foot of falls

The Literacy Beat team is taking a summer break. We’ll be back posting the first week of August.
Happy summer days,
Bernadette, Dana, DeVere, Jill and Bridget

Thomas DeVere Wolsey Joins the Literacy Beat Team

Jill, Dana, Bernadette and I are absolutely delighted that Thomas DeVere Wolsey (DeVere to his friends) has joined the Literacy Beat team.  Check out his May 17 post, “Draw Me a Story; Write Me a Picture”, as well as his earlier guest post on April 6, “Personal Learning Environments; Making Sense and Keeping it All Under Control”.  Great stuff!

Oh, and did I mention that DeVere and Dana have a new book,   “Transforming Writing Instruction in the Digital Age: Techniques for Grades 5-12”?  It’s an excellent resource for literacy teachers interested in integrating technology and media into their writing instruction.

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