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

Exchange Compare Writing

By Jolene Graham with Karen Wood and Thomas DeVere Wolsey

The next three posts on LiteracyBeat explore possibilities for promoting discussion, often with technology embedded. Teachers have long known of the value of discussion in the classroom, but the Common Core State Standards also emphasize these skills in the anchor standards for collaboration and presentation. Please open the Common Core Standards that Address Conversation and Collaboration PDF to see these arrayed on a chart.

This week’s post was written by Jolene Graham describing the Exchange Compare Writing instructional approach which encourages students to have meaningful discussions. In the video, below, she describes how she uses digital technologies to enhance the activity. The strategy occurs in four steps.

Preparation Phase

  • Determine 6-8 significant terms to emphasize
  • Pre-assign students to heterogeneous groups of four or five.

Pre-reading Stage

  • Display, pronounce terms.
  • Groups use terms to compose a paragraph representing their predictions of the story they are about to read.  All terms must be used.
  • Teacher assists, circulates, and monitors participation.
  • Students polish compositions in peer-editing groups (Optional)
  • Groups share completed compositions orally.

Reading Stage

  • Students read passage focusing on significant terms.

Post-reading Stage

  • Students discuss terms as used in the selection.
  • Groups/class compose second passage reflecting selection content

Jolene describes a lesson that uses exchange compare writing:

I recently used exchange compare writing in my fourth-grade classroom as we read the book So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting (1998).  To prepare for my lesson I first read the book and chose key vocabulary that would help the children write a communal, predictive passage.  These preselected terms were reviewed as a class to solidify the meaning of each term. Terms were defined by providing a picture or by using the word in a sentence.  As a class we reviewed what was meant by working collaboratively, and we discussed the importance of both listening and speaking to other group members.  The students were divided into heterogeneous groups and invited to collaboratively write a paragraph that predicted what the story was going to be about.  I used this communal writing time to walk around the room and listen to suggestions, ask questions, and promote collaboration. It was a perfect way to assess the learning that was occurring.

After the groups wrote their collaborative predictions, we read the story, listening carefully for each of the key vocabulary words.  To make sure my students were actively listening I asked them to raise their hands when they heard one of the words we used in our predictive passage.  After the reading we discussed how our predictions compared with what actually happened in the story.  The students then were asked to go back into their same groups and collaboratively write a summary of the story, using the key terms correctly.

Below, you will see a list of vocabulary terms, one predicted response and one response after reading that student groups might create.

Key Concepts/Phrases:

So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting

Grave Manzanar War Relocation Center Japan
Guard towers Monument Boat
Neckerchief Silk flowers Attack
Barracks Cub Scout uniform Origami birds

Predicted passage (A passage the teacher wrote as a model for students using the terms selected, above).

Japan attacked America so we sent the Japanese-American people to the Manzanar War Relocation Center.  There were guard towers to make sure the people couldn’t leave and barracks for the people to sleep in.  The relocation center was far from the sea and if you looked really hard you could see boats.    People didn’t have a lot to do so they spent time making origami birds and silk flowers.  Some people died and a graveyard was made.  When the war was over I was so excited I decided to wear my scout uniform and neckerchief.  Today there is a monument there for all of the people who were sent to that camp. 

Student response after reading the passage

Laura and her family were traveling to Manzanar War Relocation Center to visit the grave of her grandfather.  This will be the last time they are visiting since they will be moving from California to Massachusetts.  Laura’s father tells what the camp used to look like with guard towers, barbed wire fences, barracks, a hospital, churches and a school.  All Japanese-Americans were sent to live there because Japan attacked the United States.  

Laura’s grandfather was a tuna fisherman.  He owned his own boat and loved the sea. When the Americans came to take them to the relocation camp, Laura’s father wore his Cub Scout uniform so the guards would know he was a true American.   

Laura’s family brought silk flowers to place at her grandfather’s grave.  There is a memorial to mark the graves of those who died in the camp.  People have left offerings such as rice cakes, origami birds, and bits of colored glass.  Laura brought her own neckerchief from her scout uniform to place as an offering because her grandfather was a “true American”.

As the groups shared it is again so obvious who has really comprehended and gained understanding of the initially identified terms. Like many collaborative strategies, communal writing provides wonderful opportunities to formatively assess your students.

Listen to Jolene describe how she uses Exchange Compare Writing using Google Docs:

Bibliography: 

Bunting, E. (1998). So far from the sea. New York, NY: Clarion Books.

Wood, K. D., Stover, K. & Taylor, D.B. (in press) Smuggling writing across grades K-5: Standards-based instruction for the 21st Century Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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.

About the contributors:

Jolene Graham teaches 4th-grade for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina

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

 

Literacy Beat goes to IRA (Friday)

Most of the Literacy Beat Team will be in New Orleans at the International Reading Association (IRA) this weekend. We have created a series of short posts with links to online resources about our activities there. Each day of the conference, you will find our content shared here for you.

On Friday, Jill and DeVere will be at the Writing Moments Institute organized by Kathy Ganske.

Jill presented on the topic: Using Reading, Talking, Writing, and Digital Tools to Understand Disciplinary Texts in the Middle Grades

This session showed teachers ways to structure evidence-based discussions that draw upon both text and experience to aid students in developing academic language, writing proficiency, and content-area learning.  Participants took part in informational text reading and evidence based discussions that serve as preparation for writing an argument. Ways to use digital tools to support writing and thinking were highlighted and demonstrated.  Workshop materials, include the PPT and all activities can be accessed from the workshop’s Google Site.

DeVere addressed: Writing from Sources in the Disciplines: Tips for Engagement and Digital Tools, Too  

How many sources do we need? Teachers hear this question all the time, and it is really a tough one, not as easy as it sounds. Writing from and with sources means students must often consult a wide variety of sources, use some, discard others, and make sure the sources they do use are appropriate and relevant. The task is not as easy as it sounds; then add to that the complexity (cf. Spiro, et al., 2004) of the topics students encounter in middle and high school, and an arbitrary number of sources suddenly seems to impose limits on student exploration, not a door to further exploration (Wolsey, 2010; Wolsey, Lapp, & Fisher, 2012). In this session, participants learned how to construct a prompt or direction for writing (e.g., Hillocks, 1986) that engages student-scholars, teach students to use solid argumentation approaches (cf. Toulmin, 2003, Walton, Reed, & Macagno, 2008) in the disciplines, promote inquiry through composing processes in content areas, and use digital tools.

View the PowerPoint on Slideshare:

Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy Plus (VSS+)

by Dana L. Grisham (with Thomas DeVere Wolsey and Linda Smetana)

The Need for Vocabulary Learning

The need for breadth and depth of vocabulary accelerates through the grades as students encounter more challenging academic texts in print and on the Internet (CCSS, 2010). Improving students’ vocabulary is critical if students are to develop advanced literacy levels required for success in school and beyond, in the world of higher education and the workplace (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Graves & Watts-Taffy, 2008; Lubliner & Grisham, 2012).

Research suggests that students with a well-developed vocabulary learn many more words indirectly through reading than from instruction (Cunningham & Stanovich, 2001). If wide reading promotes vocabulary development, then conversations about their reading with adults and peers also strengthen students’ word learning (Biemiller & Boote, 2006). The goal of effective vocabulary instruction is to promote a lively interest in words through student expression and participation in a learning community that enjoys playing with words, builds on individual interests as well as curriculum needs, and emphasizes self-efficacy in word learning (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2008; Graves & Watts-Taffy, 2008). As we have noted in this blog, the impact of technology on vocabulary development also needs to be considered (Castek, Dalton & Grisham, 2012).  In other contexts, we have suggested that technology integration should be generative in the sense that learners should use technological tools to satisfy their curiosity and to generate creations for learning and for the demonstration of learning (Grisham & Smetana, 2011).

Vocabulary instruction may occur before reading (preteaching important vocabulary), during reading (teaching what emerges as needed), and after reading. Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy or VSS (Haggard, 1982), is an after reading strategy.

The Common Core (2010) requires that technology be integrated into instructional and independent learning sequences.  Research has shown that the use of technology and technology-based instruction enhances student learning. In the post-reading vocabulary assignment we explore here, teachers may use use several forms of technology to increase student interest in vocabulary and a variant of the VSS strategy to engage students in more robust vocabulary learning.

Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy Plus (VSS+) occurs after a selection has been read and is based on the principles of VSS (Haggard, 1982), a researched-based strategy that captures the essence of vocabulary learning:  multiple exposures to a word, multiple readings of a text, collaboration of students and teacher, oral discussions and presentations, selecting words that are important to know, writing a script and recording a podcast, Internet search for illustrations, and building semantic webs. Recently, two colleagues (Thomas DeVere Wolsey and Linda Smetana) and I worked in a fourth-grade classroom in a public school in Northern California, to teach the students how to make an online dictionary (e-dictionary) page using the VSS+ strategy. The three of us spent three hours with Mr. D’s 33 students, first in the classroom, then in the computer lab at their school.

VSS+ is a structure that becomes familiar to students so they can use it with more independence over time. It takes more time in the beginning as teachers and students get used to the technology, the time, and the process.  To teach VSS+ we wanted to use text with interesting or unknown words or text dense with academic language. Mr. D provided us with a passage from the Science textbook in use in his classroom. Mr. D pre-taught some of the vocabulary and students had already read and discussed the package when we arrived.

Collaboration and peer learning are essential to the VSS+ strategy. Mr. D had the students divided into cooperative groups of 4 students. In order to differentiate instruction to meet the learning needs of students, they may be grouped heterogeneously or homogeneously as needed. Mr. D’s students were grouped heterogeneously.

To teach the VSS+ strategy, we began in the classroom with a PowerPoint slide and a demonstration of the strategy.  Using a think aloud protocol, I modeled the strategy by presenting a nominated word to the class, and provided suggested answers to the following questions. In the demonstration, we used an example that we constructed on “continent” (see below). These are the three elements that students must consider as they nominate a word.

a.     Where is the word found in the text?  (Page number; read the sentence aloud)

b.     What do the team members think the word means?

c.     Why did the team think the class should learn the word?  The team must tell the class why the word is important enough to single out for emphasis (a rationale).

During the team presentations of nominated words, we facilitated discussion, listened to students’ projected meanings of the word, and invited class members to contribute additional clarifications of the words. A chosen target word was allocated to each team to prepare an e-dictionary page.

 Then came the fun part!  We adjourned to the computer lab where we asked students in Mr. D’s class to use two formats for their e-dictionary pages:  PowerPoint (like our example below) and a program called Thinglink.

In the lab, under teacher supervision, team members used the Internet to locate images and or definitions for the target word and then collaboratively determined which of the images/definitions best fit their prediction of the word meaning.

We proposed the following formatting for the eDictionary:

Word and Written Definition

Image selection from the Internet, Photos, Illustrations or Student Drawings (if a scanner is available)

Semantic web (we used WordSift)

Student audio recording about the word (critical thinking about own word learning)

Arrangement of the PowerPoint or Website page

Audio recording by students of the main elements of the word exploration

Posting to website (classroom e-Dictionary)

In the following example, the three of us used PowerPoint to make a sample e-dictionary page using the word “continent.” In the PowerPoint page is an audio recording that cannot be loaded into WordPress. To hear this recording, please visit

http://media60.podbean.com/pb/5d2ff0db75b8e90568ffd2295b4362b8/52693971/data1/blogs25/353339/uploads/ThinglinkContinents.mp3

Slide2

Next week in Literacy Beat, Linda, DeVere and I will talk more about the work we did with Mr. D’s students and share examples of their PowerPoint and Thinglink pages with you.

References

Biancarosa, C., & Snow, C. E. (2006). Reading next—A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Biemiller, A. & Boote, C. (2006). An effective method for building meaning vocabulary in primary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 44-62.

Blachowicz, C. L. Z., & Fisher, P. (2000). Vocabulary instruction. In R. Barr, P.

Mosenthal, P. S. Pearson, & M. Kamil (Eds.), Handbook of Reading Research, vol. III, (pp. 503-523). White Plains: Longman.

Castek, J., Dalton, B. & Grisham, D. L. (2012). Using Multimedia to Support Generative Vocabulary Learning. In J. F. Baumann & E. J. Kame’enui (Eds.). Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice (2nd Edition). New York: Guilford.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Washington, DC: CCSSO & National Governors Association.

Cunningham, A.E. & Stanovich, K. E. (2001).  What reading does for the mind. American Educator, 22, 1/2, 8-15.

Graves, M.E. & Watts-Taffy, S. (2008).  For the love of words:  Fostering word consciousness in young readers. Reading Teacher, 62, 99.185-193.

Haggard, M. (1982) The vocabulary self collection strategy: An active approach to word learning.  Journal of Reading, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Dec., 1982), pp. 203-207.

Grisham, D.L. & Smetana, L. (2011) Generative technology for teacher educators. Journal of Reading Education, 36, 3, 12-18.

Lubliner, S. & Grisham, D. L. (2012). Cognate Strategy Instruction: Providing Powerful Literacy Tools to Spanish-Speaking Students. In J. Fingon & S. Ulanov (Eds.), Learning from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classrooms: Promoting Success for All Students (pp. 105-123). New York: Teachers College Press.

  

1

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

Image

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

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.

Generative Technology: Teacher Candidate Examples

by Dana Grisham

In my last post, on March 2, 2013, I talked about a project that my colleague, Linda Smetana, and I did with teacher candidates who were asked to integrate technology into literacy lessons they were doing in their assignments in schools. Linda and I refer to this as “generative technology” and feel that when students create something as a result of using technology, there is a positive synergy about it. The teacher candidates benefit from learning to use technology in their teaching and their K-12 students benefit from creating something academic with the tools they are offered.

Linda and I believe 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.  By generative technology, we mean that the technology is embedded in the content of the course in teaching methods, rather than something “added on.” In my March 2013 post, I talked at length about the assignment that was generated and promised to share the products in my next post. So, here are a couple of the products that resulted from our generative technology assignment. Remember that there were 21 teacher candidates in the fifth quarter of a seven-quarter post-baccalaureate teacher preparation program; 17 of the 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.

First, teacher candidates showed a great deal of diversity in the choices they made about the technology they infused into their projects. The actual projects that candidates chose are listed below (all names are pseudonyms).

Simone

High School

Mixed general education English class includes

Sped, at risk, low performing

Intern

Using Voki to create avatars who read student created papers

Nita and Lila

Elementary

RSP & intervention 4th & 5th graders

Interns

Shared teaching position

Class Writing Blog where student progress was chronicled

Avram

Middle School

RSP & intervention

Intern

Writing Website created by the Flamingo Writers; weebly.com

Lani and Ed

Middle School

RSP & Instructional Support, history

Student teachers

Election Brochure using

MyBrochureMaker

Alicia

Early primary

Special education self contained class

Intern

Storybird for creating books with repetitive text incorporating sight words

Elana

Primary

Special education, self contained class

Intern

Prezi for zoo-phonics lessons

Joanne

Upper elementary

Special education, self contained class

Intern

Toontastic as a vehicle for Story Writing using the iPad.

Callum

Middle School

Communication and Social Skills class

Intern

Toontastic as a vehicle for Story Writing using the iPad

Lianne and Jerri

Elementary

Resource

Student teachers

Comic Creator to create a class book of prepositions; iPod to record student’ reading of authored page; student videos

Jake

Middle School

Resource

Student teacher

Using Glogster, students created presentations of specific historical events

Monte

Middle School

Resource & Intervention History class

Intern

Using Glogster, students created

presentations of inventions

Joleen

Elementary

Language enriched special education self contained class

Student teacher

Comic Creator to create simple stories

Tina

Elementary

Special education self contained class

Intern

Storybird to create stories – social skills and sharing

Miles

High School

SPED class for students with Emotional Disturbance

Intern

Began with Prezi and changed to ppt because of site technology resources; Students isolated the elements of the novel ‘the necklace’ located images on the web that reflect essence of event

Larry

Elementary

Special Education self contained class

Intern

Strip Generator, student created panels regarding sharing. Luke’s presentation to the class was through Prezi.

Serena

Middle School

Resource Specialist Program

Student teacher

Storybird to create stories; illustrate stories from gallery pictures

Janet

Elementary

Special Education self contained class

Student teacher

Using Xtranormal, a text to movie website; students created short films reflecting narrative story structure with their own scripts using text-to speech technology.

Callista

Elementary

Resource Specialist Program

Intern

VoiceThread; understanding literal and figurative meaning of idioms

I’d like to share just a couple of examples with you.

In the first example, low track high school students in tenth grade learned to create avatars using VOKI (http://www.voki.com/). Simone, their teacher, planned a series of lessons for the students to write a descriptive paragraph incorporating at least four adjectives and one metaphor after reading the poem Mother to Son by Langston Hughes and highlighting the staircase metaphor. After writing their paragraphs, students audio-recorded them and the VOKI avatars voiced the paragraphs for the entire class. Simone stressed in her reflection that students had discovered “the power of their voices” and were incredibly motivated by the project.  She stated, “I was happy to learn more about my students—because they were more motivated to complete the assignment, they were participating more in the activities as well, and I got a great insight into both their comprehension and writing levels.” She also recounted one of the “greatest successes” was with a male student who became more engaged and active when he realized “he could become his character.”

Another example is the Flamingo Writers Workshop, which comes from the middle school level.  The teacher, Avram, developed the Flamingo Writers Workshop, a pullout group of behaviorally and academically challenged English Learners, all boys. The project lasted several weeks and Avram stated that they “stayed completely engaged” with it. The students created a website after receiving instruction in both writing and in using technology on Weebly (http://www.weebly.com/).  Avram stated, “I wanted to give them something that they could remember for years to come.” One of the interesting aspects of this project was the parallel he drew and emphasized throughout the lessons, between writing as a process—as represented by the POWER acronym (Prewriting, Organizing, Writing, Editing, and Revising) and the “steps” for creating the website: Plan, Design, Create, Register, Inspect, and Publish.  He stated, “Technology made everything we did more engaging to the students.” Avram, an admitted “technophobe” changed his views substantially, stating that the assignment “has certainly helped me understand that students need the enrichment and engagement that technology can provide.”  He related that the website and the writing posted there gave these students an identity as a community that they have continued into other spaces. You can explore the Flamingo Writers Workshop (which continues to function as of this date) at http://flamingowritersworkshop.weebly.com/.

The first page of the website looks like this (and it is truly interactive):
Flamingo
Students worked really hard to make an interactive website that reflected their needs and identities. The next page defines writing:
Why I should care
Finally, here is an example of expository writing (and there are examples for narrative writing also):
Expository

The final example comes from the elementary level and was unique because it is the only project submitted that was not generative in the sense that students did not create anything, but from the report they were certainly the benificiaries.

Elana was working at the second and third grade level in a Special Day Class setting. She chose Prezi (http://prezi.com) for lessons in phonemic awareness and phonics—chosen as presentation software that is “interesting to my students, but not too distracting.” She stated that Prezi allowed her to “take something my students have been working on since Kindergarten and make it new and exciting.” She scanned the “Zoo Phonics” (http://www.zoo-phonics.com/) picture cards into the computer and inserted them into the Prezi. She then projected the Prezi onto the whiteboard and the students did the body movements and chanted the alphabetic sounds. Later Elana plans to add sight words to the Prezi. For the students, here was a more engaging and multimodal way of learning “the same old thing.”  Here is an example of one of the cue cards:

Catina

           Linda and I believe that for all educators there is an urgent need to embrace technological tools for communication and composition in our homes and schools. There are examples everywhere of sound technology use in schools as well as the examples we have provided here (Google sites, for example). Teacher candidates need practical experience in using new tools in academic settings. Grisham and Wolsey (2012) have highlighted the fear factor that even technologically adept teacher candidates have until they gain experience applying new tools as teaching and learning opportunities for themselves and for their K-12 students.  In teacher preparation programs, candidates can collaborate to support each other as they work with these 21st century tools. As teacher educators we are committed to articulate the use of 21st century technology for teaching and student learning across program courses so that teacher candidates may have multiple opportunities to practice and develop the skills to implement technology-rich instruction in their classrooms. We would like to stress that while ours is not the only way to meaningfully integrate technology into teacher preparation courses, we would argue that it is one effective way to do so and we invite readers to try this for themselves.

           In closing, I’d like to once again share the TPACK model that guided our students in their integration of technology and literacy.  Another of our LiteracyBeat authors, Bridget Dalton, has shared this with teachers everywhere in her 2013 column in The Reading Teacher.

TPACK

References:

Grisham, D. L. & Smetana, L. (in press). Multimodal Composition for teacher candidates: Models for K-12 classroom 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). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge . Teachers College Record 108 (6), 1017-1054.

Wolsey, T.D. & Grisham, D. L. (2012). Transforming Writing Instruction in the Digital Age: Techniques for Grades 5-12. New York: Guilford.

%d bloggers like this: