Cool Tools from the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

A post by Jill Castek

In July 2014, I was so inspired by the presenters and participants who attended the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy (also see the Institute Wikispace at https://dliuri2014.wikispaces.com/).  This six-day institute held at the University of Rhode Island focused on how literacy is changing as a result of emerging media and technologies.  It offered participants an exciting and hands-on experience in which to discuss and explore new approaches to teaching literacy in today’s digital age. Presenters introduced a wide array of technology tools that can be used to create digital products, critique media, and curate online resources in engaging and efficient ways.  I’ve spent the last several months since the institute exploring all the tools, techniques, and possibilities.  This post focuses on just a few of these  resources:

Vialogues: https://vScreen Shot 2015-02-13 at 4.04.47 PMialogues.com/ is a tool that can be used to spark meaningful conversations with students around videos you post to the platform. The discussions allow for a time-stamped, annotation-like discussion. Online interactions can refer specifically to exact parts of the video using time stamps. To scaffold the discussion, you can add comments, surveys and open-ended questions for your students that encourage students to critically analyze video texts.

Mozilla Popcorn Maker https://popcorn.webmaker.org/en-UScreen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.21.39 PMS/editor/ is another tool for analyzing video (its surprisingly easy to use).  Just take a video from YouTube and students can add their own commentary using pop-up boxes.  Students can use it to critique the messages in commercials, music videos, or public service announcements.  Use it in conjunction with, or in preparation for, a face-to-face dialogue to provide an avenue for students to share multiple points of view.

Blendspace https://www.blendspace.com/ creates easy to use and beautiful to look at collections of inline resources (including images, videos, Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.23.17 PMwebsites).  Just drag and drop items into your Blendspace to curate an entire educational experience for your students.  Optional features allow you to see which students have viewed the resources you posted. Quiz questions can be embedded throughout to help students track their progress through the content.  Visit the Blendspace site and explore the different ways teachers are using this innovative resource to enhance educational experiences for students.

Symbaloo http://www.symbaloo.com/ is a curation tool that is organized like a grid.  EacScreen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.29.12 PMh square contains an image and a link to a website.  Many educators have used Symbaloo to organize sites that students regularly visit so they are accessible all in one place. Others have used it to collect resources for students to explore on a given topic.  Collections are easy to share and are engaging to look at.  Your students will make connections easily to the visual format.  This video will introduce the benefits of its use in the classroom.

2015 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy Sign-Ups

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.48.01 PMAttending the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy was one of the most  rewarding experiences of my professional career.  If you’d like to attend the 2015 institute, mark your calendar for July 26 – July, 31, 2015 and visit the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island website to learn more http://mediaeducationlab.com/summer-institute-digital-literacy.

If you have used any of these resources in your classroom, leave us a comment.  We’d love to hear from you (and we’ll benefit from your experiences, too).

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

Literacy Beat @ IRA (Sunday)

Last year at IRA, Dana was awarded the TILE-SIG Research  Award. This year, she is the keynote speaker. The title of her keynote is “Changing the Landscape of Literacy Teacher Education: Innovations with Generative Technology.”  Congratulations go, also, to our friend and colleague, Denise Johnson at the College of William and Mary, who is the TILE-SIG Research Award recipient this year and next year’s keynote speaker.

Bloggers Dana and DeVere with colleague Linda Smetana discussed their work with Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy Plus (VSS+) at the Meet the Researchers Poster Session on Sunday. Their poster (via Slideshare) you can view here:

VSS+ Poster Session at Meet the Researchers
Learn more about VSS+ on this blog here and here.

View video examples of students’ VSS+ work below.

Dana and Linda Smetana presented research on the manner in which preservice teachers approached and used ebook formats.

And great news! Bloggers Jill and Bernadette with colleague Colin Harrison wrote a new book that debuted today.

image

Colin, Bernadette, and Jill presented shared resources and ideas excerpted from their new book published by Shell Education.  The IRA session entitled Transform Your Literacy Practice Using Internet Tools and Resources: Meeting Students’ Instructional Needs while Addressing the Common Core State Standards.  Click here to access the presentation materials and website for the session.

In the book, readers will discover how to effectively use technology to support students’ literacy development. New classroom uses for technology are introduced in this easy-to-use resource that help educators enhance students’ attention, engagement, creativity, and collaboration in reading and learning. Great for struggling readers, this book provides strategies for making content-area connections and using digital tools to develop reading comprehension.For more information about the book, click here.

 

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:

What do the PIAAC results suggest?

A post by Jill Castek

In light of the PIAAC data being released last month (PIAAC stands for Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunities for school-based and life-long learning.  This post focuses on what PIAAC is and reasons why might be interested in further exploring these data, and what they might suggest about the integration of technology into teaching and learning opportunities.

What is PIAAC? 

PIAAC is a survey coordinated internationally by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It assesses key cognitive and workplace skills and measures competencies needed by adults in the 21st century, including literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments.

PIAAC was designed to better understand the skills of the adult working-age population (ages 16-65) both nationally and internationally. It provides  international comparison of the adult workforce that will enable the United States to better understand its global competitiveness and benchmark how well education and training systems are meeting emerging skill demands. With these data, researchers can examine and analyze what conditions and factors impact skills growth, maintenance, or loss over a working-age life cycle.

Twenty-four participating countries and regions, including the United States, assessed adults in 2011–2012.  Data from this survey were released in October 2013. Nine countries will administer an additional round of PIAAC in 2014.

What do the PIAAC data show? 

There are a number of interesting and possibly surprising results brought to light by the PIAAC data.  To examine some of these patterns, check out the publications put together by the OECD available at http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/publications.htm

In perusing these data, I learned that only between 2.9% and 8.8% of adults demonstrate the highest level of proficiency on the problem‑solving in technology‑rich environments.  Given the prevalence of technology in our world, and the proliferation of technology in our lives, I would have expected a much higher level of proficiency for the wider population.  This suggests to me that not only do we need to integrate technology more systematically into K-12 education, but that we also need to offer multiple opportunities for skill development across the lifespan.  Not doing so puts our learners at a disadvantage for college and career readiness and limits their participating in our digitally-centered world.

Education and Skills Online 

The developers of the PIAAC assessment have designed a suite of assessment tools that can be used by researchers within their own studies for a fee.  This assessment is called Education and Skills Online (E&S Online).  It is designed to provide individual level results that are linked to the PIAAC measures of literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology rich environments.  These valid and reliable assessment tools are a computerized measure that assesses a set of cognitive and non-cognitive skills that individuals need for full participation in modern societies. The suite of tools incorporates flexibility and adaptability to provide reliable and valid measures of critical skills associated with work, home, and community. The skills and knowledge measured include being able to understand and use printed and electronic texts, reason with numbers, and solve problems in technology environments.  If you’re a researcher working with technology, using such a measure of learning to determine the skill level of your learners (and benchmarking them to national norms) may offer you new and valuable insights.  It might also inspire you to provide more opportunities to guide learners in their use of technology.

There is a great deal to explore with the PIAAC data in terms of national and international trends.  A quick Google search for PIAAC will offer you a variety of resources to explore.  I look forward to your reflections and ideas.  Comments are encouraged and welcomed!

Collaborative Digital Reading Response

A post by Jill Castek

I’ve gotten excited about the possibility of engaging students (both K-12 and university) in collaborative digital reading responses.  I have found that encouraging students to use embedded discussion tools (where they can dialogue about WHAT they’re reading WHILE they’re reading) prompts engagement in the reading process and supports deep and meaningful discussion.  I’ve been exploring a range of digital tools that facilitate this process (Diigo, DocAS, and iAnnotate).  I’ve recently learned about a new option called Ponder.  This post focuses on the affordances of these tools.

Ponder is a collaborative reading tool that links your students together in a community where each individual member can create reading responses in the form of annotations and reflect on the annotations of other students.  In the process of engaging in an online dialogue, students deepen their understanding of material become more active and engaged readers.

Image

Ponder has a few notable benefits:  1) it’s free, 2) it’s already set up to support teachers (clustering students in to classes), 3) it enables content sharing amongst all the individuals who are invited into the class, and 4) it makes a suite of powerful analytics available to better understand what students are getting out of the reading they’re doing.

Ponder is different from other social sharing sites like Diigo because it requires readers to extract a key excerpt from a reading assignment, reflect upon it by assigning a pre-populated “sentiment” to it (e.g. I’m confused, I’m skeptical, I disagree, among many others), and then tie it to the concepts they are studying by tagging it.  Instantly, the reading responses are viewable by other students and available for additional comment.  Assigning a pre-scripted annotation  to an except through Ponder, as opposed to a free response using a sticky note as in Diigo has both plusses and minuses.  First, it support students in thinking through, and in essence, synthesizing a response as opposed to simply posting an initial reaction.  And secondly, the statements provided can act as a scaffold for learning how to construct a reading response.  On the flip side, students may very well want to say something original to their peers about the content or pose a question for further reflection.   Unfortunately, these are not viable options through Ponder.

Ponder provides analytic tools to help teachers and instructors monitor reading engagement and identify students who are falling behind before it becomes a barrier to success.   Teachers can then use the reading responses students have entered in Ponder to help them identify portions of the readings that were confusing. Analytics can also determine which segments contain particularly controversial ideas that can be used to target focused and purposeful in class discussions.

While I’ve primarily used Diigo for collaborative response, I’m intrigued by the idea of playing with the pre-populated response options in Ponder as a means of reflection.  It may free up the burden of saying something original and encouraging students to think critically about the text and the ideas it contains in a more supported way.  I’m interested to collect students’ preferences to learn more.

One additional affordance is of interest.  Ponder tracks and archives the web articles that readers follow up to read after the assigned reading.  These topics show up as related themes and are displayed on the class Ponder home page.  These web texts offer additional reading allowing reader to dig deeper into the topic of the reading.  The fact that these suggested readings stem from students’ actual web explorations has crowd sourcing potential.

If you’re interested in trying out Ponder, leave a comment and let us know how it goes.  I’ll do the same and we can compare notes.   Happy reading!

Digital Literacies: An IRA Cross-Journal Virtual Issue

In response to the Common Core State Standards, and the growing literacy demands of a 21st century digital world, educators have increased their focus on practices related to critically navigating, evaluating, and creating texts using a range of digital technologies. When digital literacies is a part of classroom instruction students are better equipped to communicate effectively in digital media environments, as well as to comprehend the ever-changing digital landscape.

The International Reading Association has created a cross-journal virtual issue focused on digital literacies. This new FREE virtual issue is available through Dec. 2013 and features articles from  The Reading TeacherJournal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, and Reading Research Quarterly.  The articles were selected by the editors of these journals for their impact on both literacy scholarship and practice.

Among the offerings is Bridget Dalton’s piece entitled Multimodal Composition and the Common Core State StandardsThis article describes how a Digital Writers’ Workshop can be a vehicle for integrating multimodal composition into the classroom. It offers general workshop principles and strategies, followed by a multimodal poem project illustrating how to scaffold students’ design processes. It invites teachers to contribute to the conversation about literacy and technology integration at The Reading Teacher‘s Facebook page.

Another intriguing piece is co-authored by Jill Castek and Rick Beach.  It’s entitled Using Apps to Support Disciplinary Literacy and Science Learning.  This article showcases apps that help students access information, interpret and share information, and create multimedia products. Classroom examples illustrate how to use these tools strategically to enhance learning. For additional insights, don’t miss the Podcast supplement for this article.

Comprehending and Learning From Internet Sources: Processing Patterns of Better and Poorer Learners co-authored by Susan R. Goldman, Jason L.G. Braasch, Jennifer Wiley, Arthur C. Graesser, Kamila Brodowinska used think-aloud protocol methodology to better understand the processing that learners engaged in when performing a web-based inquiry task about volcanoes using multiple Internet sources.  In this study, 10 better learners were contrasted with 11 poorer learners. Findings suggest that multiple-source comprehension is a dynamic process that involves interplay among sense-making, monitoring, and evaluation processes, all of which promote strategic reading.

There are several more great articles in the virtual issue on digital literacies.  We hope the ideas you find within these articles will spark a whole host of new implementation directions for you and your students.  Happy reading!

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!

Expanding the Scope of Digital Writing with iBooks Author

A New Post by Jill Castek

Tools for digital publishing are becoming much more sophisticated. With iBooks Author, it’s now easier than ever to create interactive and visually appealing iBooks for iPad. The Apple-provided templates feature a variety of page layouts. You can add your own text and images using drag-and-drop. Interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more can also be embedded. Completed books can be submitted iBookstore in a few simple steps. And before you know it, your students can be published authors.

Many teachers are now using the iBooks Author app to create iBooks. Some have used the ePub export option using Apple’s word processing program Pages to create PDFs that can be stored and accessed on iPads (using Kindle Reader for iPad).

Andrea Santilli and her seventh graders at Woodlawn Beach Middle School created a 133 page iBook entitled Creatures, Plants and More: A Kids Guide to Northwest Florida, that includes numerous images of creatures and plants. This book is an interactive field guide of Northwest Florida. The stories and photos are now a published collection that has become top seller in Apple’s iBookstore. For those interested in visiting Florida, or just reading about it, this book will bring you in contact with fascinating interactive photo galleries and videos along with detailed narrative descriptions.

Creatures, Plants, and More:   A Kid's Guide to Northwest Florida

Creatures, Plants, and More: A Kid’s Guide to Northwest Florida

Mr. Smith’s 5th graders created  Two Kids and a Desert Town. These special education students were greatly motivated to write for an authentic audience. The project integrated technology, provided opportunities for collaboration, and gave students the chance to reflect on their learning process. Having published this book, and knowing that individuals all over the world have downloaded it and read it, these students will forever see themselves as writers!

Two Kids and a Desert Town

Two Kids and a Desert Town

After the success of Desert Town, Mr. Smith’s students created a second iBook entitled 5th Grade: Reflections on our Year. This book showcases the growth made by each student across the year.  Reflecting on their progress has encouraged them to see themselves as readers and writers.

5th Grade:  Reflections on our Year

5th Grade: Reflections on our Year

Other creative teachers, such as Chris Schillig, and his students created spin-offs works including It Was A Dark and Stormy Classroom. This book is made up of more than 40 of their collaborations and solo stories — an anthology of crime, murder and clues that proves detective fiction is alive and well in the 21st century.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Classroom

It Was a Dark and Stormy Classroom

Mr. Schillig’s AP English class tried their hands at modernizing The Canterbury Tales and created Canterbury Remixed. As you peruse this book, you can see how engaging this tools in iBooks can really be!

Canterbury Remixed

Canterbury Remixed

If you’re interested in learning the specifics of iBooks Author and are attending the International Reading Association conference in San Antonio (April 19 – April 22), check out Genya Devoe’s session entitled Using iBooks Author to Bring Content To Life with Your Students. The session will include an introduction to iBooks Author and an extensive step-by-step presentation in how participants can use iBooks Author to meet the differentiate needs of students and engage students in literacy in a new, exciting way. This session will take place Sunday April 21st from 9am – 10am in the Grand Hyatt Lone Star Ballroom E.

IRA 2013

IRA 2013

If you’ve used iBook author and have a book or experiences to share, please leave a comment. It would be great to hear from you!

Digital Concept Mapping

A new post from Jill Castek

kids at workI started a new study last week with colleagues Heather Cotanch, Rick Beach, John Scott and 6th grade math and science teacher Laura Kretschmar from Lighthouse Community Charter school in Oakland, CA – a frequent collaborator. This work explores middle school students’ and teachers’ experiences with using digital technologies for learning. While I’ve done other studies like this over the years, this one has a distinct focus on student interviews to document learning perspectives.

The school had recently purchased rolling carts of Google Chromebooks, which offered an inexpensive solution to facilitating online work. As a regular user of Google tools I was excited to see the wide-array of apps that can easily loaded on Chromebooks.

chromebooksmore chromebooks

The sixth grade students had begun a unit on climate change and were eager explore some ways digital technologies could be used to enhance their learning experiences. To dig into the project, we began with a familiar process – compare and contrast. In this case, students were examining the concepts of weather and climate to better understand long and short-term changes in the atmosphere. We agreed that after reading, discussing, and generating examples, organizing ideas into a concept map was the best way to create archive of their thinking. We used the free tools from Mind Meister (see http://www.mindmeister.com) as the platform. We made this choice because of the abundance of free templates, the ease of use in incorporating images into the maps, and the ability to showcase the completed maps in a zoom-in and out Prezi-type way.

Concept-mapping apps help students visually represent logical or causal relationships between ideas associated with a certain phenomenon. In using concept-mapping apps, students identified a variety of key words associated with climate and weather and visually organized the logical relationships between these words. Students could insert the words into circles or boxes, drawing lines between ideas with spokes into which they inserted sub-topics. These connecting lines served to define the logical relationships between ideas, for example, how a new word might serve as an illustrative example of a major topic.

Within many concept-mapping apps (such as Bubble.us or Webspiration)  students can create an outline list of words with subcategories within those words, and will then generate different types of maps using these outlines. Many concept-mapping apps also include the ability to color-code ideas as a means of visually representing different categories of information.

Use of concept-mapping apps helps students collaboratively develop and expand topics. Online collaboration to create, revise, and develop maps with others is also a key feature. By sharing the same concept maps, a group of students working on the same project can visually represent their thinking for each other so that they are literally and figuratively on the same page. Students can then pose questions of each other based on their maps, for example, questions about connections between ideas or the need for more information to solidify understanding of a topic. While concept mapping can also be accomplished using paper and pencil, revision capabilities are limited. In the digital form, substantial changes can be made effortlessly, making revision more palatable to students.

While I’m still archiving the students examples and analyzing the interview data we collected, this experience with digital concept mapping suggested that students were able to visually link concepts through logical connections or groupings.  The act of organizing their ideas fostered students’ use of causal/hierarchical thinking. They were motivated to view each other’s maps, which led to collaborative brainstorming that prompted revisions. There’s more to come once the data are analyzed, but I was excited to share my “in-process” thoughts while they were fresh in my mind.

If you’ve used other tools for digital concept mapping and have some insights to share, please leave a comment!  Thanks!

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