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!

Expressive Learning: Encouraging Students’ Multimodal Expression to Enhance Content Learning

A New Post by Jill Castek

I’ve been exploring the use of iPads to support literacy and science learning in middle school classrooms throughout the school year.  One of the most powerful ways I’ve found to help students make deep and lasting connections to content learning is to design meaningful classroom projects that engage students in working collaboratively to convey ideas  using digital tools that support multimodal expression.  As student design and create, they purposefully use key vocabulary and integrate examples that illustrate their thinking.  Student projects can be celebrated, showcased, and shared with an authentic audience made up of peers, teachers, and the wider community.  They’re also a great way to formatively assess student learning.

Students work collaboratively on digital projects to support content learning.

The Power of Student Collaboration

By working collaboratively, students are challenged to think through the important processes of choosing a focus, reflecting on what they know and how to represent it, and designing an action plan. As peers enact their plans, they critique and rework their representations iteratively until they’re satisfied their work has achieved the intended goal.

Working with iPads has provided students easy-to-use apps that support drawing and annotating images, inserting photographs, and creating voiceover capabilities. These features make it possible for students to express their understanding in multiple ways through multiple means, an aspect central to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This post focuses on two examples of digital collaborative projects and the apps that supported their creation.

ShowMe for the iPad

ShowMe (see http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/showme-interactive-whiteboard/id445066279?mt=8) is an FREE iPad app that allows users to use images, drawing tools, and voiceover to communicate ideas.  Once a project is created, it can be shared on the ShowMe website http://www.showme.com/ or embedded into any digital forum (blog, wiki, website, etc.)  While this tool is often used by teachers in a receptive way, for example to deliver short lessons or tutorials to students,  I was interested in getting ShowMe into students’ hands so they could use its features creatively to express their understanding of concepts and ideas (thus enhancing and extending content they had learned).

Using ShowMe to Summarize Important Ideas from Reading

Linda Wilhelm’s 7th graders at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill, CA were studying genetics in their Science class.  ShowMe was used to support an enhanced jigsaw activity where students created were expected to weave key ideas from their textbook and web-based reading into a short project that expressed their understanding of the content and provided examples. There were several subtopics; and pairs were assigned one of four themes to convey:  1) Some genes are dominant while others are recessive, 2) Mendelian laws apply to human beings, 3) All cells arise from pre-existing cells through the process of cell-division, 4) Sex cells have one set of chromosomes, body cells have two.

Students were shown a sample ShowMe project created by the teacher to give a sense of what was possible with ShowMe (which included importing images, drawing features, stop and start capabilities, and voiceover).  Then, a project rubric was distributed and discussed with students to convey expectations for the project.  Finally, students were provided time to plan and record their ShowMe projects.

Although storyboarding on paper was modeled and provided as an option, students preferred to draft their ideas directly into ShowMe.  As they drafted, they created multiple takes that were played back and evaluated by students iteratively.  Critiquing and revising with the ShowMe tool was immediate and satisfying for students and sparked careful re-reading and reflection on the texts provided.  It also sparked discussion on important aspects of visual literacy as students carefully thought through what images would best help illustrate their main points.  Throughout, collaboration was evident and a vital part of the digital content creation process.

ShowMe Student Examples

Click on the URLs provided and the ShowMe projects will open in a new window:

Using iMovie for the iPad to Construct, Explain, and Show Understanding

Leon Young’s 6th graders at Realm Charter School in Berkeley, CA were studying plate boundaries during a plate tectonics unit.  They designed and built their own scientific models to show the characteristics of plate boundaries in different locations around the world.   Students were then invited to create a short video using iMovie to showcase and explain their model to their classmates and school community.

Pairs of students worked together to think through how to convey science content through their video productions.  As they discussed shot selection, they showed a keen awareness of audience and purpose and found meaningful ways to explain scientific terms and concepts for those unfamiliar with the content.  As was the case with the ShowMe projects, students created multiple takes and revised iteratively as they reflected on word choice and overall flow of ideas.  The result was a strong and solid representation of what they learned that showcased both creativity and collaboration.

iMovie Student Example

Using Digital Tools to Support Multimodal Expression

When asked about the making these digital products students said the work was “fun, active, and creative.”  Not only did these projects support engagement with content, they also supported the development of vital 21st century literacies.  Students were able to showcase their learning in ways that involved multimodal expression which requires higher level thinking skills such as synthesis, evaluation, and critique (and are also central to the Common Core State Standards).

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide for the use of ShowMe, iMovie, or other iPad apps that support literacy and content learning, click on the Step-by-step Guide to iPad apps and HandoutForIRAPreCon.  These presentation materials are from the IRA session that Jen Tilson and I delivered in Chicago, IL in May 2012.  Other speakers’ session materials, including Bernadette Dwyer’s handouts, can be accessed from the IRA TILE-Sig website at http://tilesig.wikispaces.com/Conference2

Add a comment to this post and share ways you’ve had students to create content and reflect on learning through the use of digital tools.  Sharing examples is a great way to get our collective juices flowing and sparks our creativity.  In the process, we’ll learn about a range of new tools and techniques for teaching and learning with technology. Enjoy!

Personal Learning Environments: Making Sense and Keeping it All Under Control

PERSONAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS: MAKING SENSE AND KEEPING IT ALL UNDER CONTROL

I’d like to thank our guest poster, Thomas DeVere Wolsey, for a great blog on Personal Learning Environments! Dana

Guest post by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Meet Dionisio

What? Another digital technology I need to learn? What is a personal learning environment, anyway? To answer that, I want you to meet Dionisio.  He is one very interesting 10th-grade student, much like those you know in 10th grade, 5th grade, and many other grade levels.  There are sides to Dionisio that are not readily apparent at school most of the time.  He plays guitar and records music using a Korg synthesizer app for his iPhone® and iPad® which he then shares with others at SoundCloud. SoundCloud is his favorite sharing site for music because he can sell digital recordings of his work there, and it is always rewarding when someone buys his songs.  Sometimes he posts his work to his YouTube channel, as well.   When he posts work on SoundCloud or YouTube, he often Tweets the URL to his followers and his Facebook friends see the new link, too.

Dionisio really likes music and sharing his creations with friends, but what most people don’t know about him is his interest in the United States Civil War. His interest in the lives of soldiers far exceeds anything his state social studies standards requires.  He subscribes to many Civil War blogs using an RSS feed to keep him updated on new posts.  In his social bookmarking account on Delicious, he has bookmarked almost every website for important Civil War battlefields in order to make them easily accessible.

In addition to his interests that sometimes match school curriculum and sometimes do not, he also maintains a Diigo page and several of his teachers use Edmodo.  A few of his friends use EverNote to keep track of readings assigned by teachers, collaborate with Dionisio on class projects, and catalog information they found on their own. Some of his school presentations appear on Prezi, and some he posted on YouTube.  Many of his teachers ask him to submit work on the school’s course management system (such as Moodle or eCollege).  PowerPoint® projects he created with others in his classes are often uploaded to Box.net as they collaborate over the Internet to be ready for class.  Dionisio kept most of the tools and websites bookmarked on his laptop, and then he met a teacher who changed his thinking.

View the YouTube video on the 21st Century student to understand a little more about Dionisio and students like him.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwM4ieFOotA&feature=youtu.be

Dionisio’s Personal Learning Environment

You might wonder how Dionisio keeps track of all those online sources. At first, it wasn’t easy; Dionisio found it all a bit overwhelming.  However, one of Dionisio’s teachers recognized that literacy in the 21st century involved more than just reading paper pages and answering questions.  Much more is involved in new literacies (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro & Cammack, 2004). Organizing, synthesizing and constructing meaning from online and traditional resources are critical cognitive skills made even more important as students navigate the digital environments they choose and in which they are asked to participate.  Dionisio’s teacher suggested to him and to his classmates that one way to make sense of all the information they create and that they gather is through the online tool, Symbaloo.  With Symbaloo, Dionisio created a personal learning network with a matrix that included the blogs he followed, the websites he found useful, the classroom management systems his teachers used, and many social and collaborative networking environments.

Because Dionisio realized that some of his learning was associated with specific classes at school, some was his own learning that overlapped with school sometimes, and some was related to personal interests that rarely overlapped with school, he set up his personal learning environment to keep some elements private, some shared with his network outside of school, and some shared with his teachers and classmates.  These networks often overlapped, but Dionisio decided which elements to share and with whom.

In the YouTube video, notice how a 7th-grade student created a personal learning environment in Symbaloo  http://youtu.be/YEls3tq5wIY

Welcome to my PLE

How do Students Organize the Personal Learning Environment?

Wouldn’t it be nice to just tell students how their personal learning environments (PLE) should be organized? Include elements A, B, and C, and you’re done! But that would not be very personal, would it? Personal learning environments are organized in a way that makes sense to the person doing the organizing.  Michelle Martin (2007), an adult blogger, organized hers according to the information she gathered, the information she processed, and the actions she takes based on her learning.  Two things are worth noting in her approach: 1. She changed the tools she used to organize her PLE after awhile, and 2. She included traditional paper-based text in her PLE.

The EdTechPost wiki includes many diagrams that illustrate how personal learning environments might be constructed. On the wiki, the diagrams are organized toward orientation: tools, use/action/ people, and hybrid/action/other.  Every personal learning environment is different because each reflects the way the person who created the environment perceives and organizes their learning and the worlds it represents.  Dionisio quickly realized that Symbaloo was a great tool, but he needed multiple entry points for his PLE representing the way he organized his own learning.  He created an About.me account to provide a more public access point for his music and interests in the Civil War.  The About.me page did include links to his Symbaloo and other pages, but some were password protected, and not all his school pages were linked to his About.me page.

What are the Elements of a Personal Learning Environment?
The Learning Technologies Centre at the University of Manitoba includes several elements of a personal learning environment. These include production tools, collaboration tools, aggregation tools, and so on (for the full list, click the link).  EDUCAUSE (2009) points out that a key attribute of the personal learning network is that it is learner centered.  Attwell (2006, pdf file) further explores the learner-centered feature of the personal learning environment. He suggests that they are characteristics of life-long learners and that they are informal in nature.  Another key element is the aspect of community (e.g., Grisham & Wolsey, 2006), the idea that much of our creative and intellectual work is part of a larger group, as well.

Why do Personal Learning Environments Matter?

A characteristic of humans is that they try to make sense of the contexts of their lives. The tools they use and the purposes they establish for learning may be the defining features of learning in the coming decades.  How will you encourage your students to create and maintain personal learning environments the promote mastery of appropriate standards and foster lifelong learning as well? Dionisio relied on his teacher to help him learn to organize and make sense of the many online tools he used. Like him, many K-12 students and adults create environments that serve their own purposes that include formal and informal contexts.

At the beginning of the post, we asked what a personal learning environment is.  Simply, it is the approach that users take to individual aggregate content, organize it, and lend context to it. Content may be created by the owner of the PLE or gathered from the Internet and other sources. PLEs are informal mashups, elements of which may be shared with others in the user’s network and learning communities. Finally, educators sometimes provide a basic framework or tool that students might use to start building their own PLEs.

More to Learn:

To continue your own exploration of personal learning environments, visit http://delicious.com/stacks/view/Qeck9Y  Also, read more about the related concepts of personal learning networks (which overlap with personal learning environments), social bookmarking, and content curation.

References

Attwell, G. (2006). Personal learning environments—The future of elearning? eLearning Papers. Retrieved from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media11561.pdf

EDUCAUSE. (2009). Seven things you should know about personal learning environments. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7049.pdf

Grisham, D. L. & Wolsey, T.D. (2006). Recentering the middle school classroom as a vibrant learning community: Students, literacy, and technology intersect. Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy, 49(8), 648-660. DOI: 10.1598/JAAL.49.8.2

Leu, D.J., Jr., Kinzer, C.K., Coiro, J., & Cammack, D.W. (2004). Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other information and communication technologies. In R.B. Ruddell, & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1570-1613). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Available: http://www.readingonline.org/newliteracies/lit_index.asp?HREF=leu/

Martin, M. (2007, April 11). My personal learning envirornment [blog post]. The bamboo project. Retrieved from http://michelemartin.typepad.com/thebambooprojectblog/2007/04/my_personal_lea.html

eVoc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary in Feb 2011 Reading Teacher

A post from Jill

Fellow Literacy Beat bloggers Bridget Dalton and Dana Grisham have just had a new piece published entitled Voc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary in Feb 2011 Reading Teacher!  In this brilliantly insightful article Bridget and Dana invite teachers to ‘go digital with word learning’ and experiment with integrating technology. The piece draws on research-based principles of vocabulary instruction and features free digital tools and Internet resources that engage students in vocabulary learning. Bridget and Dana offer readers ten practical and easy-to-implement ways to develop students’ interest in words as they read, view, interact with, and create word meanings in digital and multimedia contexts. A listing of these ten strategies, a brief description of each, and live links to the resources included in the article follow:

The first five eVoc strategies focus on explicit teaching of vocabulary and helping students become independent word learners.

  • eVoc Strategy 1: Learn From Visual Displays of Word Relationships Within TextTwo of Bridget and Dana’s favorite word mapping tools that support visual representation are Wordle and Wordsift. Both tools help students develop visual displays that highlight the relationships between words.
  • eVoc Strategy 2: Take a Digital Vocabulary Field TripTeachers can create a digital version of a vocabulary field trip using a free online program called TrackStar. This tool makes it easy to collect a series of websites and annotations that together create a connected online journey.
  • eVoc Strategy 3: Connect Fun and Learning With Online Vocabulary GamesBridget and Dana recommend two sites that offer a variety of activities to engage students in playing with words and word meanings: Vocabulary Can Be Fun! and Vocabulary.com. Both sites feature games including crossword puzzles, picture-word matches, word scrambles, and other word fun. These sites offer hours of interactivity and enjoyment for students of all ages.
  • eVoc Strategy 4: Have Students Use Media to Express Vocabulary KnowledgeThis strategy focuses on students’ vocabulary representations in multiple modes—writing, audio, graphic, video, and animation. Bridget and Dana suggest that a multimedia composing and presentation tool that is often underused is PowerPoint.  However, they found that PowerPoint can be used creatively for expression and offer compelling and illustrative suggestions and examples in the article.
  • eVoc Strategy 5: Take Advantage of Online Word Reference Tools That Are Also Teaching ToolsMany online word reference tools, such as The Visual Thesaurus are also excellent teaching resources. This resources supplements its fee-based content with free information such as the Behind the Dictionary and Teachers at Work columns and teacher-created themed word lists. The Dictionary.com Back in School page can be accessed through a variety of platforms (iPhone, Facebook) so its always available as a support tool.

Strategies 6 and 7 highlight two online tools that provide just-in-time support while reading.

  • eVoc Strategy 6: Support Reading and Word Learning With Just-in-Time Vocabulary Reference SupportRather than using print dictionaries or asking teachers for help, students can learn to use online dictionaries and thesauri. Some word reference tools can be mounted on the browser toolbar, allowing students to right click on any word to look it up and have a brief definition display.  For example, see the Dictionary Add-ons for Internet Explorer and Mozilla. Merriam-Webster offers an online visual dictionary, and Enchanted Learning provides a picture dictionary for young children.
  • eVoc Strategy 7: Use Language Translators to Provide Just-in-Time Help for ELs The value of a translator is that it supports learning words as they occur naturally in authentic text and allows students to view bilingual versions of a text side by side so that they can use their first-language  knowledge to develop their English vocabulary. Babelfish,Google translator, and Bing Translator can be very helpful to English learners.

Strategies 8 and 9  help increase students’ volume of reading and, indirectly, their incidental word learning.

  • eVoc Strategy 9: Increase Reading Volume by Listening to Digital Text With a Text-to-Speech Tool and Audio BooksText-t0-speech tools such as Click, Speak for FirefoxNaturalReader free TTS utility, and Balabolka, allow students to listen to text with audio narration. This provides students with access to age-appropriate content and grade-level curriculum.

The last strategy promotes social learning and taps into students’ natural desire to create, to participate in communities, and to develop strategic competence.

  • eVoc Strategy 10: Combine Vocabulary Learning and Social ServiceFree Rice offers an opportunity to promote students’ engagement with words while contributing to the social good. For each correct answer, the United Nations World Food Programme donates 20 grains of rice to countries in need.

Join me in applauding fellow bloggers Bridget Dalton and Dana Grisham on a supremely well-done piece that offers numerous engaging ideas for expanding vocabulary using free digital tools.

%d bloggers like this: