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    The Disconnect Between Digital Literacy Trends and Educational Realities

    By Vicky Zygouris-Coe,
     | Feb 16, 2018

    ThinkstockPhotos-stk146244rke_x300Many years ago, I sat down with a fourth-grade student to review one of her papers. We discussed the comments and suggestions I had written and established shared goals. At the end of the conference, I asked her if she had any questions, to which she responded, “You tell me what you do, but will I be able to do it?” The content of this blog post reminds me of my former student’s question. 

    Both in research and in practice, “we” (i.e., federal and local policymakers and researchers) “tell” educators, parents, and others about the importance of teaching and learning in the 21st century and about developing our students’ abilities to comprehend, communicate, and evaluate information in digital forms. On the other hand, it appears that what we know about the need to develop students’ 21st-century literacy skills conflicts with the realities of everyday teaching and learning and other literacy-related and educational goals.

    Top three requests related to digital literacy

    Over the years, I have been involved in school-based professional development, collaborative projects between my university and school districts, and funded projects that have focused on the language and literacy needs of teachers and students across grade-levels and content areas. I have conducted several workshops on digital literacy, disciplinary literacy, and online reading comprehension, among others.

    These are the top three requests (related to digital literacy) I hear from teachers:

    • Digital content they can incorporate into their curricula for differentiated instruction purposes
    • Instructional ideas about how to develop students’ digital literacy without sacrificing content
    • Guidance on how to communicate to their principals, and to others who evaluate them, the role of digital literacies in supporting students’ overall literacy, content knowledge, and skills

    Digital literacy is more “hot” than “important”

    These situated teacher needs support ILA’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy survey findings, which rank Digital Literacy No. 1 among all hot topics but No. 13 in terms of importance. Respondents expressed concern that digital literacy is being presented as a quick fix for complex teaching and learning issues and that it is “crowding out a focus on basic foundational literacy skills.”

    Although I both recognize and understand the challenges of adopting a 21st-century instructional and pedagogical digital literacies framework, I also wonder what would happen if digital literacies were conceptualized as a common “thread” that both supports and develops within each one of the top five important literacy topics ranked in the findings: Early Literacy, Equity in Literacy Education, Teacher Preparation, Strategies for Differentiating Instruction, and Access to Books and Content.

    Recommendations

    The 21st-century literacy skills students need to develop are far greater than the sum of their parts; literacy is given meaning by the cultural discourses, practices, and contexts in which it is surrounded. Young readers need to develop their reading and literacy skills using print and digital texts in ways that are developmentally appropriate. In my view, the reported disconnect between digital literacy’s trendiness and importance also highlights the need for more supports that specialized literacy professionals and digital literacy researchers can provide to teachers and parents about the role of digital literacy during the early literacy, intermediate, and adolescent years.

    For example, when I teach my students how to locate, read, comprehend, and evaluate information about the Great Migration movement from the History Channel and how to analyze primary sources from the National Archives, I am accessing content while demonstrating digital literacy knowledge and skills. I spend time over the course of the year modeling, providing feedback, and creating opportunities for my students to collaborate with peers, discuss, and apply what they learn in my classroom in a variety of learning spaces.

    I also use a variety of digital and print texts and resources (e.g., The Great Migration: An American Story by Jacob Lawrence (1993); This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson (2013); and relevant Newsela articles—e.g., “Jim Crow and The Great Migration” and “Songs of African-American Migration were Influential Across the Land.” Furthermore, I differentiate my instruction, the texts, and the supports I provide to help all students construct meaning.

    Digital literacy is neither a quick remedy for the complex demands of literacy teaching and learning nor a substitute for the expert classroom teacher. In closing, I choose to view the results of ILA’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report as a call for new, teacher-centered, collaborative, relevant, and strategic discussions among specialized literacy professionals, K–12 educators, researchers, and teacher educators.

    vicki-zygourisVicky Zygouris-Coe is a professor of reading education at the University of Central Florida. 
     
    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Supporting New Teachers Through Tech: Introducing #Preservicelit

    By Stephanie Affinito
     | Feb 14, 2018

    shutterstock_213310894_x300Where do you find your teaching inspiration? In our tech-savvy world, chances are, you turn to other educators on social media. Facebook groups and Google+ communities provide avenues for digital conversations about teaching and learning. Twitter connects educators through micro-writing. Pinterest houses millions of lesson plans, activities, decoration ideas, and more. Even Instagram can link us to authors and books to bring into our classrooms. So, which one has inspired you?

    Twitter has been a particularly important tool for building my personal learning network (PLN). The virtual support, camaraderie, and inspiration fuels my heart and mind. I tweet for my next book to read, for advice on an upcoming presentation, to request resources, and to participate in Twitter chats for real-time professional development and learning.

    Twitter chats have connected me to other teacher educators, have hatched ideas for collaborative research projects, and—put simply—have supported my own professional learning to better my teaching. I have often said that I wished I knew about the power of Twitter much earlier in my career. Therefore, I have woven Twitter and social media into my teacher education classes to introduce my students to the power of social media to build our fellow tribe of educators.

    Imagine if we created a support system where education students cultivated their own professional learning networks within, across, and beyond institution walls so that, when they graduated, they were armed with a tribe of supportive teachers to support them on their new journey? Enter #preservicelit—a new Twitter chat where undergraduate and graduate education students and preservice teachers connect to discuss current ideas in the field, share ideas and resources, grapple with teaching challenges, ask questions, and meet new mentors for their own professional learning.

    Our inaugural chat was a complete success as education students, preservice teachers, new teachers, literacy teacher educators, practicing educators, literacy coaches, and even prominent authors in our field came together to support new educators as they explored the world of social media and began building their professional support systems.

    While #preservicelit was especially created for education students and preservice teachers, all educators play an important role in its success. Preservice teachers learn about the power of growing their PLNs and practice using social media professionally, ethically, and responsibly to further their learning. Literacy teacher educators coach preservice teachers through virtual interactions, collaborate with other faculty across institutions, combine expertise, and strengthen education programs together. Educators, mentors, and guest hosts support the newest members of our profession and even connect preservice teachers to the very authors, researchers, and professionals they are learning from in their teacher education programs.

    All educators are invited to the #preservicelit chat. Please visit our website for additional information, including a calendar of monthly topics and a place to sign up for text reminders. Join us in supporting our future educators on the first Saturday of every month at 9:00 a.m. ET for a lively 30-minute chat on all things literacy!

    Stephanie AffinitoStephanie Affinito is a literacy teacher educator in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. Stephanie regularly teaches graduate courses on elementary classroom literacy instruction, literacy intervention, and children’s literature. She has researched literacy coaching as part of her doctoral studies and focuses much of her current work on how technology and digital tools can impact teacher learning and collaboration. You can find her on Twitter at @AffinitoLit.

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    Using the Language of Code to Empower Learning

    By Mark Davis
     | Feb 13, 2018
    Coding

    For educators trained in traditional literacy, the idea of becoming proficient in—and teaching—digital literacy might be overwhelming. When I propose teaching coding to my fellow educators, the common reaction is to assume that they must have a science or mathematics background. The misconception makes sense when schools continue to teach coding as an elective and to emphasize its importance to only those interested in computers.

    The past decade has given rise to a campaign to teach coding as a fundamental literacy in all schools. Some might see the movement as part of a political or cultural resurgence from the previous decades. In the late 1950s and early 1980s, many feared that the United States was losing its edge in business and scientific achievements. Educators responded with a renewed emphasis for teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Indeed, STEM and the addition of the arts (STEAM), are still perceived as a critical pathway to college and career readiness. I have spoken with literacy colleagues who believe STEAM is trend that draws attention away from core instruction in literacy.

    As a longtime educator of secondary literacy students, I understand this concern. There are few universal rules or grammar to the various modes of digital content. Writing, for instance, is guided by syntax, formatting, and style. We can examine text with accepted standards whereas digital grammar is still evolving. Instead, we have to rely on research in other fields.

    I challenged myself to develop a digital literacy curriculum where students produced projects focused on their interests. My goal was to focus on information and media literacy with some elements of digital production. In developing the digital literacy curriculum, I had to borrow ideas from the fields of computer science, engineering, and business. During this time, I encountered the vast untapped resource of coding for experiential learning.

    Today’s generation has unlimited access to videos, apps, and readily available content. Just two decades earlier, curating information required significantly more time and skill. Now our broadband access and mobile devices expedite these processes with greater ease.

    This is the critical point of digital literacy: learners have to engage in the creation of content in order to fully comprehend its messaging. My students practiced decoding through the process of coding, learned syntax as a new vocabulary, and became fluent in a global language of programming. As an educator, the exhilaration of observing students bring creativity to problem-solving is empowering. Students, families, and fellow educators want to share in the excitement of innovation.

    The expectations placed on technology have not kept pace with our level of understanding. Educators can bridge this gap by introducing coding. Students who become knowledgeable in the design process learn the value of understanding a problem, researching effective practices, and prototyping methods for achieving greater success. I have seen firsthand how this models literacy instruction. The gratification is unparalleled when a learner breaks the code needed to move the process forward.

    Anyone can start coding without a background in computers. Websites such as code.org provide outstanding resources, lesson plans, and projects for all ages and skill levels.

    Moreover, it is encouraging to see the interdisciplinary connections that can be made; often I see an increase in motivation among teachers and students after engaging in coding. Many of my colleagues were willing to engage their students in coding because they realized how it supported core instruction and produced higher-order thinking. The products could be distributed to families and communities to offer a showcase of project-based learning at its best.

    If you’re not yet convinced to integrate coding into your curriculum, I hope you might at least consider the merits of a digital literacy framework that includes coding as an essential learning process. Seek the support of collaborator and see what can be created. You might find that coding improves not only what you have taught, but also what you have learned. It’s not glamorous or mysterious; coding is just another way to empower ourselves in the digital age.

    Mark DavisMark Davis is a former reading specialist and current middle school computer technology educator. He is a doctoral candidate in the joint Ph.D. in Education program at the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College and holds a graduate certificate in digital literacy. You can find him on Twitter @watermarkedu.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Registration Opens for the ILA 2018 Conference

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Feb 12, 2018
    ila-2018-reg

    Registration is now open for the ILA 2018 Conference, which will be held in Austin, TX, July 20–23. Thousands of literacy educators, professionals, and advocates from around the world will gather to connect with and learn from leaders in the field.

    Amid widening socioeconomic disparities, changing student demographics, and an increasingly technology-driven workforce, equity in literacy education has never been more important. With the theme “Be a Changemaker,” the conference will focus on strategies for fostering positive change in literacy education.

    This year’s conference is comprised of three components: Institute Day on Friday, July 20, the Core Conference on Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22, and Children’s Literature Day on Monday, July 23. Registration packages offer discounts and special incentives for bundling events.

    ILA 2018’s new format is designed to deliver a more customized learning experience. Three learning tracks will be offered: Administrators as Literacy Leaders, Literacy Coaching, and Literacy Research.

    The two-day Core Conference kicks off Saturday with an ILA General Session fueled by the changemaker theme. Three keynotes will draw on their own experiences of overcoming adversity, sharing stories of impact about how they’re changing the system from within.

    Nadia Lopez, the founding principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, will discuss how administrators must serve as literacy leaders for their schools and districts. Lopez’s story went viral when the popular Humans of New York (HONY) blog featured one of her students, who cited Lopez as the most influential person in his life. A fundraising campaign ensued, collecting more than $1.4 million  for Mott Hall, a middle school in one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Lopez’s vision for the school—which she says she opened to close a prison—was to give the youth in her community a way up and out.

    Frequent ILA speaker and lead staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Cornelius Minor takes the main stage at ILA 2018. In previous years, Minor has moved and inspired conference attendees with his talks on digital literacy and access, confronting difficult topics in the classroom, and literacy as a social and political tool for building equity in education. This year, Minor will continue to speak frankly on issues of race and educational equity, challenging attendees to confront their own biases and work toward creating truly inclusive schools and classrooms. 

    Finally, there’s Adan Gonzalez, the son of Mexican-American immigrants living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Dallas, TX. Gonzalez, the recipient of a Gates Millennium Scholarship that funded both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, created the Puede Network when he was a sophomore at Georgetown. The organization’s charge is to mentor students and break cycles of under-education. After earning a master’s from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Gonzalez returned to his childhood school, James Bowie Elementary, to teach third grade.

    Learn more and register for the ILA 2018 Conference here.

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily. 
     
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    Read-Aloud for Everyone: Notable Books for a Global Society

    By Sandip Wilson and Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 12, 2018

    On February 1 we celebrated World Read Aloud Day, when people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a right that belongs to all people. This week’s column includes books from the Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group’s 2018 Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS) list that will inspire engaging read-aloud in classrooms and libraries during February and throughout the year. The complete 2018 NBGS list (as well as lists from previous years) is available here.

    Ages 4–8

    I Love My Purse. Belle DeMont. Ill. Sonja Wimmer. 2017. Annick. 

    I Love My Purse 2One day Charlie decides to take the red purse his grandmother gave him to school. His father tells him he might love his purse but that doesn’t mean he should wear it, pointing out that sneakers and baseball caps are appropriate apparel for a boy (while also thinking about things he loves). At school Charlotte questions why he is wearing a purse. When Charlie says, “Because I want to,” she notes that although she loves face paint, she doesn’t wear it every day. As Charlie continues to carry his purse each day, he inspires others to embrace their own unique styles. This picture book is about the importance of being true to yourself, rejecting societal norms, and exploring new possibilities.

    —SW

    Stolen Words. Melanie Florence. Ill. Gabrielle Grimard. 2017. Second Story.

    Stolen WordsA 7-year-old girl comes home from school one day wanting to learn the Cree language from her grandfather. However, like many first-nation children in Canada, her grandfather had been sent to a residential school where he was taught English and punished for using his native language. He has forgotten his language and, after hearing his granddaughter’s excitement, is sad that he cannot teach her beautiful Cree words, so different from sharp-sounding English words. Determined to learn Cree and to help her grandfather, she brings home the book Introduction to Cree from her school library. Based on her experiences as a child, Florence has written a lyrical story of redemption, healing, and love. 

    —SW

    Wishtree. Katherine Applegate. Ill. Charles Santoso. 2017. Feiwel and Friends.

    WishtreeThe narrator of this story is a loquacious old northern red oak named Red. The story of why people call her “the wishtree” (which goes back to her seedling days over two centuries ago) plays a part in Red’s story about a lonely young Muslim girl named Samar. When her family moves into a tiny house nearby, Samar, who ventures out nightly to sit under the tree, shares her wish for a friend by tying a pink ribbon to one of Red’s branches. The carving of the word “LEAVE” on her trunk one night is a disturbing sign to Red that not everyone in the neighborhood welcomes Samar’s family. The way Red (and a community of talking animals who live in the branches and hollows of the tree) deal with intolerance in the neighborhood makes Wishtree a warm, humorous read-aloud story that will encourage thoughtful discussion.

    —CA

    Ages 911

    Letters to a Prisoner. Jacques Goldskyn. 2017. OwlKids. 

    Letters to a PrisonerA man and his young daughter are participating in a peaceful demonstration when he is arrested by the police, hurried to a prison, and locked in a cell, where he falls into dark despair and lonely silence. During the weeks that follow, he thinks of sunny days walking and exploring with his daughter and weeps at his loss, until a ray of light arrives in the form of a letter. Despite the prison officers’ efforts to destroy them, letters from all over the world begin flooding the prison, allowing him to escape on wings of hope. Rendered in colored ink, the apocryphal story, inspired by the ongoing Write for Rights work of Amnesty International, pays homage to the actions of individuals in the name of hope and freedom.

    —SW

    Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees. Mary Beth Leatherdale. Ill. Eleanor Shakespeare. 2017. Annick.  

    Stormy SeasSea Stories recounts the stories of five teenage refugees who fled their homelands by boat between 1938 and 2006. Illustrated with collage, paint, and photographs, the stories, gathered through interviews, describe the conditions of war and persecution that forced them to leave, their life-threatening journeys to a better life, and life after they found new homes. The refugees must travel thousands of miles and sometimes backtrack before they can stop their journeys, only to be kept in detention camps, not knowing their fate. A timeline of boat refugees over four centuries in the front matter and a timeline of refugees from World War II to present in the back matter provide historical context. A list of resources provides information for additional exploration.

    —SW

    Ages 12–14

    One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance.  Nikki Grimes. 2017. Bloomsbury.

    One Last WordIn this anthology, Nikki Grimes shares “wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance” by combining her own original work with poems from the Harlem Renaissance era. The collection is a wonderful introduction to the work of eight master poets of the period: Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, William Waring Cuney, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Clara Ann Thompson, and Jean Toomer, as well as to the Golden Shovel poetry form that Grimes uses. Expressive full-color works of art by contemporary African American illustrators such as R. Gregory Christie, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, and Brian Pinkney beautifully complement the poems. Back matter includes poet biographies (including selected works), artist biographies, sources of poems and poet portraits, and an index.

    —CA

    Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets. Kwame Alexander (with Chris Colderley & Marjory Wentworth). Ill. Ekua Holmes. 2017. Candlewick.

    Out of Wonder 2The title Out of Wonder comes from Lucille Clifton’s quote, “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.” This collection of 20 original poems by Kwame Alexander and his coauthors pays tribute to a diverse group of 20 poets by “adopting their style, extending their ideas, and offering gratitude to their wisdom and inspiration.” Featured poets range from Bashō and Rumi to Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. Each poem is paired with a joyful mixed-media collage painting. Appended biographical notes support further exploration.

    —CA

    Ages 15+.

    Dreamland Burning. Jennifer Latham. 2017. Little Brown.

    Dreamland BurningWhen 17-year-old Rowan Chase discovers a skeleton in a shed behind her home, she has no idea that investigating the murder will lead to painful discoveries about the present and the past. Rowan’s story alternates with Will Tillman’s story—the white son of the owner of a music store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921. In a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will tries to do what’s right for the black community. The novel includes an account of the Tulsa race riots of 1921. At once a mystery and an historical fiction thriller, the stories of Rowan and Will converge in unexpected ways, demonstrating that history continues to influence people’s understanding of themselves and their communities.

    —SW

    Trell.  Dick Lehr. 2017. Candlewick.

    TrellSet in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1980s, Trell, the 14-year-old daughter of a man imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, sets out to clear his conviction. When Trell discovers that legal avenues are not available unless she can discover new information and evidence, she is determined to investigate the court case. Trell enlists the help of a retired journalist to help locate the witnesses used to convince the court of her father’s guilt. Working with the journalist, she discovers a complex web of false evidence and corruption in the district attorney’s office and the police department and uncovers collusion between those officers and a gang leader. In his author’s note, Lehr provides detail about the investigation of the murder case—based on a true story—that showed gross injustice and the “eventual search for justice.”

    —SW

    An Uninterrupted View of the Sky. Melanie Crowder. 2017. Philomel/Penguin.

    An Uninterrupted View of the SkySet in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 1999, Francisco is dedicated to working hard in school so that he can be admitted into university. But when his father, a taxi driver, is wrongfully arrested and sent to prison by a corrupt system, Francisco’s life is changed. Without resources to free his father (and an absent mother), Francisco and his sister, Pilar, live with their father in the prison, which houses thousands of inmates and their families. Each day the children leave the prison to go to school and, while their father makes pennies in the prison to support them, they scramble for money to buy food, hoping to rent a space in the prison that has a locking door and a view of the sky. In an author’s note, Crowder describes her experiences in Bolivia at the time the novel takes place.

    —SW

    Sandip LeeAnne Wilson serves as professor in the School of Education and the English Department of Husson University, Bangor, Maine. She served on the 2018 Notable Books for a Global Society. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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