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2015 ILA Technology and Literacy Award Winners Help Students Become Lifelong Readers

By Tammy Ryan
 | May 27, 2016

Cowinners of the 2015 ILA Technology and Literacy Award, Libby Curran and Carolyn Fortuna, are exemplary digital role models. Their work informs how to create, innovate, and use technologies for students to become successful, lifelong readers.

Libby Curran, a first-grade teacher at Richards School in Newport, New Hampshire, was recognized for her project,The Reading Train: Learn to Read Books, Songs, & Games, an award-winning app, for use on Android devices and iPads. She created the app to offer motivating books to engage and support emergent readers, special needs students, and English learners. Drawing from 20 years of teaching experience, she designed the app with over 200 nonfiction and fiction books children listen to, read, and record. Books include simple language, pictures to support concept words, and topics of interest to children. The books also address Common Core State Standards and align to Guided Reading Levels A, B, and C.

The Reading Train gives emergent readers opportunities to practice independent reading with the support of interactive audio, visual scaffolding, a picture/audio dictionary, and a tap/hold option to hear spoken words. It includes quiz games, songbook rewards, and books that build background knowledge, decoding, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension skills. With unlimited user accounts, teachers can listen to children’s recordings, track number of books read, and monitor quiz scores. Libby designed the app specifically so children learn about the world while learning to read.

The Reading Train is a must-have app for teachers, tutors, families, and community-based agencies.

carolyn fortuna-052716Carolyn Fortuna, an English teacher at Franklin High School in Franklin, Massachusetts, was recognized for her project, “Reading Meets a 1:1 Digital Environment” in Senior High School English. Her work changes how students engage with texts like Deconstructing Disney. It uses digital tools to help students interpret how media messages influence perceptions and to create a voice to compose, produce, and read the 21st-century worlds. 

Using digital media literacy, a mix of topics, primary source documents, Google websites, Chromebooks, Prezis, Quizlets, YouTube videos, film trailers, and more, Carolyn cross-links assignments to build students’ background knowledge and visual deconstruction of media messages. Reading activities include reading intertextually, researching across cultures, analyzing critically, and composing digitally, using multiple modes of print, audio, digital, visual, and video. Questioning prompts to deconstruct media messages include How might different people understand this message differently than me? or Why is this message being sent?

Deconstruction of media messages starts with Google Chromebooks, populated with heuristics, to scaffold students’ encoding of textural messages. Units focus on advertisement analysis, digital workshop argumentation, survey of nonfiction essays with collaborative teaching, study of curated museums of texts through e-learning modules, and production of genre-based compositions with embedded images, podcasts, narrations, YouTube videos, poems, fiction and nonfiction. All experiences move learning from “recall to critical analysis, digital composition, transformation, and publication.”

Through inquire opportunities, students learn to read 21st-century worlds focused on how to interpret texts differently. “Intellectual conversations that critically examine the production, distribution, and meaning of messages” strengthen lifelong learning, critical literacy skills, and 21st-century reading.

Also founder of IDigIt Media, Carolyn supports educators to incorporate critical analysis and digital composition in courses and workshops. Her work certainly “creates spaces where people from divergent viewpoints can work together to better understand the power and place of digital and media learning and literacy in today’s society.”

The ILA Technology and Literacy Award, honors educators in grades K–12 who are making an outstanding and innovative contribution to the use of technology in reading education. All entrants must be educators who work directly with students ages 5–18 for all or part of the working day. Application deadline is January 15.

Tammy Ryan headshotTammy Ryan is an associate professor of reading education at Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL.

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


1 comment

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  1. Louis Baldwin | Jun 01, 2016

    Teaching ability, over and above reading programs, is the major contributor to students' literacy success. Culturally and linguistically diverse students are not receiving "a free and appropriate education" when teachers are not implementing instructional strategies that optimize student achievement or positively reinforcing their cultural…

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