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    Reel Communities: From Apathy to Engagement

    By Kara Clayton
     | Dec 08, 2017
    ThinkstockPhotos-76945744_x300In the year that has passed since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, my video production students have grappled with how to voice their opinions and concerns in a meaningful way. They want to talk about LGBTQIA rights, hate crimes, marginalized communities, and more. 

    To elevate civic engagement, I worked with Jon Wargo, assistant professor at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, to develop a 10-week curriculum where students engaged in participatory politics by producing both a public service announcement (PSA) as well as a short documentary. When completed, many of these videos aired on our daily morning announcements program. Based loosely on a C-SPAN video contest called StudentCam, we wanted students to focus on local issues that personally impacted their lives and, as Julie Coiro and Renee Hobbs suggested in a recent presentation, “advance [their] agency with more time to talk through their interpretations and share meanings together.” We named our curriculum, Reel Communities: My City My Story.

    Learning to tell a story

    Because many of my high school students have difficulty telling a story from any style other than first-person narrative, Jon and I emphasized the importance of learning how to tell a story from multiple points of view. We started the unit by viewing The Danger of a Single Story, a TED Talk in which novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells how she found her authentic cultural voice. We wanted to empower students to disrupt narratives in mainstream media.

    For instance, in a PSA produced on the Flint water crisis, students went far beyond the superficial story of pipes that needed replacing. They dug deeper, addressing uncomfortable questions such as, What if the same crisis took place in a wealthy area of Michigan instead? Would the timeline for repair be different?

    Another PSA focused on the rights of the LGBTQIA community. In this project, the audio track was the highlight of the video. Student producers focused on audio by integrating four different narrators. Additionally, they used the sound of a school's dismissal bell to signal the narrator’s call to action.

    Tough topics and surprising conversations

    With greater confidence in their storytelling abilities, students moved onto documentaries. Several were specific to the black community, including Black-On-Black Crime, Gun Violence, and Driving While Black. In some instances, storytelling was more difficult than anticipated because the story involved their own painful experiences. Driving While Black elicited a wide range of discussion in students’ classrooms, and among our administration. As a result, our school resource officer (who happens to be white) is working with the video production students to create a series of videos on how to keep all parties safe during traffic stops.

    While some of the videos were focused on tough issues, especially in a public school setting, most have resulted in positive discussions. At a time when discourse happens in short posts on social media, I believe Reel Communities: My City My Story successfully opened doors to communication on difficult topics from a high school student's perspective. If we can get students to discuss what's happening in their world and how it impacts their communities and schools, maybe we can transform apathy into engagement.

    kara clayton headshotKara Clayton is a media studies educator at Thurston High School in Michigan.

    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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    Collaborative Literacy Leadership

    By Kip Glazer
     | Dec 06, 2017

    ThinkstockPhotos-84464828_x300One of my favorite parts about my job as an administrator is that I get to work with teachers. My least favorite part of the job is that I have to evaluate them.  

    I believe that, no matter what profession you are in, there is a connotation around the word “evaluation” that makes us all a bit nervous, or even stressed. Because of this, I have worked really hard to make sure my teachers see me as a collaborator rather than an evaluator. Still, it’s often tough to put teachers at ease and to have them see me as their supporter and advocate. It is also tough when I have to provide meaningful feedback to an amazing teacher. I want to give suggestions that will improve their instructional practices.

    I have been able to connect with teachers by engaging them in conversations around instructional technology and gaming. Recently I observed a teacher whose students were giving presentations. I suggested that the students, in groups of four, create presentations using Google Slides, record their presentations using Screen-O-Matic or Screencastify, and upload them to the Google Classroom, to be viewed by others. The teacher and I discussed the possibility of students creating and administering post-presentation quizzes using Google Forms.  

    Another way that I work to engage my staff is by modeling the behavior I expect from them. For instance, when asked to write an article for my district’s quarterly newsletter, I chose “Restorative Justice and Challenge Success” as a topic, which required research and citations. While conducting the research, I worked with my school’s librarian to find the necessary articles. I was delighted to discover that my district had EBSCO subscription, and I learned to use the available resources. As a result, I was able to bring my newfound knowledge into a conversation with a teacher who is working toward a master’s degree.

    When I was a teacher, I always worked hard to be the teacher that I want my children to have. Now that I am an administrator, I am working to be the administrator that I wanted to have. By continuing to build my skillset, I hope I will continue to provide meaningful assistance to my teachers. After all, they are the ones shaping our future!

    Kip Glazer is an assistant principal at La Cañada High School. A native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in social studies, English, health, foundational mathematics, and school administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program. Her Purposeful Tech column looks at how classroom teachers can think critically about today's instructional technologies.

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    Technology: Not Just the Internet

    By Thomas DeVere Wolsey and Frances Dixon
     | Dec 01, 2017
    Maya JaguarWhen educators think of technology, they most often think of digital tools—computers, iPhones, and the Internet, for example. Students need these technologies to learn, but they can also learn from technologies behind (or on top of) the school building and around the grounds. 

    In this TILE SIG post, we invite you to meet some courageous teachers, students, and volunteers, who, through a desire to learn and serve their communities, transformed a single school into a thriving community of educational energy, cultural celebration, and purpose. Welcome to Maya Jaguar Center for Education.

    These protagonists teach, study, and volunteer at Maya Jaguar—a rural school high in the mountains of Guatemala. Among the first technologies installed were solar panels that continue to power lights, internet connections, and computers. With the school lit and connected to the world via the internet, students can read, write, and create in ways they could not before. Many students come from villages without access to electricity. Moreover, the twin technologies of electrification and internet aid students in mastering Spanish, their second language, and the language of the school curriculum. (Most of the students speak an indigenous first language, Q’anjob’al, a Mayan dialect). Technology further allows the students to develop critical thinking skills while bringing the best practices of the world beyond northern Guatemala to their villages. 

    Maya JaguarTeachers assigned to bridge the world of school and the surrounding communities guide students in their internet searches to consult with agronomists in Guatemala and the United States to identify the most sustainable gardening practices. One project offers outreach to village schools and families to grow amaranth, a source of protein that is desperately needed in this region.  Because of the success of this program, Maya Jaguar Center staff and village mothers are considering a move forward to add peanuts, a high-protein crop, which is not grown in the region. It will supplement the nutrition initiatives already in place.

    Although students reside in a rain forest at Maya Jaguar, potable water is hard to access. By building on local knowledge, eco-technologies, and the skill of faculty and students, the school now boasts a reliable rain catchment program that provides safe water to the campus. Because Maya Jaguar teachers and students have deep roots throughout the villages, the sustainable technologies of school gardens, solar energy, and other green or eco-friendly practices every step forward is multiplied ten-fold.  

    Maya JaguarTechnology means tools, the implements that humans use to improve their lives and connect with other human beings. Though the tools of electrification, gardening, and access to potable water may seem fundamental, they are ultimately relevant to the literacies of life found in every aspect of reading the meaningful texts of the world. Texts may be words on a page, but they also include knowledge of how local resources may be used to best meet the fundamental needs of a population. Technology serves to help individuals critically evaluate the vast network of expertise that is available through digital environments beyond the community. It can also help build bridges that preserve indigenous cultures and helping village leaders and community members to look to a future that belongs to them.   

    At schools where students face the challenges of healthy water and food supplies, Maya Jaguar’s teachers and students have found the right combination of new literacies, cultural traditions, and global citizenship.

    Photos courtesy of The Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala Foundation.

    wolseyThomas DeVere Wolsey is an educational consultant who focuses on literacy and technology development at home and internationally.

     

    Francis DixonFrances Dixon is the founder and president of Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to education, nutrition, and agriculture for indigenous populations in Guatemala.

    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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    Do Not Microwave This Notebook: Using Sketchnotes to Demonstrate Understanding

    By Nicole Timbrell
     | Nov 24, 2017

    Sylvia DuckworthOnline attendance registers. Email messages. YouTube videos. Cloud storage interfaces. Social media feeds.

    For digitally connected educators and students in schools with 1:1 device programs, this litany of screen-based daily tasks will be all too familiar. Any learning strategy that taps into the four C's of 21st-century learning while also enabling learners some screen-free time is highly enticing. Enter “sketchnoting," or purposeful doodling.

    In her 2011 TED Talk, Doodlers, Unite!, Sunni Brown recasts the humble doodler from a time-wasting dreamer to a focused and reflective learner.  Brown argues that of the four ways that learners take in information—visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic—deliberate doodling engages all modalities simultaneously, leading to a deeper understanding of new information. Given the propensity of some students to doodle rather than to write notes, especially during direct instruction, the idea that this behavior can be harnessed to leverage, rather than to distract from, learning is most welcome. According to a 2014 study in Psychological Science, students who take notes by hand are more likely to develop greater conceptual understanding and retention of new information than students who take notes using a laptop.

    Fortunately, there exists a community of educators who have long known the power of representing learning through sketchnoting, visual note-taking, and graphic recording. Sylvia Duckworth, Mike Rohdes, and Doug Neill have all published books, websites, videos, and online courses for educators to help students use drawing and illustration to demonstrate understanding.

    Recently I attended an EdTechTeam Singapore Summit Featuring Google for Education, where Sylvia Duckworth was a featured presenter. She encouraged the delegates to see the value in sketchnoting to help students to “retain information, increase focus and engage in creative thinking.” As I sketched and doodled my way through the two-hour session, I planned this list of classroom activities to try with students in my English class:

    In addition to these energizing classroom ideas, one of the best takeaways from the summit with Sylvia Duckworth was a spiral-bound A5 sized notebook. Written on the back and front cover of was an explicit, and highly confusing, warning: “Do not microwave this notebook.”

    All summit attendees had been given a Rocketbook, which is a “cloud connected intelligent notebook.” The bottom of each page in a Rocketbook contains seven symbols which, when coupled with a free smartphone app, can be synced to a range of online locations. Users write or draw their notes on the paper, tick the symbol that represents the synced destination (email, Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, social media, etc.), and scan the page with their phone. The image is then cropped, enhanced, and "blasted" to its final location where it can be manipulated, stored, or shared with others. I had been issued the single-use version, Rocketbook One—not to be confused with the multi-use Rocketbook Wave, which enables users to erase the pages of the notebook using a cup of water and...a microwave oven!

    This ingenious notebook is the perfect tool for anyone who wants to experiment with sketchnoting and share their work with a learning community. Rocketbook-ers enjoy screen-free time while creating their sketchnotes, then instantly store and share their finished products online in any number of digital forums.

    Sketchnoting for school students with Rocketbook?  Blast off!

    Nicole TimbrellNicole Timbrell is the head of digital learning and Australian curriculum coordinator in the Secondary School at the Australian International School Singapore, where she also teaches English. Formerly, Nicole was a graduate student and a research assistant at the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education.

    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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    Where I’m From: Using Technology to Connect Students Across Cultures

    By Tim Flanagan
     | Nov 17, 2017

    Where I'm From“Thank you for teaching us to find ourselves through poetry.”

    One of my students made this comment at the end of the semester I spent teaching autobiographical poetry in Vietnam as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher. One of my goals was to increase students’ global competence.

    Finding your voice in another language

    Over several months, I taught middle school, high school, and college students how to write poems about themselves, using templates such as “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon and “Fourths of Me” by Betsy Franco. All were native Vietnamese speakers, with varying levels of English proficiency. Few of the students had ever written a poem before.

    Although many students struggled to find the words in English, they were eager to get their ideas on paper. I was struck by the small details of their lives, especially the details that reminded me of my students in Connecticut, a half a world away. Pop culture (especially Korean pop bands), love, pressure from parents, stress from too much homework, challenging stereotypes, and understanding one’s place in the world were all popular themes throughout the poems. Here are a few notable excerpts:

    I am from my mother
    From love and sweetness
    I am from the colorful kite in the sky
    I am from the sunshine around the sunflowers giving me inspiration
    From my countryside where I run to my horizon
    Lying on the grass and feeling my heart
    But at that moment
    I am from a boy who I always think of
    From his eyes when we meet
    Oh my boy! Please understand me and feel my soul.

    (Trang, “I Am From”)

    one fifth of me
    is standing on the ledge of a rooftop
    wondering if today's a good day to die

    one fifth of me
    is sitting on a tree
    yelling out me! me! me!

    one fifth of me
    is doing espionage in Europe
    moonlighting for the Commies

    (Claire Daring, “Fifths of Finch”)

    My mom makes me every meal
    My dad drives to dig for every “dong”
    My sister is seeking love from the other side
    My family is forced to find what is needed for our future

    (Thang, “Frustration”)

    Connecting across cultures

    My students hesitantly submitted poems to the website I created. They wondered if their English was good enough, if they had anything important to say, if anyone cared. There were shouts of joy when I showed them that visitors from faraway places such as the United States, Australia, and Palestinian territories had left comments for them. At that moment, the students realized the power of their words and felt a connection to the outside world. And the students who read and commented on their poems began to understand that Vietnam is more than a war.

    Today there are nearly 200 poems from students in four countries on the website. Visitors from 45 countries have read poems and written over 500 comments.  And more poems are being submitted.

    I am a general who loves peace.
    I fight for peace, to save my Karen people.
    I hear the Karen people need freedom to be free.
    I dream for my people and my country.
    I am a general who loves peace.

    (Saw Char, “I Am”)

    The power of poetry and technology combined can help students form a deeper understanding of people from around the world on their journey to becoming globally competent citizens.  

    Tim FlanaganTim Flanagan is a sixth- and seventh-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Pawcatuck Middle School in Stonington, Connecticut. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter. Teachers can access a complete Where I’m From Curriculum Guide online with poetry lessons, model poems and directions for how to submit student poems to the website.

    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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