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    Too Much Screen Time? Develop a Summer Family Media Plan.

    By Joan Rhodes
     | Jun 23, 2017

    Family Media PlanU.S. schools are out for summer! It’s summer time and the living is easy! Or is it? 

    Perhaps you have encountered the same challenge: From the moment our grandchildren wake up in the morning, they are clamoring for digital devices. From Peppa Pig to hours of texting and constant “selfies” during family vacations, children are using technology and social media more than ever.

    The Pew Research Center reports that 86% of 18–29-year-olds use social media, which is probably no surprise to most parents and educators. Another recent national survey by the Erikson Institute reports that 85% of parents allow their children under 6 years old to use technology at home. Television, tablets, smartphones, and computers are now part of the typical early childhood experience.

    A joint position statement issued by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College notes there is conflicting evidence related to the impact of technology on child development. Research indicates a strong relationship between passive media use and childhood obesity, delayed language development, behavioral issues, and irregular sleep patterns. However, research also suggests that digital resources, when designed to incorporate best practices for reading instruction, can be positive learning tools. So how do parents and educators proactively manage their children’s media and technology consumption?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of their interactive Family Media Use Plan tool, which takes a step-by-step approach to creating a personalized media use plan for families. Users are asked to consider each family member’s individual needs as they work through questions related to screen-free zones and times, device curfews, digital citizenship topics, and more. Once a plan is completed, it can be printed and shared.

    The Media Time Calculator provides information on how much time each person spends on daily activities such as eating, exercise, sleep, and media use. While the tool is designed specifically for families, educators will find that working through the questions will help them address media use during the school day.

    After giving the Family Media Use Plan tool a personal test-run, I have made some changes in how our family uses media with our grandchildren. We have a media curfew at meals and are making sure to balance media time with outdoor and other physical activities. These efforts are helping to make our summer a time to “live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air” (as suggested by Ralph Waldo Emerson), with maybe a little dose of Peppa Pig!

    Joan RhodesJoan Rhodes is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University.


    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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    Use E-Mentoring to Engage, Enhance, and Support Summer Reading

    By Tammy Ryan
     | Jun 16, 2017
    E-mentoring

    Two years ago, my nephew was disengaged and struggling academically as a sophomore in high school. After failed attempts to turn things around, his parents reached out to me for help. Using our iPads and Zoom, a free video conference service, I e-mentored my nephew twice a week. We referred to our own copies of required readings to virtually read aloud unclear passages, to critically infer authors’ messages, and to discuss unfamiliar terms. Zoom’s screen share option allowed us to view Khan Academy algebra videos simultaneously and to work through the problems together. Most important, e-mentoring gave me the opportunity to serve as a positive role model for my nephew, to build his self-confidence, and to cheer him on as he hurdled over an academic slump. Following are more examples of how to use e-mentoring to improve students’ academic performance.   

    Virtual book club

    Invite family members, friends, and children to join you in a virtual book club. Establish a day and time to meet online monthly. Like a regular book club, members should have read a particular section in a book or a book chapter. Using a device with a webcam such as an iPhone, iPad, laptop, or computer, members convene on Zoom. During the meeting, members take turns reading their favorite sections aloud, discussing what they liked or didn’t like, exploring themes, and sharing how the book resonated with personal experiences. For additional book club tips and discussion ideas, see “Having Great Discussions at Kids’ Book Clubs” and “How to Discuss a Book With Your Child.”

    Motivating reluctant readers

    Meeting virtually is particularly helpful for students who have limited access to books or who need an nudge to experience the pleasures in learning through books. Get to know the student’s interests and select a book based on those interests. Using a device with a webcam and Zoom, hold up the book to show its illustrations while reading aloud. You can also use Zoom’s screen share option to watch and listen to an actor read aloud on Storyline Online or to view other online resources together. While reading, engage the student in discussion.

    Tutoring beginning readers

    Meet virtually with a student who needs extra reading support. Using a device with a webcam and Zoom’s screen share option, guide the student in reading aloud one of the many books available on Unite for Literacy. First, select a book and ask the student what he or she thinks the story might be about. Then, point to the objects displayed in the photographs or illustrations to introduce important words used in the text. Finally, return to the beginning of the book and ask the student to read it aloud, choral read with you, or read along with audio.

    For additional ways to support beginning readers, see Tutoring Strategies for the Primary Grades.

    Tammy RyanTammy Ryan has over 25 years of teaching experience. She is an associate professor of reading education at Jacksonville University, FL, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy. Her research focuses on beginning readers, digital learning, and international teaching experiences.

    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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    Reel Communities in Action: Mobilizing Youth Through Digital Media Production

    Jon M. Wargo
     | Jun 09, 2017

    Communities in ActionIn a global political climate of fear, oppression, and increased nationalism, how do we make the English language arts classroom a space for political and civic inquiry? How can we explore technology as a means to leverage social action and engagement?

    These questions guided a semester-long teacher inquiry study that Kara Clayton, a media teacher at Thurston High School, and I undertook. We investigated how secondary students in Clayton’s digital media course used video production and participatory action research as a nexus for what some may call “participatory politics.”

    Through a curricular scope and sequence that invited students to work through genres like public service announcement and documentary, students examined a range of topics. From highlighting the contemporary “sounds of silence” in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) school violence to studying the intersections of racial justice, meritocracy, and academic achievement in Detroit, students used video to create counter-stories of the urban metropolis. Below, I highlight one project and its potential in mobilizing youth digital media production as civic action.

    “My City, My Story: Reel Communities”

    The “My City, My Story: Reel Communities” assignment was a remix of CSPAN’s StudentCam competition. The following is a brief overview and description:

    “Riffing off of StudentCam’s theme, this semester you will work collaboratively to produce a 3–5 minute documentary related to the theme “My City, My Story.”  Using elements of storytelling and narrative, video production, and independent research, you will work together as a group to collect and synthesize data about how your topic is produced, mediated, experienced, subverted across local, state, and national contexts. Your message should focus on a contemporary local issue that has equity and social justice as one of its goals. Successful videos will thoroughly explore a variety of viewpoints related to your chosen topic, including those that may oppose the filmmakers’ points of view.”

    Through brainstorming, shooting film, interviewing local stakeholders, and producing video, groups tackled complex issues that were paramount to their local contexts and communities. Youth interviewed community and school leaders, used “expert” film to amplify their argument, and inspired response through calls to action.

    A Critical Case of Catfishing: Using Digital Media to Talk Across Sex Trafficking

    One group used the reel communities project to highlight the real but lesser known consequences of “catfishing” (the practice of luring someone into a relationship through a false identity) in their community. Zeroing in on one aspect of the digital offense, students began to see that an unlikely, but potential pitfall of catfishing youth is sex trafficking. Brainstorming alongside of group members, Clayton and I worked with the students to situate the larger pandemic of catfishing with the problem of sex trafficking. Working with community law enforcement, students used video to not only survey the story of sex trafficking in their community, but to draw attention to signs that predators often exhibit towards youth. The full video is available online here.

    Outside of the written rhetorical force and digital production, youth used multimodal literacy and semiotics to enliven community action. Through digital media production, students engaged in and cultivated new core practices of civic and political engagement. My City, My Story: Reel Communities offered new understandings and more nuanced narratives about urban youth using participatory politics as tools for direct civic engagement and resistance.

    As a teacher educator and digital literacies researcher, I invite you to examine how digital media and video production can facilitate deeper learning while augmenting civic action in your classroom. As your school year closes and the summer amps up, consider the following: How does technology offer a new vocabulary for cultivating engagement in your English language arts classroom and local community? How can video production help students to not only develop a compositional fluency in multimodal writing, but to grow their knowledge and grammar of community organizing, pluralism, and social action?

    Jon M. Wargo is an assistant professor of literacy at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, MA. 

    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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    Tech Tools to Support English Learners’ Literacy and Language Development

    By Katie Stover Kelly and Bobbi Siefert
     | Jun 02, 2017

    From Pencils to PodcastsThe growing population of English learners (ELs) in U.S. schools has left teachers underprepared to effectively support their unique linguistic and academic needs. As noted in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) standards and Diane Staehr Fenner’s Advocating for English Learners, technology can provide meaningful adaptations to support content instruction and language development for ELs.

    Tools such as infographics, digital word walls, and digital storytelling are all effective for building background, deepening understanding of language and content through multiple and varied interactions, and promoting collaboration and communication—all important indicators of ELs’ success in mainstream classrooms.

    Infographics, or information graphics (visuals with text), can be created and used by both the teacher and students. The visual elements of infographics enable ELs to process information more easily and to better understand the content. Infographics also offer an effective format to communicate information in a variety of modalities. Examples of easy-to-use infographic makers include Smore, Easel.ly, and Piktochart

    Digital word walls foster vocabulary acquisition and provide native language and visual support for ELs. Using sites such as PBWorks or Popplet, students can collaborate, connect, and share keywords and online references on a digital word wall. Students can also create graphic organizers that map root words and associated meanings, images, sentence examples, and more. The study of Greek and Latin roots is particularly useful for ELs, as a single root can often be applied to determine the meaning of multiple words.

    Digital storytelling enhances second language acquisition through the integration of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Digital tools such as VoiceThread, Puppet Pals, and Book Creator allow students to create and share material using text, visual, and audio formats. One first-grade EL read and recorded his written page from a coauthored book using VoiceThread, and then listened to and rerecorded it multiple times to enhance his pronunciation.

    ELs benefit from authentic literacy experiences and digital tools where they can collaborate and communicate with their peers while practicing essential language and literacy skills in both traditional and digital spaces. Meaningful uses of technology can help educators meet ELs’ individual proficiency levels, enhance language development and content area learning, and provide performance-based assessments. More information and examples of technology tools can be found in From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools for Transforming K–6 Literacy Practices.

    Katie Stover KellyKatie Stover Kelly is an associate professor of education at Furman University in Greenville, SC, and a coauthor of From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools for Transforming K–6 Literacy Practices and Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3–12

    Bobbi SiefertBobbi Siefert is an assistant professor of education at Furman University in Greenville, SC. 



    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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    How to Help Students Interpret Digital Texts

    Carolyn Fortuna
     | May 26, 2017
    How to Help Students Interpret Digital Texts

    Even in our increasingly digital world, some of my students still have difficulty interpreting digital texts; they seem to summarize main points rather than interpret underlying meanings and messages.

    How can we help students to move beyond summary and toward interpretation? I’ve found that a combination of digital popular culture modeling, heuristics, and choice—along with digital composition—can initiate that process.

    Interpretation combines summary, synthesis, and analysis. We take a whole text and break it into its parts. Those parts, when reassembled, create a more powerful whole than would any individual element. This concept is known as gestalt.

    Digital Culture Modeling

    Let’s take the example of the Chrysler Eminem Super Bowl Commercial in which the rapper protagonist is set against an increasingly revitalized Detroit.

    I showed this video to high school and college students and asked them a series of questions:

    • Identifying details: Who is driving the car? What do you know about him? What’s the camera’s perspective? Name what he sees as he drives.
    • Deciphering symbolism: What does a clenched fist represent? Why did the artist choose an image of workers pulling in unison? What could a statue with a Golden Globe symbolize?
    • Determining overarching thematic meanings: Why was it important, socially and culturally, for Eminem to stand below the chorus? What role do people of color have in Detroit? Who’s paying for this commercial, and why would they want these particular messages portrayed in these particular ways?

    I have found that the fluid and dynamic questioning process involved with this kind of modeling helps students connect the digital dots.

    Heuristics That Lead to Meaning-Making

    I also encourage students to use a step-by-step Digital Visual Analysis Protocol as they attempt to deconstruct digital texts. This protocol arose from my research into the work of Gunther Kress, the National Association for Media Literacy Education Association, and Renee Hobbs’ innovative methodology around digital media text analysis, including her Mind over Media interactive platform.

    Choice + Digital Composition= Interpretation

    William Glasser’s Choice Theory inspired me to let my students choose their own digital texts whenever possible. When they choose which digital texts to interpret through their own original digital compositions, their interpretation skills rise to entirely new heights.

    Interpretation isn’t easy for any of us. But, with guidance and protocols, students can interpret digital texts in ways that move beyond the classroom and into the real world. That’s where the important work of digital text interpretation takes place.

    Carolyn FortunaCarolyn Fortuna, PhD is a retired secondary school English teacher whose next career centers around producing events for the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab and teaching in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at Rhode Island College. You can contact her at c4tuna31@gmail.com.

    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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