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    Preparing Preservice Teachers in the Digital Age Through Real-World Classroom Connections

    By Katie Kelly
     | May 10, 2019

    preparing-preservice-teachersTeacher education programs have a responsibility to prepare candidates to effectively incorporate instructional technologies in the classroom. Although considered tech-savvy, many preservice teachers’ expertise remains in social networking. Thus, preservice teachers need frequent opportunities for experiential learning with instructional technology to design purposeful use of technology for learning outcomes.

    In my literacy education courses at Furman University, I embed technology practices into assignments to expose preservice teachers to meaningful real-world interactions with students in addition to their required face-to-face classroom field experiences. For example, we have used a variety of platforms such as Lino, Edmodo, and Kidblog to engage in digital book clubs with elementary learners. This real-world experience provided the preservice teachers with opportunities to practice assessing readers’ comprehension. Using a digital conferring approach, preservice teachers facilitated online conversations to nudge children to deepen their thinking about text. This experience helped them differentiate instruction based on formative assessment practices and tailor support for individual learners.

    More recently, we have used FlipGrid as a platform to confer with young writers. After learning about the importance of making books with emergent writers, kindergarten teacher Cynthia Thompson created a FlipGrid for her students to share their first published books with an authentic audience. Not only could the children listen to their peers reading their writing, but families could also listen to the children sharing their masterpieces.

    Additionally, by viewing a wide range of published writing in Ms. Thompson’s class, my preservice teachers deepened their understanding of the individualized nature of writing. They learned that the kindergartners wrote on a range of topics such as lost dogs, kindness, being thankful, and Batman of course. They also became aware of the wide range of abilities within one given class. The FlipGrid provided the preservice teachers with an opportunity to practice conferring with emergent writers. They analyzed the writing samples, considered instructional implications, and recorded a personalized video response for each child to give them feedback about their writing and development as writers.

    As one preservice teacher said, “We were able to connect with students in a different state and help them build confidence in their writing through video. This not only helped us learn about giving feedback to students but allowed these students to share their writing. They were able to work on presenting skills like projection and fluency in reading, and they really enjoyed hearing our responses to their work.”

    There are endless possibilities for the use of FlipGrid in the classroom including book talks, retellings or think-alouds about text, sharing steps for solving a math problem, and conducting a science experiment. Preservice teachers enrolled in my content area literacy course used FlipGrid to share book talks to help expand their peers’ repertoires for use of children’s literature across the curriculum.

    In each of these instances, the preservice teachers learned how digital platforms can be used to leverage formative assessment practices and individualize instruction while increasing their motivation and confidence for embedding technology in their own future classrooms.

    In order to prepare preservice teachers for today’s digital landscape, it is essential to embed authentic technology-enriched learning experiences throughout teacher preparation programs to expand learning through meaningful hands-on application.

    Katie (Stover) Kelly is an associate professor of education at Furman University in Greenville, SC and coauthor of From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools to Transform K-6 Literacy Practices (Solution Tree), Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3-12 (Corwin), and Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Children Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action (Heinemann). Follow her on Twitter @ktkelly14 and her blog at bookbuzz.blog.

    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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    Supercharged Read-Alouds

    By Mary Moen
     | May 03, 2019
    just-pick-anything

    Teacher led read alouds are a powerful instructional activity. Decades of research indicate that the read-aloud experience at all grade levels benefits students’ development as readers and their success in school. That’s great news, but what is a post about good, old fashioned read-alouds doing in a blog post about teaching with technology?

    As a professor in a school library media educator preparation program, I have had the opportunity to observe dozens of school library candidates during their student teaching. Many are expanding and enriching the read-aloud experience using digital resources and technologies. Following are examples of how these candidates supercharge their read-alouds with technology.

    • Bring the book’s author and illustrator to life by integrating engaging, age-appropriate digital resources such as videos, interviews, blogs, and websites about them into the read aloud experience. For lower elementary students, videos on authors such as Kevin Henkes demonstrate that authors and illustrators have a craft and a message specifically for them. Authors such as Cece Bell may inspire older elementary students. Bell’s talk about why she wrote El Deafo (Abrams) helps students understand her perspective and connect with her as a real person. Older students may enjoy websites of their favorite authors. Neil Gaiman’s site encourages individual exploration by providing content about his work, new releases, essays, FAQ, and even a message board for fans to interact with each other.
    • Connect the subject matter of your read-aloud book to issues in the wider world and as well as to content across the curriculum by using maps, videos, websites, music, and virtual tours. If you are reading a story about penguins, show a map and short video of penguins in their habitat. Follow up by modeling inquiry research on penguins, climate change, and its effect on habitats by accessing and searching the school’s educational databases. Play a recording of the recycled orchestra of Paraguay's music after reading Ada's Violin (Simon & Schuster) and collaborate with the music teacher on an interdisciplinary project. Familiarize students with the setting of a book by using Google street view and travel videos. As virtual and augmented reality becomes more common in education, content created with a virtual reality app, such as Tour Creator, is an exciting option.
    • Use digital resources to help connect students to the subject matter of a read-aloud book. If you’re reading a book about snakes, for example, you can show students which snakes can be pets or what snakes live in your state.  Sharing a book about ducks? Have students sing and dance to "Six Little Ducks," available on streaming sites like Spotify. Take advantage of the ideas for extension activities available on author websites, reading organizations like ReadWriteThink.org and even those posted by individuals, such as this video for kids on how to draw Mo Willem’s Piggie character. Make sure you vet resources for appropriateness, content, and quality. The goal is to find audio, visual, and other digital resources that facilitate student immersion into the time, place, culture, and/or topic of a story to increase comprehension and deepen connections with books.

    To help select the resources for your technology-enhanced read-aloud, ask your school librarian for help. They have been trained to provide resources and are willing instructional partners. To organize your enhanced read-alouds, create a slide deck with an introduction to the book and links to the resources.  The slide decks can be used year after year and updated quickly. Have fun creating a supercharged reading experience for students at all grade levels.

    Mary H. Moen is an assistant professor and coordinator of the School Library Media program at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island. Connect with her on Twitter @mary_moen.

    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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    Broadcasting Literacies on the Local Frequency: Using Radio Productions to Amplify Children’s Community Interests

    By Cassie Brownell
     | Apr 26, 2019

    broadcasting-literaciesIn the years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast, education within the city of New Orleans has continued to shift. Immediately following the storm, many schools received technology donations, including interactive whiteboards and touch technologies, such as tablets. More recently, as charter schools continue to take hold in the city, educational and community leaders are seeking new ways to engage children and youth in literacies and community.

    As a former early childhood educator in New Orleans, I have been privy to many of these original ideas on my return trips to visit family and friends. Yet, much of this important equity work remains peripheral to traditional conversations about school reform within the city. Given this, and because New Orleans will play host to the ILA 2019 Conference in October, I wish to highlight one group fostering new opportunities for children and youth to engage with/in their city.

    Be Loud Studios (a newly formed nonprofit organization) exemplifies educational innovation by amplifying the voices of young people as they share ideas about—and happenings within—their communities. Under the lead of two seasoned educators—Diana Turner and Alex Owens—Be Loud Studios originated as a part of the larger curriculum at Bricolage Academy, an elementary school whose “overriding educational philosophy strives to develop students into creative problem solvers who will change the world.” Turner, a literacies interventionist, and Owens, the lead teacher in the school’s makerspace, wished to merge their expertise to give students, as Turner described, “a chance to talk about what’s going on in their communities.” Through their collaborative efforts and with support from school leader Josh Densen,BricoRadio—a weekly show dedicated to voicing the interests of Bricolage students— first aired in late January 2018.

    Through the process of composing each episode, students engage in schooled notions of reading, writing, and making as they investigate and follow stories, write scripts, read and listen to their recordings, and make cuts to their final productions. Because show production requires print-based communication, Turner and Owens have had the chance to rehearse word-level skills such as phonics with targeted students. However, the teachers also use the opportunity to discuss the ideological nature of literacies, particularly when literacies are viewed as an autonomous skill set, by answering the question “Why do I have to learn this?” head-on. “With BricoRadio,” Turner argued, “we have a chance to make things like phonics relevant” by showcasing how print-based reading and writing can facilitate wider communication in new ways. Still, Turner and Owens are clear that BricoRadio should not only be perceived as an intervention for students who are seemingly “behind” based on standardized measures. Rather, these educators argue that, as Turner stated, “everyone can learn from being on the radio,” particularly because “kids have something to talk about.”

    Now in its second season of production, Turner and Owens’ desire to center youth voices shines through in each episode. From the first segment to their newest release, the youth-run show reflects the students of Bricolage’s interests and curiosities in a meaningful way. For example, during the two seasons already produced, students have discussed their beloved New Orleans Saints and slime-making alongside the removal of local statues of Confederate leaders and the national Black Lives Matter movement. In this way, Turner and Owens offer students not only the opportunity to practice print-based and digital literacies but also open new avenues  to examine social issues.

    Following the great success Turner and Owens experienced with BricoRadio, the two teachers plan to extend their reach into other pockets of the community. “Kids want to do this,” Turner stated, “and they need to do it, too.” With the understanding that not all schools have the capacity or infrastructure to facilitate this kind of learning, the duo established Be Loud Studios to support children across formal and informal contexts in producing their own shows. Using the lessons learned as facilitators of BricoRadio, Turner and Owens hope to increase children and youth’s competency and proficiency as digital producers—not just consumers—throughout New Orleans. Together, the two plan to bring together different networks for the city’s young people to voice their concerns while improving access to digital literacies, beginning in July 2019, when they will launch a series of workshops through their youth summer camp.

    Stay tuned to BricoRadio’s Instagram for new episodes from the students of Bricolage Academy and, if you’re attending the ILA conference this fall, be sure to listen to past episodes to get an insider’s perspective of the city!

    Cassie J. Brownell is an assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education within the University of Toronto and the 2017 recipient of the ILA Helen M. Robinson Dissertation Grant. She has been a member of ILA since 2012.

    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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    Composing Digital Texts With Community-Based Art

    By Katrina Kennett
     | Apr 19, 2019

    Many people find it difficult to engage with—and construct meaning from—an unfamiliar piece of art. Similarly, it can be a challenge to embrace new digital tools and use them to exercise higher level critical thinking skills. Thinking about this complementary puzzle, I wanted to challenge my preservice teachers to use arts and technologies to access complex ideas and think deeply about the choices they make as learners.

    As a teacher educator, I want my students to wrestle with the ambiguity of classroom practice, even as many of them demand clear-cut answers for how to teach. Posing this dilemma to Aja Sherrard, the gallerist at our university, we designed a multidisciplinary project that invited students to explore art, create a digital classroom text, and present it at a public open house event.  

    Watershed

    kennett-3 copyIn the fall of 2018, the University of Montana Western (UMW) hosted an exhibition titled “Watershed” by printermaker Jason Clark, an unregistered member of the Algonquin nation. Clark’s work explores “cultural issues, environmental issues, indigenous mythology and postcolonial identity” through vivid, folkloric imagery. The show’s content is not immediately understood without knowledge of local geography (e.g., the Clark Fork River), current events (specifically, the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock protests of 2016) and traditional symbols (e.g., thunder birds and water panthers).

    I brought my students to the gallery to meet with Aja, who led us through a guided discussion which included inventorying students’ immediate responses to pieces and the show’s composition as well as making conceptual leaps grounded in visual evidence.

    Students were then presented with a challenge: choose a piece of art from the show and create a digital text intended for classroom use. I encouraged them to work at the intersection of arts and technology. How could they use digital tools (iPads, Book Creator, and their own devices) to augment their future students’ understandings? How could their books capture the artist's ideas for those who aren’t able to attend the physical exhibit? In what ways would their book deepen ways of knowing, current events, and empathy?

    Students worked on their books over multiple class periods, moving to and from school iPads, their own devices, and the web-based version of Book Creator (an app for making, reading, and sharing interactive books). They captured images, made recordings, and discussed the affordances and constraints of both devices and platforms. They envisioned classroom scenarios, researched, and connected to grade-level standards appropriate for their target classroom. When they finished their digital texts, they published them on Book Creator’s website.

    The project didn’t end there, and thankfully so. In the  spirit of contributing knowledge to authentic communities, we hosted a public event in the gallery. After publishing their final book, students created a QR code, printed it out, and taped it to the back of their “teacher clipboard.” When we welcomed guests to the event, we encouraged them to use their device’s phone to scan the QR codes and discuss what they read with the author. 

    The Lucky Ones

    kennett-2 copyBecause I teach on a block schedule, with students taking one course at a time for 18 weekdays, I was able to repeat this project when teaching the course in January 2019. This time, the exhibition in our gallery was Madeline Scott’s “The Lucky Ones,” a collection of photographs that trace the arrival of Syrian refugees to the city of Boise and their subsequent settling into life in the United States. Framing the story in larger political events, key photos featured the last refugees allowed in the country before the so-called “Muslim Bans” went into effect.

    Like Clark’s show, the exhibit was designed to be more accessible to students. As an introduction to the subject matter, students attended a panel about the growing presence of refugees in Boise. Scott opened the panel, speaking about the experiences and ethical dimensions of photographing such vulnerable moments. The panel included the founder of Soft Landings Missoula, the mayor of Helena who is also a refugee, and the director of the Missoula chapter of the International Rescue Committee.  

    The students were again prompted to use the exhibit to inspire a classroom-ready digital text. Students leveraged the exhibit’s photographs as launch points for research about the process of coming to the United States as a refugee, the stories of famous refugees, and building classroom cultures that welcome students of all backgrounds. Again, my students used Book Creator to design multimodal texts, publishing the final work as a device-accessible QR code. They presented their final K–8 classroom-oriented digital texts on our final Friday, to the delight of our open house guests. Following are examples of students’ final projects:

    Apprenticing into authentic planning practices

    kennett-1Over the two iterations of this project, my students created digital texts as a way to engage deeply in community-based issues that connected to national political conversations. While making their books, they raised essential teaching questions: who am I speaking to? Why does this matter? Is what I’m sharing accurate (to whom)? What am I trying to accomplish in this lesson?

    Through publishing and speaking to their final texts, this project also provided an intentional apprenticeship into the profession. When the underclassman came to the gallery events, my students reflected with a deep sense of accomplishment about how far along in the program they realized they had come since their own EDU201 days. They saw themselves as stepping into the educational community by publishing in an online space that other educators could access. Finally, by creating a text meant for classroom use and envisioning the scenarios it could support, my preservice students were able to participate in a core practice of classroom teaching.

    Katrina Kennett is an assistant professor of education at the University of Montana Western. Her research investigates teachers’ planning practices, specifically how teachers intentionally open opportunities for student inquiry and agency through a variety of technologies. She can be found at @katrinakennett and katrinakennett.com.

    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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    Developing Language and Literacy Through No- and Low-Tech Coding

    By Stephanie Branson
     | Apr 16, 2019

    internet-safetyQuality early childhood classrooms are language rich and full of opportunities for children to learn through storytelling, exploration, problem-solving, socializing, and inquiry-based activities. Moreover, early childhood teachers use a plethora of diverse tools that foster literacy and language and spark children’s interest to learn and develop. Literacy is seamlessly embedded throughout the day and exposure to rich and robust language is intentional and meaningful. However, often these rich environments neglect to include technology as another important tool to build language and literacy.

    According to a joint position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, technology can support learning and development when it is used appropriately and intentionally by a teacher well versed in developmentally appropriate practices. And although there are screen time debates and fear of young children spending too much time on devices, there are no- and low-tech choices that align with and reinforce the goals and vision of an early childhood classroom.

    One such prospect is to incorporate basic coding games and screenless coding devices into project-based learning and centers. Coding affords children the opportunity to acquire and practice communicating with clarity and precision, while also encouraging decision-making, risk-taking, creativity, visualization, and problem-solving. Further, coding develops persistence, resilience, and confidence.

    In layman’s terms, coding is a basic language of the digital world, directing computer-based technologies on what to do and how to operate. It requires exact step-by-step instructions to operate a device correctly. While there is much more involved, young children can begin to develop the necessary habits and processes of coding that can transfer into more complex coding later on. The following are suggestions for getting started and incorporating coding language in the early childhood classroom with no- and low-tech solutions.

    No tech and unplugged

    Young children begin to develop the language, vocabulary, and the processes of coding without a device or screen using body movement, games, and storytelling. In order for unplugged coding to work in the classroom, children must use precise language and communicate exact commands. Following are ideas from different early childhood classrooms for precoding.

    • To get started with basic commands and vocabulary, create directional command cards with symbols or write them on the whiteboard for students to physically execute as the card is pulled or as the “programmer” directs (similar to Simon Says). Children get in the habit of following a specific command tells them when and how to move. Like robots or devices, children can’t move until directed. Eventually, children transition into the role of programmer and practice clear communication and strategic thinking to move peers within the grid.
    • Incorporate a human coding grid on the floor to visually represent space and boundaries. Have children work together and take turns assuming the role of game programmer. The programmer flips a series of 2–3 cards and communicates precise directions for the teammates to execute. Include obstacles in the grid to challenge children to be flexible and creative in their thinking and choice of commands.
    • Create a storytelling grid with familiar books. Take a favorite picture book and plot out different setting or events across the grid. Ask children to move a character through the story grid, following the correct order of events and retell the story as they go. This not only encourages students to recall story elements, but also reinforces coding essentials and clear communication. Children can also create their own storylines, characters, and coding cards. Variations are numerous, and I suggest following the embedded NAEYC link to get a better idea of how to incorporate storytelling with coding grids and extend coding play in the classroom.

    Low tech and screenless

    A next logical step is to transition children to operating a device with basic codes. There are a number of coding bots that are the perfect fit for different early childhood settings. Most require minimal setup, and many are screenless, encouraging children to explore and manipulate physical coding pieces to control a bot.

    • Cubetto is especially interesting and appealing because of its natural aesthetic, minimalist design, and open-ended features. Children arrange tactile tiles on a board to control the movements of a robot. Although Cubetto comes with premade mats, children can design their own courses and experiences. This is a perfect transition from the low-tech coding activities described previously and appropriate for ages 3–6.
    • Similar screenless devices include Beebots, Code-a-pillar, Matatalab Coding Set, and Botley. The devices are low-risk, hands-on, and high-challenge and embolden children to fail and persevere through tasks.

    Incorporating coding through stories, games, and screenless bots is a fantastic way to reinforce and foster a language-rich classroom and introduce children to future skills and thinking. For more information or anyone interested in how coding fits into an early childhood classroom, please take a look at our ILA 2018 Conference presentation in collaboration with the USF Preschool for Creative Learning.

    Stephanie Branson, an ILA member since 2015, is a PhD candidate at the University of South Florida, pursuing literacy studies and elementary education with a special focus on digital literacies and teacher development. Connect with her on Twitter @blueskysb.

    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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