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    Resources to Celebrate Digital Learning Day 2018

     | Feb 21, 2018

    Digital Learning DayEach year, states, districts, schools, and classrooms across the United States and around the world hold thousands of events to celebrate Digital Learning Day (DLD). Created by the Alliance for Excellent Education in 2012, DLD offers educators an opportunity to collaborate with peers, exchange ideas, experiment with new digital tools, and showcase innovative practices that are improving student outcomes.

    At the heart of Digital Learning Day is an emphasis on equity—ensuring equitable access to high-quality digital learning opportunities. The event was started as a way to “actively spread innovative practices” to all schools and students.

    The event website provides digital tools, resources, lessons, and webinars to power your DLD activities. For more ideas, check out the links below:

    • ILA’s Technology in Literacy Education-Special Interest Group contributes weekly blog posts on topics in technology and literacy.
    • ReadWriteThink houses a collection of classroom activities, websites, lesson plans, and related resources to help classrooms celebrate DLD.
    • Edutopia published a piece on why and how we can engage parents in DLD.
    • Common Sense Media’s K–12 Digital Citizenship Program features lesson plans, student-facing videos, interactive games, teacher-training and family education materials. Use the "Scope & Sequence" tool to find the perfect lesson.
    • ILA published several resources, including a brief, blog series, and Twitter chat, that explore how educators can foster digital equity for all students.
    • The Teaching Tolerance Digital Literacy Framework addresses seven key areas in which students need support developing digital and civic literacy skills.
    • Digital Tools Aim to Personalize Literacy Instruction,” an article published by Education Week, shares edtech tools that are “rapidly expanding the ways in which teachers can differentiate their literacy and reading instruction.”

    Follow @OfficialDLDay on Twitter for updates and learn more at digitallearningday.org.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily. 

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    Registration Opens for the ILA 2018 Conference

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Feb 12, 2018
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    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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    Why We’re Still Talking About the #ILA17 Social Justice Panel: A Conversation With Education Talk Radio Host Larry Jacobs

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 09, 2017

    Teaching ToleranceMonita K. Bell, senior editor at Teaching Tolerance, and Stephen Sye, associate executive director at ILA, joined host Larry Jacobs on Education Talk Radio yesterday to unpack some of the ideas that drove ILA’s first social justice panel, which has amassed more than 8,000 views on Facebook Live to date.

    The panel, “Disrupting a Destructive Cycle: How Literacy Drives Social Change,” was inspired by an on-the-fly addition to the ILA 2016 Conference & Exhibits, which took place days after the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the Dallas sniper attack, and the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

    “We just found a room at our conference and invited people to come have difficult conversations,” said Sye. “These educators had students who were coming to them with questions.”

    Moderated by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative reporter covering racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, the panelists at the ILA 2017 panel, including Bell, discussed how they are using literacy to disrupt cycles of inequality and affect social change, starting in the classroom.

    “We realized there was a hunger for this information,” Sye said.

    Literacy: the bottom line of education

    When asked how she became involved in the panel, Bell discussed the social and political contexts of literacy, and how it’s critical to her work at Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. She recognizes a broader definition of literacy that transcends the traditional notions of reading and writing.

    “Literacy runs through everything else. It’s reading—but it’s not just reading books—it’s reading the world around you,” she said.

    Sye agreed that literacy has an “all-encompassing” definition that is constantly evolving and expanding to include new forms. He believes that these nontraditional forms—particularly media, digital, and political literacies—empower students to meaningfully participate in social and political issues.

    “At ILA, we think that literacy is a civil right,” Sye said. “We see it as a way to ensure social justice and to enact social change. It’s a pathway to civic engagement.”

    It starts with the teachers

    Educators have a responsibility to deconstruct biases in the classroom—starting with their own, according to Sye. He said that honest self-reflection is the first step in dismantling systemic bias.

    “How can you change the landscape without first understanding the landscape?” Sye asked.

    Sye highlighted tools that help educators to identify their own prejudices, such as Hidden Bias Tests. He also stressed the importance of professional development experiences and online resources, such as ILA’s research-based position statements, policy briefs, and advocacy toolkits, as well as Teaching Tolerance’s learning plans, perspectives texts, teaching strategies, and more.

    Passing the torch

    Although she believes that social change starts with educators, Bell said her ultimate goal is to empower them to “pass the torch” to the next generation of changemakers.  

    “When everyone’s not getting those rights, students need to have a lens to see that, to question it, to challenge it, and then [to] take action against it,” Bell said.

    On the heels of the 2016 U.S. election, the Southern Poverty Law Center administered a survey about school climate to K–12 educators from across the country. The report, titled “The Trump Effect,” summarized 10,000 responses, many citing incidents of verbal harassment, racial slurs, derogatory language, and threats involving swastikas, Nazi salutes, and Confederate flags.

    Bell said these events illustrate that social progress is not linear; for every step forward, there’s pushback. She said teachers have a responsibility to make students aware of their role as future leaders.

    “It takes committed action for things to change. It’s not inevitable,” said Bell. “Now we know that the rights that we celebrated with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, some of those rights are being scaled back.”

    Back to school: teaching tolerance from day one

    Jacobs asked Bell to share tips for educators who are preparing to teach tolerance in the upcoming school year.

    Bell said that Teaching Tolerance recently unveiled a website redesign with new features such as “The Moment,” which currently offers back-to-school resources, including a guide to instituting Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a campaign that encourages students to cross social boundaries in the cafeteria. 

    Another guide, “A New Set of Rules,” helps teachers to engage their students in building a classroom constitution that governs their own behaviors, interactions, and mediation activities.

    Bell said that when students work together to define their own rules and responsibilities, they are more likely to hold themselves and their peers accountable. By establishing a culture of cooperation early on, students are more willing to participate in difficult conversations, according to Bell.

    “Part of that is hearing each other’s stories,” she said. “Someone just said on our advisory board last week, ‘Once you hear someone else’s story, it’s harder for you to hurt them.’”

    Listen to the archived recording of the radio segment here.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    ILA's First-Ever Social Justice Panel Primes Educators to Discuss Race in the Classroom

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 20, 2017

    Cinnamon scones.

    social-justice-panelThat’s what was on Cornelius Minor’s mind as he left for the International Literacy Association (ILA) 2016 Conference & Exhibits for his first ILA conference experience. Just two days earlier, he had watched the livestream of the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, which came on the heels of the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge, LA.

    He felt angry, helpless, and heartbroken.

    “I walked into school that day, visibly carrying my hurt. Wondering what I would say. I needed allies. And my colleagues were eating scones,” said Minor. “Cinnamon scones. I can still smell them.”

    Minor, a lead staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, had reached a breaking point.  He never wanted a student to feel the way he felt walking into the breakroom at work that day. He sent a letter to ILA’s Executive Board, asking if it was possible to add a space for educators to gather and talk about the week’s events, which also included the killing of five Dallas police officers. The resulting “Impromptu Conversation Led by Cornelius Minor” was immediately added to the conference’s agenda. Minor modeled how teachers could talk about emotionally charged and controversial topics to a passionate, standing-room-only crowd.

    It was considered by many to be a highlight of ILA 2016.

    Minor’s session inspired ILA to add a new event to this year’s lineup: “Disrupting a Destructive Cycle: How Literacy Drives Social Change.” Moderated by The New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, ILA’s goal was that the panel would encourage more literacy educators to facilitate difficult conversations in the classroom centered on topics like racism, implicit bias, and equity—issues confronting students every day. Students need an outlet and support. Educators need tools.

    Partnering with Heinemann to broadcast the event via Facebook Live to reach more educators around the globe, the forum took place on Saturday, July 15 at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits in Orlando, FL. Approximately 250 educators attended in person and 7,500 people on Facebook Live have watched it to date.

    Joining Minor on the panel were Monita K. Bell, senior editor for Teaching Tolerance; Deborah Delisle, executive director at ASCD; Zareen Jaffery, executive editor of Salaam Reads; Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education; and Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

    In her keynote speech, “Literacy as Liberation,” Hannah-Jones walked the audience through the history of the criminalization of literacy and segregation in education, starting with 18th-century slavery and arriving at present day. Her takeaway? Despite landmark decisions like Brown v. Board of Education and (mostly) well-intentioned education reform efforts, the U.S. education system is still separate and unequal.

    “The classrooms in Detroit are abysmal,” Hannah-Jones said. “You have students who’ve never taken home a textbook in 13 years. Who don’t have enough chairs. Who have moldy food. Where the water is not drinkable. Who are being assigned third-grade worksheets when they’re in high school, but that’s because they’re reading at a second-grade level.”

    This was not shocking to Thomas, a “product” of the Detroit public school system who returned to the Detroit classroom as a teacher for six years before she, and most of her other young, black colleagues, were fired.

    “I was expensive to employ. I was a traditionally certified public school teacher,” she said.

    Over the next hour, the panelists talked about what they’re doing to disrupt cycles of inequality and affect social change. Thomas believes that one of the most important steps administrators can take is to remove the structural barriers to teacher candidates of color by developing a strategic plan around diverse hiring practices.

    Delisle, who formerly served as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama, recognized the social constructs on very early stages of children’s lives. She emphasized the need for stronger teacher training programs that prepare teachers to walk into a classroom and challenge the status quo.

    “Are they ready to have critical conversations among themselves? In addition, are they willing to question what books are used, what novels are promoted, what kinds of conversation and discourse they can actually have in a classroom? And even among themselves, are they able to question their own practices?”

    Panelists also discussed the importance of using books and texts that reflect a mosaic of races, cultures, religions, ages, genders, and sexual orientations to help students identify with literature and connect books to their life.

    “When I was a kid, it was hard to find stories with characters who looked like me or lived like me,” said Yang. “I think one of the reasons why I love superheroes so much is because almost every superhero has a dual identity. As an Asian American, that was my reality.”

    As a Pakistani-American Muslim, Jaffery also failed to see her own experiences reflected in the books she read as a young girl. In 2016, she founded Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster that focuses on children's and young adult books featuring Muslim kids and families. Her intent was to promote a more nuanced and honest portrayal of the everyday lives of Muslim families.

    Bell believes that bias reduction starts internally. She said that educators should practice self-reflection to observe their own biases, with the assistance of online tools such as Project Implicit's Hidden Bias Test, or by seeking out professional development opportunities that engage specifically with bias. Once they have conquered their own biases, she recommends educators use Teaching Tolerance’s classroom activities with their students.

    “You don’t know what you don’t know about yourself,” said Bell. “Once you recognize these things in yourself, you can start to do the work to counter it.”

    During the conversation, half of the attendees were silent, motionless, absorbed. The rest couldn’t sit still; they were live Tweeting, clapping, and shouting out in agreement.

    Juli-Ann Benjamin was among the attendees who was too enthralled to pick up her phone. In the 22 years she has served as a teacher, assistant vice principal, and now, a literacy coach, in the New York and New Jersey public school systems, very few professional development experiences have truly resonated with her experiences as a black educator.

    “I’ve come to ILA for seven or eight years and have never felt more included and happy to be a black educator,” she said. “I’m a happier ILA member because I now see myself within the workshop sessions.”

    Outside of the session, a flurry of social media activity has sustained since Saturday.

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    Hannah-Jones, along with ILA, hopes that the panel will continue to reach more educators and help them normalize conversations about race and social justice, and empower their students to become agents of social change.

    Watch the archived recording here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.
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    Literacy Leaders Disrupt the Status Quo at ILA’s Sparks Lunch

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 18, 2017

    Danny BrassellTo an outsider, the ILA Sparks Lunch may have looked like a comedy club, a puppet show, or even a lively academic lecture. Emceed by Danny Brassell, speakers Monita K. Bell, Kate Messner, Cornelius Minor, Sam Patterson, and Pernille Ripp gave short, dynamic talks that embraced themes of social justice, the importance of fun in learning, censorship, and disrupting the status quo.

    It wasn’t Danny Brassell’s first time on stage. His 2012 TED Talk “The Reading Makeover” has been viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube. He has been described as “one of the funniest and most inspirational education speeches of the past five years” as well as “Jim Carrey with a PhD.” His mission? To bring joy back into teaching.

    “Happy teachers produce happy students,” Brassell said.

    Social justice in education

    Pernille RippThe audience first heard from seventh-grade teacher Pernille Ripp, who spoke about her experience as a white immigrant, her fear of failing as a teacher, and her journey to founding a worldwide reading movement.

    Ripp’s story began nineteen years ago, when she immigrated from Denmark to the U.S. at age 18.  With her blonde hair and fair skin, she said she never felt like, or was treated like, an immigrant. It wasn’t until the Trump administration’s travel ban took effect that, for the first time, she feared that she may be not be welcomed back into her home after traveling internationally.

    Ripp knew what it felt like to “belong to two nations and yet at times feels lost in both.” Her desire for more global collaboration brought her to where she is today—the founder of Global Read Aloud, a six-week reading project that connects classrooms around the world.

     “When I think about global collaboration—it’s because we need to make the world smaller. We need to stop being so afraid of others,” Ripp said. “We need to teach our kids about the outside world or allow them to start experiencing it.”

    Monita Bell, senior editor for Teaching Tolerance, built on Ripp’s message as she discussed empathy and identity in the classroom.

    Monita BellBell pointed to a few powerful examples of microaggressions in school settings, including a Texas school where two black middle school students received mock superlatives that read “most likely to become a terrorist” and “most likely to blend in with white people,” a charter school where students wearing braids face detention and suspension, and the not-so-aptly named Freedom High School, where students need a permission slip to wear the hijab.

    Bell reminded the audience of educators of the responsibility of educators to create a safe space—not just physically—but for students to be fully themselves.

    "So much of the ugliness we see in the world comes from other people not seeing others as actual human beings," Bell said.

    Fun is a serious issue

    Sam Patterson, makerspace coordinator at Echo Horizon School, introduced a note of levity to the event when he walked onstage with a special guest: his furry, orange sidekick, Wokka. The puppet helped him talk about “one most serious issues facing education”—fun—in the least serious way possible.

    Sam PattersonPatterson showed the audience how to use puppetry to teach everything from vocabulary to STEM subjects to Julius Caesar. He showed examples of the videos he produces, in which kids act out their own original jokes using handmade puppets.

    Patterson believes the puppets help deliver authentic learning experiences. While his students may not always enjoy the subject area, they do always enjoy the puppets.

    “I have to make myself respect their [students] choices. Once I brought fun in, my students made more authentic choices,” said Patterson. 

    Censorship

    Author and banned book champion Kate Messner spoke about the controversy surrounding her recent book, The Seventh Wish, which follows 12-year-old protagonist Charlie Brennan and her family, who—like too many families in the U.S.—are facing the tragedy of opioid addiction.

    Kate MessnerThe week of the book’s release, Messner was disinvited from a school talk and received several disapproving messages from librarians and parents who felt the content was inappropriate. One school librarian explained why she wouldn’t share the book with her students. “For now,” the librarian said, “I just need the 10 and eleven-year-olds biggest worry to be about friendships, summer camps, and maybe their first pimple or two.”

    She then read aloud letters written by young readers who, like Charlie, have loved ones suffering from addictions. They thanked her for writing a book that have made them feel less alone and taught them to be brave.

    Messner stressed the need for stories that don’t sugarcoat the truth, that validate all kinds of experiences, and that show us how to survive, not to live “happily ever after” but “resiliently every after.”

    “Wherever you are, wherever you work, you are serving kids who are living those stories,” said Messner. “When you’re saying that story is inappropriate, you're saying your life is inappropriate.”

    Disrupting the status quo

    Cornelius MinorCornelius Minor, lead staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, presented in place of Rusul, who was unable to attend. He ended the event with a call to action for educators build their own disruption “toolkit” for building equity in education.

    Minor encouraged educators to ask themselves difficult questions about their practice, community and curriculum, and to bring their answers into the classroom. He discussed literacy as a social and political tool, stressing the importance of applied knowledge.

    “If something that I teach a kid only works in the classroom, then it’s not worth teaching. It has to work in the real world. Only applied knowledge is power,” Minor said.

    The attendees left the event clutching pages of notes, teeming with ideas and inspiration, and with a renewed sense of what it means to be an educator in the 21st century.
     
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    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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