ISTE LITERACY PLN: 5 Point Friday, Information Literacy

Recently, I joined the ISTE Literacy PLN leadership committee, a group of literacy educators with a variety of roles in education who convene around the shared of passion of technology shaping reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Every Friday, a member of the team writes and shares a “5 Point Friday” listicle. Last week was my first submission and I wrote and shared resources for Information/Media Literacy. Below is my post:

Technology has increased the consumption of information at a rate unseen before and only promises to grow in the future. On average, we spend over 6 hours online every day! As we flip between social media platforms and news sources, having the skills critically discern information is a necessity. Yet, little attention is given to the teaching of media literacy in schools. 

The spread of misinformation and disinformation is rampant. We can no longer rely on past methods, checklists, and resources to help us, and our students, navigate digital information, multi-modal modes, and deep fakes. Recognizing fact from fiction takes both human and machine learning, requiring educators to stay current in the resources available.  

Here are 5 digital resources for media literacy to consider:

  1. Games:  Which Face is Real? Learn how to distinguish between a real face and one computer-generated. Factitious – A Tinder-like game involving news instead of potential dates. Bad News – Places players in the role of the ones who create bad news to gain followers and fame. 
  2. Fact-Checking: Media Bias/Fact Check – MBFC is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. Snopes – started out as a site that checked urban legends but now encompasses general fact-checking of viral misinformation. Lead Stories – one of the longest-running, internet fact-checkers out there.
  3. Politics: Politifact – PolitiFact’s core principles, “independence, transparency, fairness, thorough reporting, and clear writing,” and if you are unfamiliar with the Truth-O-Meter, it is a must click link! Factcheck.org – is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. AllSides – Interactive for users, AllSides exposes people to information and ideas from all sides of the political spectrum so they can better understand the world.
  4. Extensions: SurfSafe is a browser extension for Chrome with one goal, to detect fake or altered photos. NewsGuard is a browser extension to add to your Chrome or Edge browser which gives websites color-coded ratings based on their trust and accountability. Nobias alerts you to the political slant and credibility of news articles and authors before you even read them.
  5. Websites: News Literacy Project – is a national education nonprofit offering nonpartisan, independent programs that teach students how to know what to trust in the digital age. Resources for teachers and students, plus CheckologyKQED/PBS – provides a Media Literacy Educator Certification through Micro-credentials free for educators. NAMLE – The National Association for Media Literacy Education is a national organization dedicated to media literacy providing resources for educators.

Finally, and another terrific source to add to your collection, a creative commons ebook by Mike Caulfield, Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. It is time to toss out the CRAAP checklist and replace it with the methods and moves he shares to best equip our students with the skills needed for contemporary discourse!

Are you a member of ISTE? Consider joining the Literacy PLN to get updates, resources, and connections to other EdTech Literacy Fanatics!

Writing Prompts to Kick 2020 Off Right!

Within the next week or two, educators will return to school and greet the smiling faces of the students whom we have not seen since 2019. And with the new year, a new start is often viewed as an opportunity to set new goals or create new habits.

It’s the beginning of a new year and a new decade; 365 opportunities to dream big and accomplish something new (or something that has been an unreachable goal until this year). For many students, it will be time to reconnect with friends and teachers that they haven’t seen for a couple of weeks. Some students are beginning new coursework, attending a new school, or even planning for graduation in a few months.

As a teacher, returning from winter break was always my favorite time to have students write. Students wrote about their dreams, goals, and ambitions, plus, it went perfectly with the start of a new year and helped to build a community of writers!

Here are 3 WritingIdeas to Kick Off the New Year:

  1. Dream Big – Like a New Year’s Resolution, this writing assignment is filled with questions to consider and write about in hopes that what’s important to them at this moment rises to the top. The Dream Big writing prompt allows students to not only voice what is important to them but identify the steps necessary to accomplish their goal(s) and a timeframe in which to aim. 

New Year, Dream Big…

  • What are my dreams? In school? Life? Friendship? Activities? Etc. (Identify one to write about)
  • Why is this dream important to me? Why did I choose this one?
  • Is this a new dream? Old dream? Habitual dream?
  • What do I already know or understand about this dream?
  • What steps do I need to take to make this happen? Have I already completed or started any of these steps?
  • What help do I need to achieve this dream? Who or what can help me?
  • What is my timeframe for accomplishing this dream? How will I know I succeeded? When will it be time to give up?
  • Closing thoughts and reflections?

2. One Word – Instead of having a lengthy dream or resolution, why not have students identify and write about their One Word for the new year. Every year, educators and students alike choose and share their One Word publicly, but where do you start? And How do you help students identify their One Word? Once done, I always had my students create a visual to post on their blogs sharing their #OneWord or #OneWord2020 Here are a few questions to get them writing:

  • Reflect on who you were this past year? How would you describe yourself? How would others? 
  • Identify the type of person you want to be in the new year? What is your aspirational identity? 
  • Identify the characteristics and qualities of your aspiration or the person you want to be. 
  • Choose your word. Does it call you to action? Ooze passion? Reflect the person or the characteristic you want to be/portray?

3. Habits – Finally, many argue that resolutions are pointless and are quickly forgotten, and it is habits that we need to focus on. Habit tracking helps people identify the small consistent things they do daily that amount to a larger change.

Habit tracking allows one to make changes in their life that will last a lifetime, not just the first month of January 2020. Using a habit tracking app like Google Keep, Bullet Journals, or even Sticky Notes makes your progress visual and encourages continuation. I mean, who doesn’t like checking off a box on a list or calendar. And if you miss a day or two, habit tracking allows you to pick up your goals the very next day. 

As a teacher of writing, I knew the importance of modeling the process for students. When they wrote, I wrote. So be sure to include your own Dreams, One Word, Habits, or Resolutions with your students. And revisit them throughout the rest of the school year, reflecting on progress and where to go to next! 

So consider having your students write to start off the New Year. Help them vocalize their dreams and make them a reality! And enjoy your 2020, I know I plan to make this my best year yet! And my #OneWord for 2020 in case you are curious #Value

Instructional Coaching, Moving Beyond Observation to Co-Teaching

Over the past 7 years, I have seen the power of instructional coaching and the impact on student achievement. Transfer from initiative adoption of professional development does not automatically happen. In fact, without the presence of an instructional coach, I would guess the implementation of any strategy, program, or initiative; even by educators sitting in the same professional learning, is  50/50.

With that being said, I am aware of the difference in effectiveness among instructional coaches as well. Without clearly defined roles, ongoing collaboration and professional learning, instructional coaching could look a lot like observation, sitting in a classroom and taking notes while coaching a colleague.

One untapped model that would promote the transfer into the classroom is co-teaching. Co-teaching, like coaching, can be a mixed bag of applications. That is why it essential to investigate and determine the type of co-teaching that works best in your coaching partnership.

Co-Teaching

Modeling – A traditional type of co-teaching is modeling. An expert teacher models, demonstrates, or shows the partnering teacher how to instruct. Modeling is designed to span the whole class period where the partnering teacher is observing and noting instructional moves displayed by the expert teacher or instructional coach.

Micro-Modeling – Micro-modeling is a partnership in the planning and delivery between the instructional coach and partnering teacher. During the planning session, each educator designates specific parts of the lesson they will deliver. For example, the instructional coach may deliver the minilesson during the writing workshop, demonstrating sound pedagogy in the specific area the partnering teacher designated. The partnering teacher may then agree to deliver the instruction for the small groups.

Tandem Teaching – Tandem teaching is a partnership where the coach and teacher work together in the classroom, almost “feeding” off of each other. This requires a trusting relationship, a true partnership in learning, and an adept understanding of strengths and areas of focus each has in the classroom.

Coaches who use a co-teaching model send the message that they are ready to dig-in and do the work alongside the partnering teacher. From my own experience, this dynamic process and shared vision not only improves instruction but increases transfer and student achievement in the classroom. 

Sweeney, Diane. Student-Centered Coaching

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I am Not a Reading Teacher, I Am a Gatekeeper of Information

Working with hundreds of educators over the past ten years, the phrase I hear most frequently is, I am not a reading teacher. From science teachers to math teachers, when you ask most Middle School and High School educators what they teach, reading is the last response (if at all) you typically hear…unless you ask a literacy teacher.

When this occurs, I can’t help but think of them as  “Gatekeepers of Information”. An educator who claims no responsibility in the teaching of literacy strategies because they are not the “reading teacher” can most definitely be classified as such. With this stance, students are denied skills, strategies, and opportunities to understand content specific discourse. The teacher, once again, becomes the “gatekeeper” of information; the lone expert in the class, able to decode foreign concepts or understand information as if by magic. This logic only strengthens the dependency of the student on the teacher, contradicting the goal of education; to move all students towards independence.

Take, for instance, the following example of a typical 8th-grade science test question:

The annotations I provide highlight areas that a science teacher could model as literacy skills. The goal of literacy across discipline areas is not to have all teachers require and teach a classroom novel, but to teach students the necessary skills needed to read, write, and think like a “scientist” or “mathematician”, etc.

Most educators enter the profession with an open heart and a passion for teaching. They often find teaching students how to read and write a daunting task. They do not know where to start, how to assess, or lack confidence in their own skills. With this in mind, I offer the following advice.

5 Ways to Tackle Content-Specific Literacy:

  •  Vocabulary – Identify common words that are specific to content areas, terms that are needed to build a foundation.
  • Structure/Format – Recognize the format a text uses is important to understand the type of reading required. Headings, Bold-Faced Words, Glossary, Pictures or Diagrams; all of these things provide information for the savvy reader.
  • Organization – Content-specific text often has repetition in the organization. Cause/Effect, Chronological, General to Specific; identifying and modeling how the author organizes the text will help students locate needed information.
  • Mentor Texts – This term often confuses many educators because of the formal tone, but simply stated, a mentor text is a specific example that students can approach from a variety of angles because it has so many things done correctly. Students use mentor texts reflectively and ask themselves, how can I parallel what that author did in my own work? All teachers should have a collection of mentor texts (including their own writing examples) that students can dissect, study, and keep as a reference.
  • Model your thinking – Finally, as the expert in the room, modeling your thinking aloud makes clear strategies used to comprehend the text or question. This consistent modeling, paired with gradual release, will increase a student’s own learning and provide needed practice which eventually leads to independence

Being able to support students as they encounter discipline-specific texts means ALL educators support and teach literacy. Remember, you are the expert in that content area and need to unlock how to read like a… historian, mathematician, musician for students!

4 Games to Boost Media Literacy Skills

Critical thinking, healthy skepticism, fact-checking; in today’s information age, these three are more important than ever. On a daily basis, students are bombarded with information from multiple platforms that they must wade through, analyze and interpret, to make the most informed decisions on the authenticity and relevance. 

Media Literacy, according to NAMLE, is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication that are interdisciplinary by nature. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the complex, ever-changing electronic environment and communication cornucopia that surround us. 

I am an advocate for the teaching of these skills in classrooms across the country. In fact, just last week I was speaking at a conference in Connecticut, and after my talk on Developing Healthy Skeptics, a  professor approached me and told me that starting this year, media literacy was going to be a part of all Teacher Education programs at his university. We are making progress!

From websites to extensions to games, there are many ways to talk about and use media literacy in the classroom. From single lessons, to longer units, I typically start off with a game that provides a launch into the inquiry. I have found that games in the classroom provide rich simulations in which students learn content and hone skills. In the case of teaching Media Literacy, this is no different. These games focus on the consumption of digital information and place students in a variety of situations to evaluate epic headlines, analyze misinformation, or even use strategies to gain influence and followers just as an online troll would do.   

4 Games to Get Students Thinking Critically:

Factitious – Factitious, developed by the American University Game Lab and the JoLT Program, is a viral hit! Released in 2017, this Tinder-like game asks users to swipe left or right based on if the article is real or not. In its most recent updates, Factitious now has 6 game levels and 3 different reading levels making it accessible for a huge age range. Plus, it’s super fun! 

Get Bad News – Get Bad News has users take on the persona of a fake-news tycoon trying to make a social impact by spreading disinformation while trying to get more followers. This online game developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Dutch media group Drog, tasks players through six different tactics in an effort to understand this propaganda and fake news while actually creating and sharing it. As you advance through the game, users earn badges and increase their fake-news radar by walking in the offenders’ shoes. 

Cast your Vote – A recent update and release of Cast Your Vote, by iCivics is perfect for the upcoming election. Users discover what it takes to become an informed voter–from knowing where you stand on important issues to uncovering what you need to know about candidates. This new version offers ELL supports and educator guides and questions to deepen the learning! It’s a perfect way to help students identify issues that are important to them and evaluate candidates based on their qualifications, experience, voting record, endorsements, and messaging.

Troll Factory – Troll Factory, my most recent discovery, does come with a warning. Because of the authentic content and sensitive material, it is not appropriate for all students. With that being said, the insights and explanations at the end of the game are fantastic.  When placed in the right learning context, I could see this game as being useful for upper-grades and college-aged students. Troll Factory shows users how disinformation merchants infiltrate social media and spread their anti-democracy propaganda. Created by Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle’s News Lab, this game asks you to imagine you are a professional troll who tries to amass influence on social media through fear, bias, and propaganda.  

There are many more resources, tools, and games popping up as the need for media literacy increases. From chrome extensions to URL validation websites, using multiple resources to support student discernment of digital discourse should be a priority in every classroom. It is only through an ongoing effort by all teachers that we can best equip students for a life filled with digital information and the critical thinking skills necessary for life.