Discipline Literacy: 4 Technology-Infused Instructional Approaches

Best Practices in Literacy Instruction (5)

All educators are teachers of literacy! And while many understand their role in student learning is vital in the consumption and creation of content-specific literacy, few educators know where to start when teaching and supporting students in these efforts. Often, we replace complex texts with long lectures, hoping students absorb content through merely listening. Struggling readers find most difficulty in approaching complex text in content specific disciplines, often times learning very little because of accessibility issues. According to Best Practices in Literacy Instruction, there are 4 Instructional Approaches that promote student learning in discipline specific literacies which allow them to transform text and information in their minds and on paper. These instructional strategies also support readers at all levels and work across all literacy skills, not just reading. The addition of tech integration with these approaches only enhances this learning.

  1. Close Reading – The first step is identifying the purpose of reading. When a student’s learning objective is to understand or appreciate a new view, or to learn a new subject; close reading is in order. Smaller sections of a long text work best. Multiple reads, either independently or modeled by the teacher help student fluency and comprehension, demonstrating the cognitive process an expert reader uses to gain information.  ** Tech Tip: try audio recordings or text to speech to further accessibility of text when students are working independently. Try: Soundtrap, Vocaroo, or Screencastify.
  2. Annotation – Marking and writing on the text in a meaningful way is a cornerstone practice in literacy. But having a uniformed system, instead of merely highlighting sections will mean the difference between learning and forgetting why you highlighted specific parts. Start with a simple guideline for students like this one, adopted from Adler and Van Doren: Annotating Text Guide Use information gained through student annotation to inform direction on discussions. **Tech Tip: try the following annotation resources: Diigo, Google Draw, Videonot.es for videos, Jing, Read and Write for Google.
  3. Class Discussions – Meaningful talk about texts, concepts, and understanding further the learning. A teacher’s role is not to simply answer questions posed or lead the discussion, instead, educators help to facilitate the conversation using intentional moves to ensure talk is on target, all voices are heard, and reflection and resolution is happening. Best Practices in Literacy Instruction (6) Starting questions such as: What does the text say? How does the text work? What does the text mean? How is it connected to other texts or learning? (Shanahan) help to start and frame discussions. ** Tech Tip: Students enjoy backchannels during discussions such as TodaysMeet and also virtual spaces to collect thinking and pose questions before discussion begins. Try: Padlet, Lino, Answer Garden.
  4. Writing with Evidence – With the increased expectation on students to write routinely, blending types, and supporting with evidence; students need skills to help them collect and organize good notes, as well as practice with reliable and relevant sources to identify main idea and support. Student-created graphic organizers work better than teacher-created ones, requiring students to frame information in ways that make sense to them rather than copying it exactly how the teachers transcribes. **Tech Tip: Try Google Draw, Bubbl.us, Popplet, or Trello for organizing information.

Discipline-specific literacy can be supported through the instructional practices mentioned above and enhanced through intentional integration of technology. Blending traditional with digital enables students to make sense of complex text found in multiple modes, while utilizing all of the literacy components.

8 Google Resources to Spark Inquiry-Based Learning

The best inquiry-based essential questions spark more questions!

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Inquiry-based learning often begins by posing scenarios or questions in which students investigate the collected artifacts to determine more questions, as well as research directions in which they will pursue to gain further knowledge on the concept or topic.

In he article titled The Many Levels of Inquiry by Heather Banchi and Randy Bell (2008) the authors clearly outline four levels of inquiry.

Level 1: Confirmation Inquiry
The teacher has taught a particular concept, theme, or topic. The teacher then develops questions and a procedure that guides students through an activity where the results are already known. This method is great to reinforce concepts taught and to introduce students into learning to follow procedures, collect and record data correctly and to confirm and deepen understandings.

Level 2: Structured Inquiry
The teacher provides the initial question and an outline of the procedure. Students formulate explanations of their findings through evaluating and analyzing the data that they collect.

Level 3: Guided Inquiry
The teacher provides the essential question for the students. The students are responsible for designing and following their own procedures. Students communicate their results and findings.

Level 4: Open/True Inquiry
Students formulate their own research question(s), design and follow through with a developed procedure, and communicate their findings and results.

One “Best Practice” in teaching is Gradual Release of Responsibility. GRR provides a scaffold for learning in which as the teacher’s support lessens, the student independence increases. Aligned to this practice, Banchi and Bell (2008) explain that teachers should begin their inquiry instruction at the lower levels and work their way to open inquiry. Open inquiry activities are only successful if students are motivated by intrinsic interests and if they are equipped with the skills to conduct their own research study.

Consider the following Google resources to aid in inquiry-based learning.

A Google a day – Typically used as a bell-ringer or to reinforce search skills. A Google a Day could provide the spark in inquiry-based learning. New questions are posed daily. 

Google Feud – Google Feud compiles algorithms for most commonly search words and phrases and places the answers on a “Family Feud” type board. Google Feud not only sparks the inquiry into algorithms, but also has students consider bias in on-line searches based on location and history of your previous searches.

Smarty Pins – Smarty pins incorporates Google Maps and “drops” you anywhere in the world. Your charge is to guess where you are based on context clues found around you. Smarty Pins would be a great resource in Social Studies classrooms, begging the students to wonder – Where am I? How do I know?

Google Night Walk – Explore the sounds, streets, and soul of Marseille on this immersive digital Night Walk with GoogleAlthough Google Night Walk only as one adventure in Marseille, the sounds and sights make students wonder – What is this telling me about Merseille? How does the backdrop of night change perceptions? How can I create a Google Night Walk based off of my own location.

My Maps – My Maps is allows users to create and share customized maps. Located in your Google Drive, My Maps is perfect for literature tours, geography, history, etc. Connect multiple locations together and allow students to explore the world, gathering questions as they go. 

Solve for X – Solve for X is a community of scientists, inventors, engineers, artists, thinkers, doers, the young, the wise, men and women from every background across every geography connected by a shared optimism that science and technology can cause radically positive things to happen in the world.

Google Experiments – Google Experiments is a “showcase of web experiments written by the creative coding community”. Not only will students get lost for hours in the awesomeness that lives on this site, but it also allows students to develop questions as to how and why these experiments were developed.

Google Science Fair  – Google Science Fair is an online, global science competition for students. Not only can students design, test and share study results on through this competition, but they are able to hear from past winners.

9 Google Resources to Support Reading

 

 

Google Read

The doubling of knowledge will happen every twelve hours, according to IBM, because of the “internet of things” and the ease in which we have the capacity to publish and share. With this dynamic pool of information available to students, it is essential to equip them with skills necessary to locate reliable and relevant information. Over the past two years, I have collected digital resources, apps, and extensions that will assist educators in this endeavor, as well as in the areas of inquiry, writing, and multimodal creations (all will be subsequent posts).

The following are 9 of my favorite Google resources to support reading (**Bonus 3 at the end):

  1. Google Cultural Institute – Google Cultural Institute makes the “world’s culture accessible anyone, anywhere.” Students can explore collections and exhibits from around the world.
  2. Google Trends – Google Trends helps users explore the world’s information through the data it generates. Search trends, YouTube views, to patterns found in correlating terms and topics are all available for analysis.
  3. Google Scholar – Google Scholar helps students find relevant and reliable scholarly literature. Search across disciplines, types, and research to access peer-reviewed sources. Add to your personal library and automatically cite information correctly.
  4. Google Books – Google Books works just like a search engine. Search by topic, grade level, and even author. Download and read books on any device. Google Books also allows users to upload their own documents, bookmark while reading and add to their personal library.
  5. Newsela – Newsela is a unique way to increase reading comprehension by providing student access to nonfiction news. Every article has 5 levels, allowing readers to access the same information at their independent reading level. Access to Common-Core aligned quizzes follow the articles, allowing comprehension learning targets to be met with confidence.
  6. Google Primary Sources – Google Primary Sources is a custom search engine which allows users to search thousands of primary sources. Search by topic, date, name, etc. to locate primary sources.
  7. Read & Write for Google – Read & Write for Google is a Chrome app which supports reading, writing, and research. Select text to be read aloud, define highlighted words, and translate text into other languages, and summarize text on web page.
  8. Google Similar Pages – Google Similar Pages is a Chrome app that helps students locate additional web pages similar to the ones the have found valuable. Accessing additional information and sources aligned with previous sources.
  9. Google News – Google News is a personalized news site aggregated with headlines from news from around the world. This comprehensive source customizes information according to reader’s preferences and offers diversity from around the globe.

3 Bonus Resources for our younger readers. Kid-friendly search engines, perfect for elementary students!

  1. Kidrex
  2. GoGooglians
  3. Kidz Search

 

 

Uncovering the Why: the Importance of Beliefs

BeliefsFor many years, my professional learning consisted on the “what” and “how” in the classroom. What were your kids reading? writing? discussing? What tech were you using? How are you using portfolios? How do you grade? How do you differentiate? 

While all of these questions are important to answer, it wasn’t until I drilled down the Why, that I truly appreciated learning. Understanding the why, helps provide a framework in which all other decisions can be based upon. Why do I teach Shakespeare? Why do I have students blog? Why does it matter that students publish to  public audience? Why do I prefer the workshop framework over traditional instruction?

Currently, I am reading Read, Write, Teach by Linda Rief. The introduction provides insight into the purpose, design, and the Why for writing this book. She starts with the Why because it “grounds her choices of the what and how.”

The following are images of my own Whys on Literacy, inspired by the work of Linda Rief. I encourage you to not only explore your own beliefs on teaching and learning, but also to bring the conversation back to your departments, buildings, or even districts. Do we have similar beliefs? What is gained and what is lost when staff members have the same beliefs? Is a common set of shared beliefs necessary for our students?

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Technology and Student-Centered Assessment

Formative and summative assessment are familiar terms to most students and educators. When used intentionally, both assessment types can be used to identify student needs and help educators design differentiated learning opportunities. Student-Centered Assessment, on the other hand, is a less familar term with many educators. Student-Centered Assessment can be used during the process of learning, at the end of units, or even extend across a student’s year. The three key components that all Student-Centered Assessments have in common are: identified standards and learning targets, they are best utilized during the learning process, but can be adapted to also serve a more summative need, and finally, they are designed to be used by the student! Below are three specific examples, along with technology tools that I find fit the desired intent.

  1. Self-Assessment – When used while the learning is taking place, self-assessment is an effective tool which places ownership in assessing and learning back into the hands of the student. Self-assessment promotes learning by having students reflect upon their strengths and weakness in their own work. When used during the process of learning instead of at the end of the learning, self-assessments generate areas that are personal to the students, a time to revise and rework their product, and the ability to measure their work to the learning targets, standards, and personal skills. Self-assessment can be in the form of rubrics, checklists, or evidenced in written or oral responses.                 Google Keep would be an excellent digital tool to support the use of checklists in self-assessment. Google Keep is simple to use, easy to share, and is customizable for use. Google Keep Options
  2. Peer-Assessment – Similar to Self-Assessment, Peer-Assessment is best done during the learning process. In fact, it makes no sense to have students use this tool after the product is completed. Peer-Assessment employs students giving feedback to each other that is specific and evidenced by specific examples that are aligned to the learning target. Many educators find this tool great in theory, but students struggle when applying. Scaffolding, modeling, and clear expectations are needed to not only help students find areas of focus in another peer’s work; but also, explicit instruction and practice of soft skills that address collaboration and communication? How does one effectively work with a peer in a collaborative setting. What type of feedback is most valuable? With these objectives in mind, along with the professional understanding that the student doing the fixing is the one doing the learning; utilizing something like the “Suggesting” setting in Google Docs provides a digital tool to support Self-Assessment. “Suggest Edits” instead of directly writing on the work, editing, or even commenting, shifts revision and reflection back to the author of the piece.                          Adding Suggestions to Google Doc
  3. Portfolios – Two types of Portfolios are commonly used in the educational setting. First, a portfolio can be used as a “Process Portfolio”. A process portfolio would be documentation of a students growth, from novice to master, typically based within a unit and have an identified group of standards or learning target. When used throughout the learning, process portfolios can act as a documentation of a student’s journey in learning. It can help them set goals, and serve as a visual to remind students where they began and how their understanding transformed during the unit. A second type of portfolio found in educational settings is that of a summative collection of their best work. While examples of student’s learning could be placed throughout the learning process, a summative portfolio demands the student to reflect on their work throughout the year, evaluate it against the determined standards or learning targets, and then justify the pieces they place within the portfolio as the ones demonstrating their best work. Summative portfoliosare best used organically, and travel and change with the student as they progress through grades.                                                                      Google Sites would be a versatile, digital tool for either type of portfolio. From embedding images, documents, and videos; to uploading mp3s of vocal solos or embedding multimodal creations, Google Sites have always been a perferred choice with my former students.                                       Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.18.47 AM

Resource Used: Students at the Center