Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Networked Literacy

Spending time at ISTE this past weekend has given me a lot to chew on regarding writing and literacy and tech integration and many, many more things related to my work and those that I work with.  Interestingly, while searching for more on 21st Century writing (see Monday's post) I see that Jeff Utecht shared his thoughts on the topic .  He has created the visual below to represent the amount of time we are currently teaching different types of literacy.

I don't think many of the teachers I work with would disagree with Jeff's assessment.  And I am wondering what we are going to do about it.

What I am finding even more interesting is that while at this conference, I experienced an interesting lesson in "networked literacy."  Jeff's working definition:
 Networked literacy is what the web is about. It’s about understanding how people and communication networks work. It’s the understanding of how to find information and how to be found. It’s about how to read hyperlinked text articles, and understand the connections that are made when you become “friends” or “follow” someone on a network. It’s the understanding of how to stay safe and how to use the networked knowledge that is the World Wide Web. Networked Literacy is about understanding connections.
The conference opening keynote was on Sunday.  While I chose not to go in person, I did follow the "Twitter stream" (the flow of "tweets" from those at the conference giving their thoughts and take-aways from the conference.)  Interestingly, the flow of tweets soon turned a bit harsh, despite the conference organizers putting out some "rules."

It made me think about digital footprints and what proper networked behavior should be (all a part of literacy.)  And it made me think even more about trust - which seemed to be a secondary theme running through the conference.  And it made me think about the "chilling effect" watching Sunday night unfold may have had on teachers/administrators new to Twitter as well as to those who still had to present.

So it doesn't surprise me that networked literacy is not taught often.  It seems we are still developing the rules.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thinking About Change

Who seriously believes that locking 25 students in a small room with one adult for
several hours each day is the best way for them to be "educated"?

Monday, June 28, 2010

21st Century Writing

I'm a little over the 21st Century tag since we are part way through it, but my participation at the ISTE 2010 Conference in Denver this past weekend has made me realize that in many, many ways we aren't teaching in it.  

I am not just talking about the use of technology.  I am talking about thinking about what we want our students to learn and why.  I heard an incredible keynote by Chris Lehmann, principal of SLA in Philadelphia in which he stated the goal of education should be to create a citizenry, not a workforce

To that end, I have long believed that writing is the most important skill that our students have.  Writing empowers them. Yet somehow, we manage to confuse the art of writing with a chore.  Something to be done and not necessarily perfected.

I was reminded while at this conference that NCTE has taken a similar stance on writing: Good writing may be the quintessential 21st century skill.

Recognizing that we are in a time of tremendous change, NCTE notes:
  • Our schools and our nation need to recognize and validate the many ways we all are writing.
  • We need to develop new models of writing, design a new curriculum supporting those models, and create models for teaching that curriculum.
  • We need to make sure that all students have the opportunity to write and learn in intellectually stimulating classrooms.
  • We need to recognize that out-of-school literacy practices are as critical to students’ development as what occurs in the classroom and take advantage of this to better connect classroom work to real-world situations that students will encounter across a lifetime.

The site includes some pretty good reading on teaching writing in the 21st century that I encourage everyone to read. And I'm wondering what teachers need the most to address the points above. I'm also contemplating a new project to address some of what we must begin to do as educators to start to address this need.  I'll keep you posted!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tag This! Thesis Builder

Writing a good thesis statement sometimes feels like seeking the Holy Grail - legend says it is out there somewhere but darned if you can find it!!

Thesis Builder seems like a nice resource to help students with persuasive essays.  Typing in phrases in response to prompts provided, pushing a button creates a magical thesis statement that seems like a pretty good start.  My sample is below:

81 Days and Counting 
a Persuasive Thesis Statement on State Budget:
Even though need to be fiscally conservative with a bankrupt budget, NYS Legislature should pass a budget on time because public services such as road repair, unemployment, etc. in jeopardy and threatened shut down of the government.

Obviously, it needs some editing but not too shabby a start!! Click next on the outline builder helps the writer flesh out their arguments and indicates where transitional elements should appear.  A great help for writers struggling to get their argument off the ground!!

Tag this!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Note Making - In a Digital World

I am a Kindle addict - and I happen to love the recent update that allows me to send my highlights/note to Twitter if I choose and the way that I can now categorize my books.  Now that I have had it a while, I have also fallen in love with how I can tag and make notes digitally and then view my "clippings."

There is one new feature, which allows me to see the most favorite highlights of the book I am reading.  I have to admit that after one chapter, I turned this feature off.  It was a little like buying the used textbook in the college bookstore that someone had already hightlighted.

I worked hard to teach my students "selective highlighting."  It was important that they didn't randomly highlight text but were thoughtful about what (and why) they highlighted portions.  I encouraged them to interact with the text and came up with lots of ways to "highlight" the textbooks (highlighter tape, use of overhead transparencies, etc.)

But now - the possibilities are endless.  Just read this recent blog post and see how students can digitally make notes and use them.  I am trying to think outside my Kindle and play with the other applications mentioned in order to help teachers use the tools they (and their students) have handy.  I don't think this will replace the traditional note-taking/highlighter method, but I do think it will change our practice.

What do you think?

(BTW - there seems to be a pricing war with e-readers lately.  If you are looking for one, now might be the time!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Read it Online: Make Me A Story

The writing process and digital storytelling go together naturally. Just as writing can be a process of discovery, so can digital storytelling, where images, words, and music all work together to create meaning.

Lisa Miller describes the power of digital storytelling as a tool for teaching writing and engaging elementary students in her new book Make Me A Story.  And now, you can preview the entire text online!!

My initial preview of the books shows that it focuses on good reasons for integrating the technology (i.e. it isn't just about the tool!) and has some call out boxes of tremendous resources.  The hard copy book also comes with a CD of resources including student samples of works referenced in the book.

This is one to add to the wish list!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rules for Writerers

The sources is unknown but this list came to me via innovation3 blog:

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
There are about 30 more but this one is my absolute favorite:

29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Morning Musings

"I was raised on words. They tumbled off the kitchen table onto the floor where I sat: grandfather, uncles, and refugees flung Russian, Polish, Yiddish, French, and what passed for English at one another in a competitive cascade of assertion and interrogation. Sententious flotsam from the Edwardian-era Socialist Party of Great Britain hung around our kitchen promoting the True Cause. I spent long, happy hours listening to Central European autodidacts arguing deep into the night: Marxismus, Zionismus, Socialismus. Talking, it seemed to me, was the point of adult existence. I have never lost that sense. "
Read the full article (and rejoice in the use of words) here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm bored...

...not really.

But schools in New York State will be wrapping up soon and I am counting the days until the first of my nieces and nephews utters these words this summer.  As much as they dread the routine of school, after a while there is only so much television watching - swimming - crafts - reading - iPod/DS playing that can happen before they utter those words.  (And bless my mother for running her summer camp for them!)

If you need ideas to send home with your students or share with parents or maybe even for you - check out the links below:
  • Printable journals - a list of journal prompts and activities you can print to encourage writing this summer!
  • Summer Reading Recommendations - a list of summer reads for kids and adults collected by by virtual colleagues via Twitter!! And a great model that you could create for your school!
  • Let's not forget the summer reading challenges from both Borders and Barnes & Noble - can't beat a free book!
  • Over at Teacher ReBoot Camp - Shelly Terrell encourages folks to participate in the 30 day challenge (there is a free e-book!!)
  • Locally, Mike Fisher has put together a Live Binder full of summer learning opportunities for teachers! Check out his Virtual Summer Camp!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Digital Literacy Tour

On Monday, I asked whether you were teaching Information Literacy.

Today - I ask about Digital Literacy and the all important aspect of Digital Citizenship.

I take the approach with the teachers and administrators that I work with that we need to teach students (and teachers and administrators) the right way to "act" online and how to be critical consumers of what is available.  I don't believe in the Dateline "scare" approach to using the Internet.

With student having greater access to digital tools and devices and with school districts being confronted with having to make decisions about what is "allowed" while balancing how to engage students in a global world, a curriculum with digital and information literacy embedded is critical.

Google has once again come to the rescue with their Digital Literacy Tour. With three great "workshops" and tons of resources, this is a fabulous resource for teachers to explore and begin to think about including in their teaching.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tag This! Fun With Words

Thanks to a fun post on creative mistakes and malapropisms from Writing Tools, I stumbled upon this fun site!!

At this site  you can:
  • Play Boggle online
  • Read genuine malapropisms from the web
  • Learn about other kinds of fun with words like "Tom Swifties"
Tag this!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Providing feedback on student writing

Lots of conversation lately about a recent study showing teachers using red ink scored papers more severely than those scoring using blue ink. (Read the Boston Globe article on the topic here or the published study here.)

Essentially - three different experiments were set up for the study.  In one, volunteers read two paragraphs from an essay they were told was written by an English language learner and were instructed to mark errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar and word choice.  Half used a red pen for correcting and half used a blue pen; guests using the red pen found signifcantly more errors than those using blue.

In another experiment, students were asked to grade a one-page paper written by an eighth grader - half with a red pen and half with blue. The paper had no spelling or grammar errors but was written at a fairly basic level.   Once again, those scoring in red gave the paper lower scores than those marking in blue.

In reading the comments on the articles and blogs related to this study, many seem to feel that the papers should be marked in red.  If we don't find the errors - how will students learn? Others point to the psychological aspects of being returned a paper covered in red marks.

I have always been a fan of giving manageable feedback to students.  That is - mark them on whatever aspect of writing/content that we were focusing on and acknowledging other strengths of the paper.  For example, if we were concentrating on word choice - the greatest amount of feedback would be on that aspect of the writing. Any glaring errors, or ones that should have been "mastered" by that point, might be pointed out but the focus should be on the skill that we are assessing for.

Teaching writing is complex - which makes assessing writing complex.  The key is to make the feedback, regardless of the color that it is given in, meaningful and something that the students can use in future work.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


I am really liking the site Storybird to help students with creative writing.  Billed as "for family and friends" there is no reason to not be using this tool in the clasroom!!

In fact - to help support that, a new Storybird Ning has been created to share ideas!! Be sure to join!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

SYNC this!!

I am not a big fan of audiobooks but know that many middle level and older readers would prefer this format. Good new!! Sync is offering free downloads of contemporary YA with a classic starting July 1st.

Check out the details here!!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Words as Pictures

Via my Twitter feed!!

"Wait" is my favorite!

words from jacques khouri on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Friday, June 04, 2010

A Novel Idea

Found this idea for a novel study that integrates some wonderful (free!) technology tools:

5B has just completed a novel study using the VoiceThread multimedia tool. The visual component of this VoiceThread project has allowed grade five students to showcase comprehensive volcabulary words, setting/locations and core characters from their novel study captured in a free tool called Wordle.

Check out what these kids did and how the teacher integrated technology - I promise you will be impressed!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tag This! Einztein

This came at me from several sources so I finally sat down to check it out.

Einztein is a brilliant "knowledge network" for locating college level courses and materials.

I know you are all busy wrapping up the end of the school year and thinking "what on Earth will I do with myself this summer?"  No worries - I am here to help!!

I started with a general topic search for writing - and among the many offerings found this course on historical writing using documents that I think I will check out to help round out my ideas to support teachers with writing DBQs.  A topic search on something this broad seemed to give me varied results so I opted to try browsing the subjects available.

Searching under education - I found this gem being offered through the University of Michigan: Individualized Reading Instruction in the Elementary Grades.  It's all there - lectures, assignments, reading lists!

Being a social studies teacher - I was thrilled to discover this course on Making Civics Real and this one on Teach Global.  There are many, many more courses available - all free.

If you are looking for staff development resources, are planning to develop an online course or just want to learn, I encourage you to Tag This!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


There are some days I am tempted to do this just to see if anybody is out there.  But I can't stand homophone abuse!!

The Standards are here! The Standards are here!!

As of 10 am this morning, the final draft of the Common Core Standards for ELA and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects were released.

The entire website has been revamped and has some very interesting information on it regarding standards in general, as well as the forces behind the standards.

I'd be interested to hear any thoughts.....