Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#cyberPD - Week 3 - Ch. 6-7 - Digital Reading

This summer I am participating in #cyberPD Google Community.  We are reading and discussing Digital Reading: What's Essential by Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson.

This week's reading reminded me of previous experiences I've had with digital tools and trying to connect with parents.  As I read the chapters I was able to really reflect on what I've done in the past, the present, and how I want to expand or change what I do now.

About 6 years ago when I was teaching second grade in a different building I became very interested in using more technology in my classroom.  I had been lucky enough to be one of a few teachers to have a Smartboard installed the previous year and had begun to see the possibilities for connecting my students to the outside world beyond our classroom and school.  This realization came shortly after I started using Twitter.  I had 2 computers in my classroom and that was all that was available. (LOL At least I have a computer lab in my new building!) I had heard about a set of Netbooks that were available to borrow from a Teacher Center about 15 minutes away.  After harrassing contacting my superintendent regarding the need for wireless he was able to move a router from the office to my classroom so I could experiment with the Netbooks.  I should also mention that he kindly showed up in my room one day with a webcam so that I could use Voicethread and Skype.  I mention this story because I decided to have a Technology Day in my classroom and invite families to come in and experience the technology we were using.  Of course it was a wonderful day as parents used the Smartboard, recorded on VoiceThread, posted comments on Kidblog and our class blog, and used other websites that my students were familiar with.  However, as I now look back I realize my focus was on the technology instead of the learning.  I have definitely grown since that time.  Once I got over my, "OH, shiny new toy!" phase my need for authentic and meaningful use of these new digital tools began to kick in.

Love this quote from the book - great message - The Internet is a place where reading happens.

I will add to that:  The Internet is a place where reading, writing and learning happens.  It's a place to connect, create, collaborate and share.  That is the message I want both my students and parents to hear.

Connecting with parents is very important to me, but I often feel like only a handful of families really know what is going on in our classroom.  And so little student work actually goes home regularly because of the nature of a workshop classroom.  Everything is in a notebook and I don't give regular traditional tests. I have a website with details about our day-to-day running of the classroom and helpful websites for home.  We have a class blog where we write about our learning and share some of our class work.  Only a few parents ever, if rarely post a comment to our blog.  (Hmm...maybe they don't know how to do this?) This communication problem extends to our report cards which are only available online, unless parents request a printed version.  We are able to find out how many parents log on and how often, and let me say it is not a very good statistic!  Most of the elementary teachers report less that 10 families looking at the report card.  There have been many conversations in the faculty room as to why we have such a poor interest in the report card.  I think there are several reasons, but one that comes to mind after this weeks reading is understanding the digital tools.  Do my parents know how to access the report card?  Is the information meaningful to them?  I'm guessing it may not be.  I really need to find a better way to communicate with my parents about their student's learning.  One thing I want to try more is student made videos - either tutorials or general information about  our learning.

Franki suggests setting up communication goals for the year.  So that is what I'm going to do right now!

  • I want my students to be able to connect with family, fellow classmates and more global audiences.
  • I want to have a space to share our learning.
  • I want to have a hub for general information and class activities.
  • I want my students to learn how to use the Internet safely and with good etiquette.
  • I would like to explore sharing individual work and information with parents digitally.
I have a class blog and I know I can use it better! My students enjoy commenting when in the computer lab, but few comment from home.  I also want to increase our global audience.  I think I will start a Class Twitter account!  Trying to get parents more involved is a challenge.  I though about having a Class Facebook page, because I know most of the parents have a Facebook page!  It's the one social media place I have not entered yet.  I use Instagram and Pinterest for personal use.  Our district recently discontinued the platform we used for our teacher websites and is now using Google, so I am currently building my class site.  All of the information I have learned from this #cyberPD will help me a lot.

It has been great reading this book with other educators!  I can't wait to read other posts and comments.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

#cyberPD 2015 - Week 2 - Chapters 3-5 - Digital Reading

This summer I am participating in #cyberPD Google Community.  We are reading and discussing Digital Reading: What's Essential by Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson.

Frankie's recalling of the 'rock girls' and how they easily transitioned from one tool to the next, whether it was digital or not was simply amazing...something I dream of.  Ahhhhh...

Frankie's discussion about the Book Trailer assignment was very interesting.  It was looking back and reflecting on her assignments that helped her to make necessary changes and have more successful Book Trailers.  I find sometimes that is the best way for me to learn as a teacher!  I dive in and try something out, then I can reflect and make changes. (When I say dive in, I do spend time planning first. LOL)

Thoughts on Authenticity
Questions about authenticity come up whether lessons are digital or more traditional.  As I teach my students the skills they need to use Google Drive Apps I  must balance the need for an authentic literacy experience with the need to teach my students HOW to use these tools.  When I introduced Google Draw I found it necessary to let my third graders just play with the app for a period, similar to letting students play with math manipulatives before using them as a math tool.

Creating authentic literacy lessons that really help my students grow as readers and writers is a challenge, no matter the tool, digital or otherwise.  (I had a moment, actually several, where I thought, "These people already have the traditional reading workshop down! What the heck!  Where have I been?") But seriously, I am a work in progress when it comes to finding ways for students to respond personally and thoughtfully to text.  I do think digital tools help make it more authentic.

We are picky about the books we bring into the classroom library so we must be picky about the digital text and tools we introduce too.  This is one of my favorite quotes from the book so far!
My district recently purchased a subscription to an online program that provides leveled texts for students to read online.  I think teachers can also print out some books too.  Students have their own accounts and can take reading quizzes as well.  I have to be honest and say that this program disturbs me just a bit. Is it the quizzes?  Probably?  Is it the leveled texts?  Maybe.  As I've said before I have limited access to computers so I haven't used the program yet. Is this really authentic reading?  How can I use this program in an authentic manner?  I would love to hear your opinion.

Thoughts on Digital Tools
Bev Gallagher's poetry experience reminded me that I have used Audioboom with my personal iPad even though I don't have wireless in my I need to explore this tool more.

Cryslyn reminded me that I need to use digital tools more often to build background for my third graders.  I have begun, but there is so much more I can be doing.  I show videos to introduce lessons but I think it might be important to start modeling how to listen and take notes when using video.  This part is very exciting! We do not have a science or social studies text so this seems like a perfect place to add more digital text and video.

Judy Johnson's lesson on critical thinking and evaluating websites was fabulous and hilarious! Where was she when I needed her this last winter? My one foray into research using Google was unsuccessful to say the least.  I really didn't even know how to narrow down my lessons.  I wanted them to know that all websites were not created equal, but how to do that with third graders?  I finally gave up.  Judy has given me some new ideas to think about.

Franki talked about curating collections of digital media for students.  I have used Padlet to collect websites and videos for a unit on the Water Cycle.  I want to explore Symbaloo now!  I think this idea could be a great way to use my limited computer access.

I also loved how Scott Jones uses Padlet for Read Alouds.  I think Padlet could be a great tool for me to expand upon.  It's important to choose tools that have wide uses especially when technology is limited in the classroom.

SHARED READING:  I do it a lot.  In fact this is the main way my students see digital text.  This weeks reading reinforced how powerful shared reading can be for my students.  I got so many ideas for modeling how to read digital text.  I also realized that I needed to start modeling how to understand all types of digital media.

Franki is amazing.  How she created her unit on communities was amazing... so much depth.

Connections - putting it all together and sharing it.  Isn't that the final part of reading?  But so many students don't understand that.  Most only learn that when you are done reading you take a test.  Just connecting a few times outside the classroom can open so many new doors for students.  I have begun making connections outside the classroom as a whole class community.  I would love to  find more ways to do this.

So much to think about with this week's reading!

Monday, July 6, 2015

#cyberPD 2015 - Week 1 - Chapters 1 & 2 - Digital Reading

This summer I am participating in #cyberPD Google Community.  We are reading and discussing Digital Reading: What's Essential by Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson.

Chapter 1 & 2

The authors pose several questions that definitely resonate with me.  How do we decide whether any new thing - especially technology related - has enough potential to try?  How do we determine the best ways to use technology in order to teach reading in the digital age?  It is easy to get lost in the newest, best technology because it may be flashy, or we are told it meets the common core standards.  But for me it remains important that I continue to make reading authentic and meaningful for my third graders.  I love how Franki uses the reading workshop as a framework.  With the introduction of technology we don't have to start over or throw out the workshop methods.

"Just because students are 'good' with technology does not mean they are literate in the digital age."  I definitely agree with this quote!  Yes, my students use their parent's Smart Phones to play games.  Many even have access to iPads, but very few of my students do anything but play games or take photos on these devices.  As a teacher I am interested in introducing digital tools to my students and showing them how they may be used in their daily life.  So I thought it might be helpful to list the different ways I am beginning to introduce these digital tools and as I continue with this cyberPD I can think about how I might continue or change the way I teach digital reading.

In my classroom I have one computer and a Smartboard that I use for my workshop mini-lessons.
- Youtube videos - I use videos for all sorts of comprehension and content lessons.
-Wonderopolis - great website for teaching non-fiction reading strategies
-Skype - I have connected with authors and other classrooms.
-Scholastic News - we can access our weekly magazine online with videos
-Class Blog - we share our learning and students learn to write comments.

Computer lab: We have access to the computer lab 2 - 3 periods per week.  This year I began teaching my students how to use Google Drive.

How else might I use my "technology time" to teach my students how to use digital tools in authentic ways?  I don't want my students to think going to the computer lab is a separate learning time - I want them to see how it is an extension to our literacy learning.  How can I help them connect with other readers digitally? What are the skills I need to teach my students to help them be successful digital readers and writers? What other digital tools might I introduce to my students?