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.  


  1. Debra,
    You have really internalized the ideas and suggestions from the last two chapters. I love that you reflected on what you have done in the past, present and your plans for the future. You are on a roll! I think it's fair to say that six years ago, we all would have been just as excited to get those "cool, shiny devices" in our classrooms, but the novelty has worn off and we also know so much more! Keeping your focus on the learning and purpose of the tools will help with intentionality and connectedness. Interesting comments about the report cards ... is the district looking into the statistics as well? Have the parents been trained? Have the parents been surveyed? Lots to think about there ...

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You will be off and ready to embed digital literacy texts and tools in the fall!


  2. Hi Debra, we have some very similar goals. You spelled them out right here on your blog so I bet that helps to keep you accountable. I know it does for me! I love the idea of a class Twitter account. I know several teachers in my building use them.

  3. Hi Debra ~ I enjoy reading your honest and insightful reflections. I think you are able to say what many of us have been feeling. Thank you!

    I, too, have struggled with parent/home digital involvement in the past. I've tried the class website idea but that worked minimally. Toward the end of the school year I broke down and created a Class Twitter account. That was a little bit more popular. To be honest, I didn't realize that you could create a private account with families on Kidblog. I had only used it for whole-class conversations during the school day.

    The one thing you've helped me think through is that the technology I've used has been just that...about ME. Not my students! THEY need to be in charge and I bet their parents would be more likely to read what their child has created :)

  4. Debra,
    Loved this: "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." For me, that is what digital tools. They've provided opportunities for me to learn with others in new ways. Like you, I wanted these same opportunities for my students. I created a class Twitter account which helped me to connect our classroom with others and share our learning with parents. Twitter is such a part of the way I work as a person, bringing it to the classroom seemed to make sense.

    I read with interest your points about families. We just went to a digital report card last year. I'm not sure any of us have been brave enough to look to see if anyone is reading this document. I would hope so. I'm going to have to think about the reasons why parents might not be reading it. I'd like to think it is because they get better information on a daily/weekly basis as they follow us in digital spaces. ;o) Let's hope.

    Many participants have been setting goals. I know I want to sit down and do this too. I think it will help me to own some new steps for improving digital reading use with my students and their families.