Reading Doors

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Digital Reading Ch. 6-7 Reflection - #CyberPD

As with last year, I have had such a great and fun learning experience through this summer's #cyberPD and I'm sad to find that it is almost over. Here is my last reflection for Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8 by William L. Bass II and Franki Sibberson.

Chapter 6: Assessment: Keeping Our Eye on the Literacy

"Assessment should not be about defining a reader but about piecing together information to help us design classroom experiences so we can observe our readers learning and understand what each one needs." (pg. 87)

What a great way to start a chapter! I really appreciated the story about Franki's daughter Ana learning about Minecraft in so many authentic and digital ways. This story reminds me of so many of my students, who have been addicted with and almost obsessed with Minecraft. This story illustrates so perfectly how our students use technology in meaningful ways without realizing they do so because it is not the "traditional" way it's used in schools. I would like to start a conversation with my students about their own research and reading lives, using a similar topic or example.

Overall I found this chapter very reassuring, as I have always felt that one of my strengths is using formative assessments to fully understand my students' needs and planning the next steps for learning accordingly. My district is a Google Apps for Education school, and as such, we use Google for almost everything, with each student having their own Google Suites account through the school. The reading teachers have digital portfolios for each kid that are easily shared with next year's teachers through Google Sheets. We utilize Google Classroom in small ways, increasing its use as we become more familiar with it. I experimented with giving assessments on Google Forms for about a month last year (before a series of storms sent the power out every hour or so, shutting computers down, and the computer-based tests started and took away all access to computers that I had). Students begin using Google Docs to create shared projects that they can work on while in separate locations in 4th and 5th grade. 

Some things I plan to add to my classroom this year in order to increase authenticity, intentionality, and connectedness (and that can also be used for assessment):

  • Kidblog
  • Wonderopolis
  • Global Read Aloud
  • increase use of Google Forms for surveys, check-ins, and assessments

"We assess digital literacy as we have always assessed print-based literacy." (pg. 90)

Chapter 7: Beyond the Classroom Walls: Connecting Digital Reading at Home and School

As much as Chapter 6 was affirmation that what I have already been doing is good, Chapter 7 focuses on an area that I, and my building/district as a whole, struggles with. We have taken measures in the last year or so to rectify this, but we still have a long way to go. 

Part of the struggle is that we are located in an area where most families do not have a computer of any kind in their home. Many other households in the area have computers or similar devices, but do not allow their children to use them. I think this comes from the lack of understanding the parents have for these devices and their potential, as so the parents fear the technology and what their kids may do on the devices without the parents knowing or knowing how to stop them. Our school needs to focus on educating these parents, guardians, and families in order to decrease the gap between the students who have and those who have not. I loved the idea of an Internet Safety Night discussed on pages 102-103.

Last year our district had each building create a Facebook account through which we can share updates, photos, and videos about individual classroom activities and whole building events. Every teacher is also provided with their own classroom website through the district site. This has always been my classroom hub, but I spent some time after reading this book updating the format and adding to it in order to best utilize the space provided.

"Knowing that all of them may not “take off” and that I may need to add something that seems missing later in the school year, I can be flexible and use what works for both my students and their families. The key is having a plan with goals for communication that supports literacy in multiple ways and involves families as digital readers." (pg. 108)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Digital Reading Ch. 3-5 Reflection - #CyberPD

In Chapters 3-5 of Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8 by William L. Bass II and Franki Sibberson the focus is on authenticity, intentionality, and connectedness. These three concepts must be present in order to develop students who have a deep understanding of the intricacies of digital reading. (I also found these chapters very engaging and wrote a lot more than I intended, for which I apologize.)

Chapter 3: What Really Matters? Authenticity

Authenticity means making it real, and something students may encounter or choose to do outside the classroom. It means giving students a choice in their reading work, because every student finds meaning from their reading in different ways, even in a digital world. Achieving true authenticity within the classroom can be a challenge when there are 20-30 students who all have different ways of absorbing, synthesizing, and sharing information. However, within our ever changing technological world, authenticity is so important to helping students become truly capable and productive members of society.

We need to remember that, although we may be comfortable with many different forms of technology and the tools that go with them, our students may not be. We can not assume they know what we know, simply because these tools have always been present in these students' worlds. 

"It is also easy to assume—erroneously—that our students have these skills and can easily transfer them to school." (pg. 29)

My favorite line in this chapter is one that I need to always have in mind in order to bring authentic digital learning into my classroom. "As we focus more on authentic digital reading, we must continue

to ask ourselves questions about our own reading lives so that we can make sure the things we are teaching our students are relevant in and out of school." (pg. 30)

In last weeks reflection I stated that "As I plan my teaching and instruction, I need to ask myself, 'Am I sharing my own process and consumption of digital texts with my students? Am I making this authentic and real?'" This chapter reaffirmed this thought. Am I sharing my own thought process and why I do what I do with technology and with my reading?

"Authenticity is what connects the work of school to the work of being a reader, helping students learn to embrace their reading lives." (pg. 43)

Chapter 4: What Really Matters? Becoming Intentional Decision Makers

In this chapter I really thought a lot about the opportunities that I can and do provide for my students. Simply sharing the available types of digital reading and tools with my students is not enough. They must have time to use these tools and texts in authentic ways of their choosing. I can not simply think they will learn just from watching me or that they will learn if I ask them all to do the same thing with the same tools at the same time. 

I must be intentional in my choice of texts and tools for the classroom, both in print and digitally, but I must also be intentional in providing time for authentic use of these text and tools. On page 51 there is a list of questions we should consider when planning how to use our time wisely. The ones that struck me the most stated, "How are learning tasks assigned? Are most assignments pencil and paper, or are digital tools part of the expectation? Are all students expected to do the same tasks on digital tools, or are they given choices in how to complete their assignments?" These are the questions that I need to remember and need to be intentional about considering when planning.

This chapter was choked full of ideas I want to try in my classroom:
I loved the Voices from the Classroom section on Wonderopolis and it's uses in Maria Caplin's classroom on pages 53-55. I have added several of her ideas to my notes for the upcoming school year.

I also found the Voices from the Classroom section on Learning to Read Critically incredibly powerful and useful. I also teach 4th grade students, and I can't wait to try this with them in the coming year!

"In the digital age, it’s not important for the teacher or the students to be familiar with every tool available. What’s important is the collective knowledge of the class and the power of each student bringing his or her own strategies, understanding, and reading experience to the classroom community." (pg. 64)

Chapter 5: What Really Matters? Connectedness

I really felt that this chapter piggy-backed off of Chapter 4 so well! It seemed to be an extension of the conversation about making intentional choices, but simply added in the specific intentional choices educators must make when helping to build a connected classroom. I especially appreciated the many, many resources that were provided and explained (explained being the big help for me). I have such a long list of ideas I want to learn more about and hopefully implement or try as the year progresses.

I love the statement that when educators provide several different ways for our classes to connect, students "begin to see connecting as a natural part of their reading, writing, and learning, and they begin to expect to learn with the world and not just about it." (pg. 76) This statement was a reminder and call to action for me to include the authentic, intentional, and connected digital experiences for my students simply because it is what is best for them.

This connectedness must also extend from simply connecting our classrooms to connecting various texts. This part of the connectedness focus I have had more experience and exposure with, as it is a big focus of the Common Core Standards that my district transitioned to a few years ago. I often use videos and text with Scholastic News articles throughout the year, both to initiate writing activities as well as simply having class discussions. However, I will need to work on expanding the ways I connect various types of texts within these digital literacy experiences. 

"Community and connectedness are bigger than a group of people. Rather, they are a way of thinking and being active in all that we consume and create." (pg. 79)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Digital Reading Ch. 1-2 Reflection - #CyberPD

Another summer of #cyberPD has started and I'm very excited to be a part of this community again and the conversations that develop! If not already a member of this great community, check it out here.

I have always loved technology and the many things that it makes possible, but implementing its use within my classroom, though a priority, has always been a challenge. I do not have a 1:1 classroom, and in fact only have two outdated desktop computers in my room. Most of my 4th grade students do not have their own tablets or iPads, a larger portion have their own cellphones, with limited permissions from parents, but most can not afford the technology that our school Bring Your Own Device policy allows them to bring to school. It is because of this struggle to even find technology for my students to utilize that I am always eager to read about how to best implement digital devices and to teach digital literacy.

If my students only have limited exposure and access to current digital devices, then the time they do spend with it needs to be of the highest quality. 

Chapter 1: Defining Digital Reading

This chapter began with such a vivid description of two seemingly digitally literate students, Julia and Marissa. This image really hit home. Every year I have many students who are just like Marissa, digitally literate if taken at face value, but who have not truly established deep reading habits like those of Julia. 

As with most everything, students, though having grown up with technology and understanding it's superficial uses, must be taught how to choose which tools are best, how to use these tools, and what other tools may be out there. Students understand games and apps, but little beyond that. How can students be expected to know and understand these digital tools, if we do not teach them? I must make it a part of my classroom procedures and schedules. I must not just use technology in my own life, but must constantly show my students that I do, taking the time to explain why and provide time for them to try these devices and tools as well. To this end, I love the reminder on page 8 that "we can't wait until a child is competent with traditional literacy skills and then expect the child to transfer those skills to digital reading."

Throughout these first chapters, I have been thrilled with the information in the figures and tables. I especially like Figure 1.3 on page 10. This table shows the traditional skills we've always taught and how these skills expand or change with digital reading. What a great tool for use when planning for integrated and embedded digital learning!

A few key lines I loved:
"But it is important to stay true to what we know about good literacy teaching: teaching that teaches the reader, not the text." (pg. 12)

"This is not an either/or conversation; we don’t want to abandon books completely, and we also don’t want to imply that we should access only digital texts." (pg. 13)

Chapter 2: From Reading Workshop to Digital Reading Workshop

The second chapter of this book focuses on turning a reading workshop, into a digital reading workshop, and starts with reaffirming the choice to use a workshop. Put simply, it works. Students are invited to be a part of a community with authentic reading activities, and even in a digital world, this is still what students need. We can't turn away from what we know helps students grow.

I, on occasion, use digital texts within my classroom instruction, but as I read this chapter, I realized how much more I need to incorporate a wide variety of digital texts in order to have the impact on students that I desire. As I plan my teaching and instruction, I need to ask myself, "Am I sharing my own process and consumption of digital texts with my students? Am I making this authentic and real?" My students will learn from my example, but not if they don't see how I live out my reading life.

As with Chapter 1, so many of the tables spoke volumes to me. One of the best figures in this chapter was Figure 2.3, which compared a traditional workshop to a digital workshop, highlighting the small but vital changes that are needed. It may be a challenge, but making the transition from traditional reading instruction to digital reading instruction is critical in achieving the best education for my students.

"We want our students to be authentic readers and, at the same time, to be intentional, active, and reflective as they read all forms of media." (pg. 22)