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)


  1. Stephanie,
    I started with the same quote from Clare and Tammy. It really says it all. I love the idea of talking with students during the reading survey about what they are doing online at home -- what choice research are they doing and learning about? It sounds as if your district has taken important steps to embed technology and digital tools, but now that we know so much more, we can plan with intentionality and purpose. And I love that you already have a plan for next year!

    I think many of our parents are just so unsure about technology at home and at school. We need to open those doors of uncertainty and share how we are utilizing technology and digital texts and tools for learning -- see it in action and answer many questions. We had an internet safety night a year ago and it was very eye opening for many parents - a great night of learning for both parents and students.

    Thanks for joining in the #cyberPD conversation again! I appreciated your thoughts and ideas!

  2. You make a great point about parents not letting children use tools at home. I see now how important it is to help families understand how they use technology to stay informed and be entertained...well that certainly fits with what we teach kids about author's purpose in the print texts they read. Any way we can help change thinking and give families "tools" to harness the power of the internet is important. (By tools I mean anything to help families better understand how to use the Internet as a digital citizen.)

  3. Ditto, Stephanie! Chapter 6 was an affirmation for me, as well. I feel very comfortable with assessment and the possible ways to integrate technology into that assessment. But I also struggle with the home/school digital connectedness. The Internet Safety night sounds like a good way to involve families.

    How did the Facebook accounts work for you and your classroom? I've tried a classroom Twitter account and had some success with that!

    1. Cathy,
      So far the use of a building Facebook account has been wonderful! Parents seem to get information from Facebook more than almost any other means of communication we use. It is easy for any grade level or subject to post information about what they are doing in the classroom. It is also a great way to spread the word about events the school is hosting, such as reading nights or informational meetings. The only real problem for our district is that, within our school network, Facebook is blocked. We can't post anything at school unless using our Smartphones through mobile data and we can't show the kids what's been put up. It really is all for the parents, not the students.

  4. Stephanie, you raise some interesting challenges in working with parents. I know this is something I will be thinking a lot about in the coming year. There are still many families that are uncomfortable with their children's use of technology. I have to remember this. I've been working in digital spaces for so long now that my original concerns have long since vanished. I need to remember to consider those who are just starting this journey.

    I use Evernote for keeping formative assessment information. However, like your school, our school has become a Google school since I started using Evernote. I do consider often the ability for students to keep snippets of their learning now possible through Google. I'm always weighing this and need to make more of an effort to get some artifacts into their Google spaces.

    I'd love to hear more about what your reading teachers collect across the year. I've been able to collect assessment information, retellings, reader response, and some audio recordings that demonstrate progress. However, I know I need to continue to think more about this.

    I'm so glad you joined the conversation again this year,