Digital Literacy, Multiliteracies, and Classroom Accommodations

Forgive my cross-posting. This was originally written for a class and I’m reposting here to share with those educators I frequently interact with. Thoughts welcome.

apples

When reference is made to classroom accommodations, there is often expressions of distress — concern that if the student just can’t cut it in the classroom with the “normal” expectations then there will be adjustment in the tools available or to the curricular expectations. But, if, as Cazden posits, the fundamental purpose of education is “to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community and economic life”, then providing tools for students to do the job is not an accommodation to meet their learning needs — it is part of the job of teaching. Digital tools for teaching and learning are simply the latest iteration in a long line of technological advances. When discussing a return to the “good old days of teaching and learning” the reference is not to a return to wax tablets nor to a return to one-room school houses with ink-wells and chalk and slate. To what, then, is the return to basics advocating?

Adult learners have the experience with tools to decide which tools are necessary for which jobs. While occasionally handwritten work may trump digital tools (when the writer experiences difficulty wrangling a sentence into the desired form, when the learner feels like the task is not engaging or that they are falling asleep during reading, when the learner desires a bodily-kinesthetic connection between concepts), adult learners, workers, citizens, rely heavily on digital tools for work and play. Lists are made on a phone. Reading is done from digital textbooks where the reader can highlight, annotate, and export notes, which are then turned into written responses in longer form using digital mind mapping tools to plan and google docs to write, wordpress to publish, share and interact.

Digital voice assistant-controlled software, including Siri and Google, are frequently used to interact with devices. Of iPhone users, 98% have used Siri to interact with their phones, although a smaller percentage use a digital assistant regularly. “Hey Siri!” or “Ok, Google” have already become common vernacular among young learners. Blog posts, essays, letters, and emails can be dictated via talk-to-text tools that are fast approaching the accuracy of humans, although there remains reluctance to engage in voice engagement with digital tools while in public. Yet classroom educators continue to insist that if a child cannot write with pencil and paper with flawless spelling and grammar with only the support of a photocopied graphic organizer as an outline tool and a ten-pound-brick of a dictionary that they cannot write and the hand wringing begins.

As stakeholders in education, let’s  let go of the double standard and denying tools to learners until after they have mastered “the basics”. Luke and Luke assert that competence with one domain is often inappropriately reconstrued as incompetence with print-based literacies and “that the crises of print literacy and their preferred ameliorative social strategies are being used as a nodal point in public discourse both to delay and sublimate the emergence of new educational paradigms around multiliteracies, around new blended forms of textual and symbolic practice and affiliated modes of identity and social relations” (Luke and Luke p. 96). The paradigm shift will happen with us or without us.

As in the 70s with the introduction of calculators into calculus classrooms there was considerable concern that the new technology would suppress learners’ abilities to master the basics. Calculators are now standard tools in the classroom and there is an app that can easily read and solve handwritten complex equations. The work of classrooms is not to deny learners access to tools that facilitate learning and working with information but to teach them “to be information literate, […] to recognize when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (ALA, p18)

References:

American Library Association (ALA) (1989). Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Cazden, C. Cope, B. Fairclough, N. Gee, J. et. al. (1996) A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review. http://newarcproject.pbworks.com/f/Pedagogy%2Bof%2BMultiliteracies_New%2BLondon%2BGroup.pdf

Clark, B. (2016). Microsoft’s Speech Recognition is now just as accurate as humans. The Next Web. http://thenextweb.com/microsoft/2016/10/18/microsofts-speech-recognition-is-now-just-as-accurate-as-humans/

Dobson, T. & WIlinsky, J. Digital Literacy.

Leswig, K. (2016) Here’s why people don’t use Siri regularly, even though 98% of iPhone users have tried it. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/98-of-iphone-users-have-tried-siri-but-most-dont-use-it-regularly-2016-6

Luke, A., & Luke, C. (2001). Journal of early childhood literacy: Adolescence Lost/Childhood regained: On early intervention and the emergence of the techno-subject. Sage Publications.

10 Hacks for Reluctant Writers

I recently put some thought into how I motivate reluctant writers. Sometimes a pencil and a blank page is overwhelming for students.

  
Introduce a collaborative element

Teach students how to collaborate on writing projects. This can happen on paper or it might happen through collaborative writing platforms like Google. Sometime students just need to know that the work they create will get outside of the notebook and be read to get things started.

Use a frame

Sometime students need a starter to get their creative juices flowing. It’s less intimidating to know what the writing expectation is.

Don’t use a frame

That being said, don’t use a frame for every single writing activity. Writing is creative and I think it should remain so. Wile students sometimes need a framework they also sometimes need to run without a fence.

Use inspirational books and short films

One of my favourite sources of inspiration is wordless books, which we talk about to to build vocabulary before sitting down to write. Lately, I have discovered that short, wordless films are fun to write from, too. Don’t be afraid to stop the film often to shake loose vocabulary like a PWIM-type activity but also watch the film as it’s intended to be watched to catch the artistry of the film making. Generally shorts are only a few minutes long.

Exemplars 

Students need models of what good writing looks like. It’s hard to reach for exemplary writing without knowing the elements of good writing. I think this is also an important place to let tudents have another go. I have found that discussing a draft with a student and comparing it to exemplars and then inviting them to revise and edit has improved the quality of their work.

Model writing behaviour

Students need to see what writers look like when they do their work. There are times during Daily 5 literacy activities where I also sit down and write. When I do, though, I work with pen and paper because I want students to know I’m writing and not checking email or surfing for lesson plans.

Be a writer

Similar to model writing behaviour, but I think we need to discuss purposes for writing with students. As adults where do we write? Shopping lists, blogs, emails, book reviews for Goodreads? Share! Students need to see that we are lifelong learners.

Write like a Pirate! Use a hook!

(To borrow a phrase from Paul Solarz’ book Learn Like a Pirate.) Students need a reason to write! Help them find one! A teaching colleague recently shared his hook: the classroom mascot had gone missing! Students wrote wanted posters and morning announcements that for the entire school talking!

Journals, blogs, scripts, lists! Change the mode!

What did you do on the weekend?” Worst. Prompt. Ever. I think students need to be exposed to different formats to find the joy in writing. What about instead of a narrative recount of the weekend students wrote a script about the funniest moment? What about a blog with hyperlinks? How about a visual journal? Or ditch the weekend in review and seek a more interesting topic! Ask what questions they have asked lately! This one takes habit to cultivate. We get so in the habit of ignoring curiosity or resorting to Google. What if we just “wondered” and then wrote about where that took our imaginations?

Provide alternatives

Talk to text can be a powerful tool. I witnessed a student this week who got frustrated by not being able to tell his story in print. He gabbed an iPad, used Pages to dictate the story, edited for errors, and exported the text to Google to share. That child knew what he needed and was able to fully express his idea (and you should have seen the pride on his face)!

I’m always on the lookout for more ideas! Let me know how you encourage writing in your classroom!

Engaging Every Reader Through Multiliteracies: audiobooks, talk-to-text, and video… Oh my…

When I meet a parent for the first time they want to know: can my kid read, write, do math, and get along with other kids? I outline for parents how we use Daily 5 literacy strategies in our class room and students interact with text I many ways every week. In order to be a reader a students needs to read A LOT! In order to be a writer a student needs to write A LOT!

One of my first goals is for every child to love reading, writing, and creating. If they’re not hooked on the amazingness inside text they’ll never see the value in working with it for work or play.

When I suggest multi-literaticies and adaptive technology I am often met with some resistance but here’s my personal experience: I blog on my phone 90% of the time. I dictate to notes while driving a 60 minute or longer commute. I listen to audio books. I read, highlight, annotate, collaborate, create for my masters class mostly on mobile devices. The future is already here. When I signed up for an online masters degree I committed to not printing any of the 100+ pages per week we were assigned to read. I do it all on my tablet and I’m going to argue that most of what readers consume is not actually printed.

Multi-literacies are for every learner not just struggling learners! Knowing how to engage with a story told orally is as important as reading a text. Reading a novel is as important as watching a documentary.

My classroom goal for every student is for them to experience success with text, but I think we need to be aware that text space is changing for kids. I used to pour over newspapers, to borrow stacks of books from the library and to fill piles of notebooks that were destined to be novels (don’t count me out on this one yet 😉

Audiobooks

But we need to be aware that students do not interact with text the way learners did 30 years ago. It is not static. It’s full of hyperlinks, it talks, it interacts. Multiliteracies allow an access point for every student; students who are struggling readers can access texts that would be too difficult to read but that they understand when spoken. They are capable of inferring, connecting, recounting, and otherwise interacting with this text. Students who struggle to read a long text often readily engage with audio books.

Short videos

Creating video responses is another important multiliteracy. It takes a great deal of patience and practice for students to create video representations they are happy with. Students repeat, provide and respond to feedback, revise, and perfect. Video has been a powerful tool in immersion as it allows students to hear themselves speak.

Long videos

Responding by creating is an important multi-literacy for children; when they know their creation will be consumed and enjoyed by others it gives them purpose. Create a book trailer, a puppet show, or an Explain Everything video.

Talk typing

Siri does a lot of my typing these days. I’m a commuter and spend roughly 90minutes per day in my car. This time is precious and I get frustrated when it’s lost but this blog post was composed while driving. Of course I came back later to edit, hyperlink and add photos but the brainstorming and first draft were spoken. For me this is still not a natural form of writing. I still compose quietly and then speak outloud, much like having a phone conversation with Siri, I guess.

Picture rich content

Ebooks arean accessible source of content and web reading takes up much of our time for text consumption. Readers need to know how to handle a text that is rich with images, titles, subtitles, and hyperlinks. What students interact with is no longer a static document and knowing how to interact with it is no less a literacy than knowing how to read a book. Don’t believe me? Head over to Reddit as see how long it takes you to figure out how to access the content you’re looking for.

Web forms

I recently filled out an application for something that I might fill you in on later (or I might not, ’cause that’s the way I roll and it’s my blog) and it required me to do some pretty deep thinking. I completed it on my mobile device. While adults might balk at completing work on such a small space, it’s not foreign to students and the ability to interact with online content is important. Have students create a plicker quiz, use google forms.
To borrow a phrase from Thomas King, an influential writer for me, “the truth about story is story is all we are.” Multiliteracies allow for mutiple entry points for every student to find a way to interact with story and to make their story known.

I would love your ideas on how you integrate multiliteracies in your classrooms!

Fun with Procedural Writing

We found inspiration in How to Train a Train, which my students enjoyed in spite of its very simple story.

  
After reading, we brainstormed the elements of procedural writing. Students determined that there had to be a title, an introduction, several steps that each started with a verb and an evaluation step so that the person following the instructions would know whether or not they had succeeded.

Then students headed off to try their hands at writing through the writer’s workshop procedure.

They had a blast brainstorming what their “how to” might be about.

The rest of the week will be very busy with innovation fair and celebration of learning so we have a few fun things planned for the spaces where we are not otherwise tied up.

Students will read and write recipes, which will support our work in ELA procedural writing and math fractions. We will be cooking but I haven’t yet decided what to cook as I think that will depend on how hot it gets this week… Maybe we’ll make ice cream!

I think we’ll finish off the week with this cute idea:

 
Procedural writing about how to blow a bubble and then we’ll blow some bubble gum bubbles and write our successful attempts as a fraction of the total number of attempts. 

Some days you just need to play while learning 😉

How can I use technology in my classroom: Googledocs

These days I have been challenged to integrate technology in a classroom where I am not in charge of all of the technology. In the past, I have run a one-to-one classroom and found it easy to integrate technology all day long everyday. Now that I am sharing with the school and have to very deliberately book technology time for my students, it has changed the way we use it.

I have recently begun using GAFE with my students and with some other groups around the school. With my students in third grade, I found that it was easy to integrate by training up a few students and then using them as my “expert” students to get everyone going.

I find that Googledocs is one of the easiest places for my students to work, as they then have immediate access to their documents at home. In addition, I ask that my students share documents with me when they are ready to for teacher feedback. I can use the comment function in the student document and provide students with an immediate, just-in-time, mini-lesson related to their work and they are able to integrate the feedback immediately without having to copy out their entire document a second time.

This has been a good way to interact with students and I feel that it has improved the quality of their work.