Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Digital Tools to Help Build a Culture of Readers

Post first published on FTEdTech

If you were lucky enough to hear Donalyn Miller speak this week you might be feeling inspired to work on building a culture of readers that are engaged and intrinsically motivated through strategies like the 40 Book Challenge.

Not sure what I'm talking about? You can get the gist of the what the 40 book challenge is about here, and you might modify it to match the number of weeks we have left in the year:

I would also suggest before you get started, that you might want to check out Miller's 40 Book Challenge Revisited post.

Getting Started Right Now with Small Shifts

You don't have to wait until the beginning of next year to get started with something like the 40 Book Challenge. We can start making small shifts in practice to encourage wider reading.

Use your School Library

First, you don't have to worry about the size of your classroom library. Our school libraries are stacked with tons of amazing books, and our librarians are working on building e-book content that students can use 24/7. Consider a small shift that would include encouraging your students to visit the school library more frequently at appropriate times. Work with your librarian and our public library to make sure all students are set up with ebook accounts, and review with your librarian the ebook resources we have available like Epic, Pebble GO, PebbleGo Next and OverDrive.

Check out FTReads

A second small shift would be to ditch outdated practices for some more modern practices. In the Book Whisperer Miller includes many practical strategies and resources for making book recommendations for students, building that classroom library with a variety of books and getting kids writing and sharing their reading. My favorite chapter is Chapter 6: "Cutting the Teacher Strings". In this chapter Miller outlines a number of "traditional practices" with alternatives. She encourages the use of book commercials, book talks, and encouraging the idea that reading is its own incentive.

You could easily capitalize on our own FTReads and the resources there to help your students create their very own book talks and trailers. Send me or your school's librarian your favorite student projects and we can add them to the FTReads site for other students to see.

Use #FTReads when you're tweeting and share what your kids love with all of our schools.

Share Book Projects

Another simple shift that goes along with this is to create a media album in Schoology. With the media album, students can add their own book trailers, posters in PicCollage or book talks and upload to share. If students are given commenting privileges, and use Schoology through Safari (instead of the app) they will be able to interact and encourage each other using good Digital Citizenship skills.

The same type of sharing can be created using other tools like Seesaw and Flipgrid.

Use Reader's Notebooks Instead of Logs

Are you ready to ditch the reading log? Consider using the approach that Miller describes in the Book Whisperer with the idea of a Reader's Notebook that includes letters written back and forth between the student and teacher. You can grab a copy of a digital version of a notebook here

The benefit of using this in the digital form is that if you distribute it through Schoology as a Google or Microsoft Assignment, both you and your students can have access to it when needed. As a teacher, with this format, you have editing privileges and can add slides to respond to your students' letters. Students can also use this notebook to add pictures from the books with their own annotations. If they use post-it notes while reading, they can take pictures of the post-its and add as a reflection. They could also hand write their letters and take pictures of their handwritten work.

Try out Bilbionasium the Goodreads for Kids

You can expand the reader's notebook type of activity and manage the challenge through your school's access to Biblionasium (the Goodreads for kids) through your library's Destiny accounts.

Check out this introduction to Biblionasium and work with your librarian to get things started for your class:

You can run your entire challenge from Biblionasium and build a culture of reading by encouraging students to share reviews and make recommendations. This is a fantastic alternative to incentive based programs we have typically used.

Biblionasium is a fairly new tool for us. You will want to work closely with your librarian to test it out.

Model Global Communication

Many of you are just beginning to use Twitter to share what you are doing in your classrooms. Twitter is the perfect place to connect with authors and other readers. If your students make a cool project or want to share what they love about a book, look to see if the author is on Twitter, by searching for them, and tag them in a tweet.

You can also follow some role model readers and check in on their tweets periodically to see if there's something you can share with your class.

Some of my favorites on Twitter are:
Hashtags - search use these hashtags to connect, share and learn from others

  • Nerdy Book Club - here you have a tremendous resource and online community of readers sharing reviews and ideas.
  • KBA - this is the site for the Kentucky Book Awards - get your students interested in what other kids in our state are reading
  • Global Read Aloud - get really global and connect with other classes for the Global Read Aloud, happening in October
  • FTReads Day - Created by librarian Jason Gay - be on the lookout for this in March

You might even consider taking this all a step further and creating your own class blog or website that you use to share student work. If you do, make sure you send me a link so I can add it to FTReads!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Reading Strategies for a Digital Age

Post was also shared on FTEdTech

Some time last Spring, I heard the podcast "Digital Readers Read in an F-Pattern" by Teach Thought. This episode, hosted by Ryan Schaaf, marked the beginning of my newest journey to understand how our students are processing information in a digital environment and how we might help them focus their attention in a world of distractions.

Because of the podcast, I was inspired to pick up my own (digital) copy of Reinventing Learning for the Always On Generation: Strategies and Apps that Work by Ian Jukes and Ryan Schaaf. The considerations and research they explore are fascinating to me and there are many implications for classroom practice that I think are worth time to discuss and study.

The F-Pattern

In the podcast and through the book, I was introduced to the idea of F-Pattern reading and research conducted by the Nielsen Normal Group on Eye Tracking

What does this mean for the classroom?

I have a lot of questions about what I'm learning. One of the biggest things I find myself wondering about is how do our digital natives transition skills and habits between print and digital texts? 

For myself, this information has helped me to pause periodically and ask myself if I'm reading to the right side of the screen and getting all the content I need. I miss so much information in email and in digital reading because I'm not setting reading expectations for myself.

One of my big take-aways is that we must be mindful of teaching students how to slow down and engage in digital texts in meaningful ways.

Reading Strategies for the Digital Age

It is really important to model effective digital reading strategies for students. Show them how to look for embedded dictionaries, highlighters, note taking tools. 

Encourage your students to read with purpose and demonstrate that they have by using a note taking strategy or graphic organizer - either digital or paper/pen.

Students can simplify and customize their reading experience to eliminate distractions, use mark up features embedded in their device and make use of Chrome Extensions like Read&Write. Kasey Bell, in her post "How to Create a Dynamic Reading Experience" has some excellent instructions for how to make that work.

Digital Natives are what Jukes and Shaaf refer to as "Transfluent", which means they are fluent in multiple modes of of media and find it natural to communicate with images then mix in text and color. As teachers, we can capitalize on that by challenging students to be creators not just consumers of information. Give students the opportunity to make use of transfluency skills through the use of activities like Booksnaps and Sketchnoting.

Get some more details and ideas here:

Beyond the Video Project

Post was also published on FTIS EdTech

Chances are if you asked your students how they learned how to do something outside of school, they would reply, "I just YouTube-d it".

We live in a highly visual and media rich world, and our digital natives are certainly adept at creating their own content.

In a world, where according to Ian Junes and Ryan Schaaf, authors of Reinventing Learning for the Always On Generation: Strategies and Apps That Work “Every minute of every day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 100 hours of new video are uploaded,” you might wonder: is video becoming the new "old standby" project for when we can't think of anything else to assign our students?

With endless tools and app smashing techniques, it is true, that even our youngest students can produce quality, engaging videos that demonstrate their learning in creative ways; however, what could we add to the list of choices that would challenge their critical thinking skills and model different avenues of communication?

Below, you will find some ideas and resources to get you thinking beyond the video project.


Create Books

Encourage your students to create epublications that they can share beyond a folder. With access to tools like Book Creator through Google Chrome, the Book Creator App, templates in Apple's Pages, and even Google Slides. Students can create media rich content to tell a story, report on a topic or even teach a lesson. 

Resources to get you started

  • Apple Teacher - Pages for iPad - download the iBook to learn how to create beautiful publications - set up a free account and become Apple Teacher certified

Create Websites

Students of all different ages can use Google Sites on a computer or Adobe Spark Pages on the computer or through the iPad app. Adobe Spark also consists of Posts and Videos, so some of the resources will reference those tools. Log into all the Adobe applications with your school email. For Spark Pages, we have Adobe Enterprise, so you'll need to choose sign in, then select "Sign in with Adobe Enterprise" and use your school email and password after.

Resources to get you started

Create Podcasts

One medium that maybe doesn't get enough airtime in our schools is the podcast. Prior to having students create a podcast, you would want to introduce them to the idea of a podcast using some suggestions from Common Sense Media "20 Best Podcasts for Kids". In this list, you'll even find a few podcasts that feature kids. A cool thing about podcasts is that they appeal to the auditory learner, but many of them often include a blog post with "show notes" that act as either a transcription or an extension of the discussion. One of my favorites is  format used by Cult of Pedagogy - check out this example.

Resources to get you started

When you create a podcast in Garageband the important thing is to choose the correct settings.

Once you open a new project, and select microphone, you will turn off the Metronome (upper right side - looks like a triangle), then tap the (+) - or it may say 4.0 on the top right corner, and switch it to Automatic. 

You should then be able to record uninterrupted.

Many of our 3-5 grade students have experience with Garageband thanks to our wonderful Music teachers, and they could be a tremendous asset when you are developing your own lessons.

Create Video Games

There are so many amazing things that can be done with Bloxels. I have seen amazing projects that feature Civil War re-enactments, lessons about the digestive system, and original fairy tales. The key to using Bloxels for projects is to require that students create a storyboard as part of the development and then include written explanations throughout on story blocks.

Resources to get you started

What else can you get kids creating this year?