Resource Round Up

As anyone who has followed my blog probably knows, there are no ads. No banners. No AdSense. No clickbait.

I don’t accept advertising nor do I often pass along information from others. Sadly, as Dan Meyer explained many years ago, many people make many dollars from those clicks, and I think that educators and parents want a website they can trust. So, I don’t do sponsored posts or the like.

Every once in awhile, however, something comes along that I think is legit: the people running it are working to support teachers and students, they engage in genuine education reform or improvement, and/or the message resonates loudly enough that –even if they take ad money or are directly selling a product — I am willing to share their wares.

As it happens, this past week, three sites came my way that fit this “every once in awhile” phenomenon. I will share a bit about each here:

BestSchools.com

First, I was contacted by Herrie Coralde at BestSchools.com about the possibility of sharing information for students about, as you might guess, the best schools that offer online degree programs. Many sites, like the ones Dan mentioned in his blog post, create these guides or portals with the intent that someone will click from them to the online program and they get a kickback.

Not so with Best Schools. As they note on their About page, they exist for two reasons:

The first reason is simple: there are too many online programs out there. It’s impossible to keep track of the industry’s growth. And if you turn to Google for help, you’ll see a glut of for-profit schools. It’s hard to know what’s legit and what’s not.

The second reason is more complicated, and it’s the reason why we started BestSchools.com. The existing ranking systems aren’t anywhere close to perfect. They look at metrics like graduation rates and extrapolate them into a ranking. While graduation rates can be a telltale sign of a high quality school, metrics like that don’t tell the whole story.

Moreover, they offer many articles that tell this broader story about online education such as Kristen Hicks’ (no relation) “For-Profit Colleges: What Every Student Should Know.” After providing a list of pros and cons for these types of schools, she advises the reader:

In short, if for-profit colleges continue down the path they’re on now, they may not have much of a future. But if they evolve to better meet the needs of current students and appease the governmental powers currently challenging them, they may just weather all the current storms…

Do your research. Don’t just listen to what a representative from a college has to say, get online and see what else you can find about the school you’re interested in.

Overall, I appreciate the way that BestSchools does their research and presents their findings. For instance, and not just because they pick my employer, CMU, as #1 in the state, they provide an overview of the state’s programs and then dig in to the top 10.

BestSchools.com Screenshot

BestSchools.com Screenshot

Overall, BestSchools.com appears to be legit and I appreciate having a balanced, research-based team looking at the many options available for online learning. So, finding two in one week was quite interesting, as I will share next.

OnlineMasterPrograms.org

The second query I received came from Lauren Ford at Online Masters Program. Again, I did some looking around on their site, and found their About page compelling, too. Given my criteria for such sites, listed above, I noticed two things about their page work:

Are you affiliated with the programs featured?

OMP.org is an independently run site. We are not affiliated with any master’s degree programs or schools. None of our links to particular programs or schools are sponsored. These programs were chosen because we regard them as some of the most reputable graduate schools.

How do you make money?

All money made through our site is done so via 3rd party advertisers and affiliates. All ads found on this site, be they banners or forms, are labeled as such. The material we produce ourselves and the tools we offer are all ad-free and 100% free to access. We will never require visitors of our site to use or endorse advertised or affiliated content.

So, fair enough. They are clear about their advertising policy, and I appreciate it. More importantly, they provide a good deal of information for each program, as evidenced here by this entry for CMU’s masters in education.

OnlineMastersPrograms.org

OnlineMastersPrograms.org

The site includes public, private non-profit, and private for profit listings and the reviews are written, like BestSchools.com in a balanced, research-based way. Their data comes from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, U.S. Department of Education and the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Again, this makes for a very thorough and useful site as someone begins to review online programs. Of course, there are other ways for teachers to get online, too, and this third resource shows how.

Start Blogging Online

Finally, I got an email from Mike Wallagher who manages Start Blogging Online. His purpose is straight forward:

I began blogging in 2009 – and since then I’ve managed over 20 blogs, some with 200,000 visitors. I started getting tons of questions about blogging from people all over the world, so I thought it’d be a great idea to pack all that information onto one site where I could share it with everyone.

In doing so, he has created a robust website with a clear approach, a clean design, and usable tips. For instance, the screenshot below shows step two in his step-by-step guide. You can see the clear advice, the helpful links, and (just barely at the bottom) a helpful graphic. Most of the resource pages on his site are designed like this.

StartBloggingOnline.com Screenshot

StartBloggingOnline.com Screenshot

He is also very clear about how he earns money from his affiliate marketing program, but that is not the heart of his work. He adds “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I want to make money from you. It’s mostly to keep my site up and running so I could provide you with the latest blogging tutorials, guides and strategies in the blogging niche.”

Overall, Mike’s work is smart, concise, and useful. Probably his most relevant page for educators is “Blogging in the Classroom,” followed closely by his “What is a Blog?” resource. In particular, I could see using that document as a great way to talk about audiences, purposes, and genres for blogging, not just for using blogs (ala Bud Hunt).

So, there you have it. Three coincidentally timed contacts in the past week, all of which have led to useful resources that I may have not otherwise considered. Please let me know if you check these resources out and what you think by leaving a comment below or following up with me on Twitter.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Discussing “Connected Reading” on Education Talk Radio

In case you missed it… Last Thursday, Kristen Turner and I were able to chat with host Larry Jacobs on Education Talk Radio about our new book, Connected Reading. For more information on the book, visit our wiki page. Enjoy!

Check Out Education Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with EDUCATION TALK RADIO PRE K -20 on BlogTalkRadio

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Fandom Mashup with Mozilla’s Popcorn

Mozilla's Popcorn, part of the Webmaker suite of tools

Mozilla’s Popcorn, part of the Webmaker suite of tools

For anyone that has read this blog, seen my guest post on the Heinemann website, or heard me speak in the past few months, you know that I am becoming more and more intrigued with Mozilla’s Popcorn as a digital writing tool. Last week, my students in ENG 201 started playing around with Popcorn as one possible tool for creating their final, multimedia projects.

Before I share this example from one of my students, Cali Winslow, I wanted to note just a few quick notes about helping guide students to this point of the semester.

First, I have been fortunate enough to teach and honors section this semester. While most times I teach English 201 I am focused in on various forms of academic writing, and especially on the techniques of argument, this particular semester has been interesting because I am guiding students, as freshmen, to think about what they want to do for their senior honors capstone research project. As a part of this work, students will be submitting what I’m calling a “very rough draft” of what they would like to do as a senior honors project proposal.

Second, because we’ve been talking about digital writing throughout the semester, I am asking them to share their final presentation not just as a PowerPoint, but in some kind of multimedia form. Over the past few weeks we have begun looking at a number of different tools, and Popcorn is one of them. My hope is that the few students will use this tool for their final projects, especially since I have so many students interested in topics related to media.

All of this is a lead up to what I found to be a truly wonderful project. Mind you, this was meant as an opportunity for play and exploration, a formative assessment opportunity just to see what students could come up with in a limited amount of time. My guess is that Cali spent much more than just a “few extra minutes” outside of class to get this creative representation of her many “fandoms.” In fact, she noted in her reflection, there are many things to consider when embarking on such a project:

This project revealed some important benefits and drawbacks of using multimedia presentations. One clear benefit is that, if executed properly, it can provide a concise, engaging presentation related to the topic. A one-minute video can be much more compelling than a page of text presenting the same information. It also allows the author to be more creative in how they present their message, which can draw a wider audience. As with any media, however, there are some limitations. The biggest problem, in my presentation, was due to technological issues. As I mentioned, I had five tracks that were all timed precisely to fit with one another. Several times I tried to play them back and one would glitch and become out-of-sync with the others, which in some cases, even somewhat changed the message I was trying to get across (some of you may also have had this problem if you tried watching my video).

This is one of those projects where a student clearly went above and beyond, and I think you’ll find the final results to be compelling and creative. If this is what she was able to create just playing around with Popcorn for fun, I can’t wait to see what she — and all of my students — with their final projects.

Enjoy!


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Introducing Connected Reading

Connected Reading Cover (Courtesy of NCTE)

Connected Reading Cover (Courtesy of NCTE)

This month marks the publication of my fifth book, a co-authored work with Kristen Hawley Turner entitled Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World.

The research and writing process for this book took over two years, though it was well worth the effort. Combined, Kristen and I visited a dozen classrooms, interviewed nearly two dozen students, and surveyed 800 teens about their uses of digital reading devices. We discovered that reading was about much more than just the device; it remains, at the heart of it all, a conversation about words, stories, and ideas. Here is the official “blurb” from the back of the book:

As readers of all ages increasingly turn to the Internet and a variety of electronic devices for both informational and leisure reading, teachers need to reconsider not just who and what teens read but where and how they read as well. Having ready access to digital tools and texts doesn’t mean that middle and high school students are automatically thoughtful, adept readers. So how can we help adolescents become critical readers in a digital age?

Using NCTE’s policy research brief Reading Instruction for All Students as both guide and sounding board, experienced teacher-researchers Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks took their questions about adolescent reading practices to a dozen middle and high school classrooms. In this book, they report on their interviews and survey data from visits with hundreds of teens, which led to the development of their model of Connected Reading: “Digital tools, used mindfully, enable connections. Digital reading is connected reading.”

They argue that we must teach adolescents how to read digital texts effectively, not simply expect that teens can read them because they know how to use digital tools. Turner and Hicks offer practical tips by highlighting classroom practices that engage students in reading and thinking with both print and digital texts, thus encouraging reading instruction that reaches all students.

We summarize our model in this graphic, and hope that it sparks conversations about the nature of reading in a digital world.

Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World Graphic

Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World by Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks © 2015 by the National Council of Teachers of English. This figure may be printed, reproduced, and disseminated (with attribution) without permission from NCTE.

Check out the first chapter on NCTE’s website as well as our companion wiki. We look forward to continued conversations about connected reading among teachers, parents, and, of course, our students.

Make Write Repeat: Free Webinar on March 30

Join me on Monday, March 30 at 5:00 EST!

In partnership with Chris Lehman, Laura Fleming, and their colleagues at the Educator Collaborative, I will be presenting a webinar this coming Monday, March 30, at 5:00 PM EST. You can participate in the live stream of the keynote for free by registering here.

Also, as it happens, I will adapt this keynote into an Ignite! style talk this coming Friday during Colby Sharp‘s “Pure Michigan: An Evening Celebrating Michigan Educators” at the Michigan Reading Association Conference. Condensing a full presentation into 5 minutes will be a bit of a challenge, but I am sure it can be done!

For resources that I plan to share, please visit my wiki.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Digital Learning Day (Week/Month) 2015

DLDay Logo

Image from http://www.digitallearningday.org/

Celebrating Digital Learning Day this year has been quite an experience, beginning last week and going all the way through this weekend, with the “official” celebration happening, of course, this Friday with a live feed from the Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington DC.

Last week, I was honored by my friend and colleague, Dawn Reed, who nominated me as a Digital Learning Champion. She and I are working on our new book with Corwin, and “Research Writing Rewired” should be published later this year! She is a digital champion herself, and I have enjoyed collaborating with her again over the past year.

Then, last Thursday, I joined Greg Mcverry for part of his open “Question the Web” course, discussing ideas for teaching with blogs and RSS. He recorded the conversation via Hangouts on Air, and we tried to keep it brief and focused coming in just over 20 minutes. You can watch the episode below and find more resources on pages linked above.

This week will have me moving right along, too. Earlier today, I participated in a hangout on air with Amber White and other colleagues from North Branch Area Schools and the Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative to discuss the conference we are offering in the district this Friday. In short, here is what’s happening:

District colleagues involved in the TTI have been working diligently to prepare a wide-variety of interactive sessions to provide a small lens into some of the learning and thinking going on in the realm of technology as a result of their participation in the Teacher Technology Institute.

It was a great conversation — and brief, so very viewable — and I encourage you to view the recording. I look forward to seeing how all our colleagues in North Branch share their own inquiry and learning this Friday, and hope to blog about it soon.

TandL Logo

In DC this weekend for http://teachingandlearning2015.org/ Join us!

So, that will be a great day, followed by a quick trip to Washington DC to join in the second day of the Teaching and Learning Conference. My brief trip to DC will include two presentations with my NWP colleagues Tanya Baker, Janelle Bence, Gail Desler, and Kevin Hodgson: “Mixing Sources, Amplifying Voices: Empowering Students Through Connected Learning” and “Readers, Writers, and Citizens: Principles and Practices for Digital Literacy.” I will post our handouts and materials on my wiki later this week.

Earlier this morning, Heinemann published my new blog post, “Connecting + Making = Digital Writing.” Here is the opening…

Often, while I’m delivering professional development workshops or webinars, teachers ask me about new tools that have been released since I wrote Crafting Digital Writing in 2013. While I try to keep links updated on the book’s companion wiki page, I know that many resources come and go each year. There are some stand-bys, such as Google Docs and Wikispaces, that have long track records and that many educators find quite useful. Sharing a link to these tools is often enough to point teachers in the right direction.

Yet, when teachers want to dig deeper, to think about creative ways that they can invite students to play, transform, and critique existing materials with digital writing tools, sometimes the stand-bys aren’t enough. Yes, it is great that Google Docs allows us to embed images and links and that Wikispaces allows us to create a collaborative online classroom; but once our students are familiar with these tools, how can we help push their thinking and learning in new directions?

Moreover, I am happy to announce that NCTE has opened up the site for pre-ordering my new book with Kristen Turner — Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World. A quick summary, courtesy of our back cover copy:

As readers of all ages increasingly turn to the Internet and a variety of electronic devices for both informational and leisure reading, teachers need to reconsider not just who and what teens read but where and how they read as well. Having ready access to digital tools and texts doesn’t mean that middle and high school students are automatically thoughtful, adept readers. So how can we help adolescents become critical readers in a digital age?

Using NCTE’s policy research brief Reading Instruction for All Students as both guide and sounding board, experienced teacher-researchers Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks took their questions about adolescent reading practices to a dozen middle and high school classrooms. In this book, they report on their interviews and survey data from visits with hundreds of teens, which led to the development of their model of Connected Reading: “Digital tools, used mindfully, enable connections. Digital reading is connected reading.” They argue that we must teach adolescents how to read digital texts effectively, not simply expect that teens can read them because they know how to use digital tools. Turner and Hicks offer practical tips by highlighting classroom practices that engage students in reading and thinking with both print and digital texts, thus encouraging reading instruction that reaches all students.

Connected Reading Cover

From ncte.org

This afternoon, I recorded a podcast with Kristen and our editor, Cathy Fleischer, and I will share that link when I have it. Thanks to everyone who has shared the link via FB, Twitter, and G+. We appreciate the initial positive reaction and hope that the book lives up to your expectations! For some preview of the material, you can visit our companion wiki page.

Finally, this month of digital learning continues next week with the MACUL conference next week and the Educator Collaborative’s Maker Space Camp, where I will deliver a virtual keynote on Monday March 30 (which is available for free viewing).

So, this will be a busy Digital Learning Day (Week? Month?). I am pleased to be celebrating digital learning in so many ways, yet still I caution us all think about this day in the same way we would ask our students to think about ideas that they encounter online — critically and carefully. My 2013 post about Digital Learning Day is still as relevant today as it was two years ago, especially as the new assessments are upon us, and upon our students, too.

Thanks to all my colleagues who are making my experience with digital learning so rich and fulfilling. I appreciate the work that all of you are doing and look forward to celebrating it this month and well into the future.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Advance) Response to Pre-Service Teachers’ Questions about Technology

Students at computer

Some rights reserved by Barrett.Discovery

This coming Monday night, I have been invited to join Sean Connors‘ preservice teachers at the University of Arkansas through a conversation on Google Hangouts. They created a very smart list of questions for me, and in order to maximize our time, I’ve written this brief response with lots of links, some of which we can explore together or, more likely, students can review on their own after our chat.

Here is my response to their questions:

First, I want to thank you for asking such smart, challenging questions. You are all clearly thinking deeply about what it means to be literate, what it means to teach literacy in modern American schools, both rich and poor, and how to balance your own relationship with technology in light of what you want and need to accomplish with students. This is the kind of thinking that all teachers should be doing. Thanks for starting your journey as teachers with this mindset.

Second, as you have likely figured out, there are no easy answers with technology and education. Even in the cases where a school has all the tech it could want, teachers still struggle with these questions. And, of course, they struggle even more when they don’t have the tech. So, I want to address that big question. There are no perfect solutions, but both Dr. Turner and I have spent lots of time in lots of schools and we can tell you that teachers get creative in order to get the technology they need. We have seen them use Donors Choose, or other similar sites, to ask for technology one bit at a time. We are seeing them work with local businesses to get old computers and tech through programs like InterConnections. Finally, we see teachers encouraging parents to get connects through programs like Everyone’s On. Again, no perfect solution here, but just as we would advocate to have books in our students’ hands, we need to advocate for technology, too.

This leads to a third theme that came out in your questions — is it our place, as English teachers living in a Common Core world — to teach digital reading and writing along with more traditional academic literacies? You will, undoubtedly, not be surprised by my answer: yes. This is not an either/or situation where technology competes against learning how to write an argument essay. It is a both/and. We teach students about making meaning in both alphabetic text, using words, sentences, and paragraphs while, at the same time, discussing the ways that students can construct arguments with images, videos, and sound. By working in tandem, we help students make connections and develop all aspects of their literacy learning.

Now, on to some specific questions and what we can talk about tonight. I’ve tried to honor the spirit of all your questions here, some of which have been summarized or condensed for time and clarity. Basically, I am sharing a list of links here, and we will talk about them in more detail.

  • Starting with the question about being a middle school teacher and getting involved with the National Writing Project.
  • Us as (digital) teachers and (digital) writers
  • Definitions and understandings of literacy
    • In what ways can you discuss what it means to be literate so that others in our school/district will be more open to the idea of teaching digital literacy? Is all literacy about conversation?
    • Digitalk, code switching, and online conversation
      • Ryan Rish’s point about being dexterous in literacy
    • Where do we strike the balance between technology as a crutch (spelling and grammar, for instance)?
    • Content completion/coverage vs depth — again, where is the balance?
    • Technology just being a “tool” — who decides?
      • We do. My stance is that we need to actively resist technological determinism.
  • Balance
    • Have we fallen into a trap with technology? Do we prefer it?
    • On the other hand…
    • Yes, technology has affordances, but what are the constraints that we should be aware of as well? How do we get beyond the “cool” factor and use technology in ways that are meaningful?
      • I have no hard and fast rule on this, but I suggest that you weigh the time, energy, and usefulness of the task with what the tech can do to add value
      • SAMR and E3 models
  • Creating online opportunities for students
    • How do we help steer students toward more positive aspects of online learning and away from parts of the Internet that are, of course, not good?
    • How can we foster discourse among students across schools? How can we create projects that allow for student choice and building digital projects over time?
  • So, what now?
    • How to manage distractions?
      • Mindfulness and meta cognition
      • Also, some apps and browser extensions can help
    • What are some examples of practical steps both Access and Exodus could take to address their respective problems? How to teach digital literacy in a low income school?
      • Analyze existing infrastructure and policy
      • Focus on specific goals for literacy learning that can (must) be accomplished with use of free or affordable web based tools
      • Design assignments, activities, and assessments that demand collaboration, not just cooperation, using the technology in purposeful ways
      • Plan community events – parent nights, digital media celebrations, etc

Anything else that we should add to this list?


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Hosting #engchat on 1/12/15

Flickr Image

CC Licensed Flickr image from JLM Photography.

As more and more students bring mobile devices to school, we have more opportunities (and challenges) to teach reading and writing, speaking and listening.

For next week’s #engchat conversation (1/12/15 at 7:00 PM EST), join co-authors Jeremy Hyler (@Jeremybballer) and Troy Hicks (@hicsktro) as they share some strategies from their book, Create, Compose, Connect! Reading, Writing and Learning with Digital Tools (Routledge/Eye on Education, 2014).

More importantly, we invite you to share your ideas about how best to engage students in authentic literacy activities with smartphones and tablets. Some questions we may pursue during the chat include:

  • What is your school’s policy for mobile technologies? If your school has a BYOD or 1:1 program, how did it begin? If not, what do you want to know in order to start one?
  • What are the literacy skills that mobile technology enable? How are you working with students to develop their skills as readers and writers, listeners and speakers?
  • What lesson ideas do you have for mobile tech — daily, weekly, or just once in awhile — what works for you and your students?

We look forward to creating, composing, and connecting with #engchat colleagues soon!


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Podcast for NCTE’s Language Arts

NCTE's Language Arts

NCTE’s Language Arts

Many thanks to Teri Holbrook for the invitation to talk with her and Franki Sibberson about teaching digital reading and writing in this podcast from NCTE’s Language Arts “Conversation Currents.” The transcript of the interview will appear in the January 2015 issue.

More Thoughts on the Digital Reading/Writing Workshop

Earlier this month, Kristin Ziemke and I co-authored a blog post in response to Nancie Atwell’s blog post about the role of technology in her classroom. In short, the response to our response has been, well, overwhelming and positive. As so many of us in the world of English language arts prepare to head to DC this week for the NWP Annual Meeting and NCTE annual convention, I wanted to capture just a few of the smart, thoughtful, and creative ideas that our colleagues have shared over the past few weeks. A few other edubloggers have jumped in with their insights:

  • Julie Johnson reminds us how “When using technology in thoughtful and authentic ways, our students are given one more avenue for both consuming and producing text.  In a true digital workshop, students have choice in how they read, respond, and write.  Sometimes they choose traditional tools, at other times they chose digital tools.”
  • Franki Sibberson demonstrates that, in a “workshop of the possible,” digital reading and writing are parallel to print literacies because “The key is that the teaching focuses on the writing, not the tool.”
  • Cathy Mere describes the possibilities of what technology can offer her students including the fact that digital tools are “ONE option of many possibilities,” “A way to connect with other learners,” and “A place for students to have a voice TODAY.”
  • Finally, Jessica Lifshitz rethinks how her students work as readers: “Because now we are not just reading alone in our classroom, now we are reading in a great big world of readers. And it feels so much bigger, and better, than just us.”

I want to thank Matt Renwick and Sara Holbrook for their thoughts as well.

Teacher-Writer Network

Teacher-Writer Network

It is simply amazing to me how powerful teachers’ voices can be when we reach out and share our thinking. I look forward to doing much more of this over the coming week at NWP and NCTE 2014, as well as on our new Teacher-Writer Network page on FB.

Thanks again to all of you for sharing your insights on teaching digital reading and writing. Let’s keep the conversation going.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.