Notes on “Public and Portable Pedagogy: iTunes University and Networked Pedagogies”

Here are some notes from another session at CCCC that focused on the affordances and constraints of using iTunes U to distribute course content. Given the project that I am working on with Dawn right now and her students’ blogging and podcasting, this was a timely session. In particular, I appreciated Reid’s focus on issues of infrastructure. I think that many of us (people in my generation and older) tend to assume that all students know how to find and listen to podcasts — or have the capability to do so — may be false. Even if our students are “digital natives,” that doesn’t make them critical consumers of technology. More on these ideas as I reflect later on the project with Dawn.

For now, a summary of notes from the session. Even if it was more focused on higher ed concerns, the idea that composition and English teachers need to get into the discussions surrounding technology is worth sharing at all grade levels.

Here are some notes:

Alex Reid, Director of Professional writing at SUNY-Cortland – “Public and Portable Pedagogy: iTunes University and Networked Pedagogies”

  • Intro
    • Some numbers: 90 million iPods, 2.17 billion mobile phones, 3G networks
    • Howard Rheinholdt – The mobile internet will allow new things to be done
  • iTunes University
    • Contract with Apple to post files and they can be public or private
    • No wireless/mobile component in the technical sense
    • Yet, the real appeal is that iTunes U works with iPod, laptop, or mobile phone with the appropriate devices and access
  • Launching iTunes U Project
    • DeVoss, Cushman, and Grabill’s infrastructure quote
      • “Too often, because of institutional and disciplinary trends, writing teachers are absent from the histories and development of [technology ] standards… It is no longer possible for us to look at a product of new media withough wondering what kinds of material and social realities make it possible.”
    • We need to move beyond the act of composing itself and into broader frames that embrace disciplinarity, culture, and other larger concepts
  • The End of the Sequesterd Campus
    • Porous Boundaries
    • Communication Flows
    • Formal and Informal discourses
    • Richard Lanah — The Economics of Attention — campuses are no longer the sequestered spaces that we imagine them to be as students are constantly in touch with the outside world
  • Actor-Network Theory (Latour)
    • “Mediators transform, translate, distort, and modify the meaning or the elements they are supposed to carry… No matter how apparently simple a mediator may look, it may become complex; it may lead in multiple directions which will modify all the contradictory accounts attributed to its role.”
    • In other words, there is always something at work in these literacy acts
  • Composing in Media Networks
    • Take, for instance, students workong on a new media project in a computer lab. This scene is taking place in a larger context of the campus community, the infrastructure, market forces, other media, and many other aspects of the event.
    • Lev Manovich — “The Language of New Media” — basically, you are giving up something in the process given the processing speed, the time available, the media itself.
  • Materiality of Networked Composing
    • iTunes U only takes certain kinds of media files and if you don’t compress and save properly, it can make a mess of things
  • Redistributing the Local
    • “What has been designated by the term ‘local interaction’ is the assemblage of all the other local interactions distributed elsewhere in time and space, which have been brought to bear on the secne through the relays of various non-human actors” – Bruno Latour
    • Recognizing how the context (for instance, needing copyright free music) changes in the different composing spaces
  • Networking Disciplinarity
    • “A more complete understanding regarding how information connects in ways traditional English studies does not yet account for — the contradictory, overlapping, open, closed, and fluctuating systems of exchanges that networks create — is a challenge to the disciplinary identity of English as a field and to the identities that teachers and scholars in English embrace and request students to take on in their classrooms” — Jeff Rice
  • Personal Mobile Networks
    • People use these devices to maintain a tight social network of 3-5 people
    • As much as many professors want to keep text messages out of the classroom, students want their MySpace page to be “private,” too. Online identities, however, will be important in a post-graduate career, and so they need to negotiate the information flow in both directions.
  • Conclusions
    • New Information Flows: The professor can’t control the flow of information in and out of the classroom
    • New Authorities: no longer the expert
    • Closed/Secure and Open/Public Networks: what needs to be public, what needs to be private
    • New Habits: we need to create new habits that embrace these new material conditions of composing

Notes from “Negotiating Digital and traditional Literacies in Methods Classes: Preparing Future English Teachers for Teaching Writing”

Wow, March has been like a lion for me all the time. Sorry for the lack of posts.

At any rate, along with seeing New York City, I also saw some interesting sessions at CCCC 2007 last week. I will begin posting my notes and responses here with this session on methods courses.

I thought that the presenters were on the right track with this session, especially given that it was aimed at English Educators who would also be attending CCCC (like, for instance, me). Given that CCCC and the field of composition is generally more amenable to multiple forms of literacy, this type of presentation worked well at this conference. It suffered in attendance from the fact that it was late on Saturday afternoon, but I think that their final answer to my question — “transferability” — made a good deal of sense. So, here are some notes from the session:

Negotiating Digital and traditional Literacies in Methods Classes: Preparing Future English Teachers for Teaching Writing

Chris Denecker, The Univesity of Findlay – “Technology, Identity, and Teacher Prearation in the 21st Century”

  • Background
    • Being an English teacher used to mean onyl reading and writing. Today, teachers must integrate and impart a number of literacies in their classrooms.
    • Studies show that teachers are not as digitally literate as they should be and that pre-service teachers don’t feel confident in their abilities to use digital literacies in the classroom.
    • Technology has added to the conundrum of pedagogy and content, and now must be added into a cumbersome “to do list” for teacher educators.
    • Many teacher prep programs are not sufficiently answering the challenges of this problem according to NCATE, ISTE, and others, both on campus and in field experiences.
    • Educators are taking it upon themselves to implement and model technological pedagogies in their classrooms. How do we use technology and help pre-service teachers use it effectively?
  • Technology and Language Arts
    • ELA teachers often rely on computer teachers in labs. Nancy Deihl sees English teachers position themselves as “techno phobes” when they do Cyber Quests.
      • One of her students said that the Cyber Quest helps lessen the fear about technology.
    • Rising and Pope integrated technology in their ELA prep program pairing students in their teacher prep courses with middle schools students in an “e-pal” peer response group.
      • Pre-service teachers and middle school students enjoyed this.
    • Faculty doing these types of activities show promise and this needs to be more of a part of pre-service programs.
  • Overcoming Obstacles
    • New teachers need to overcome their own fears and maximize the time that they have available. Technology makes demands on teaching staff.
    • If we do this during teacher prep courses, then the pre-service teachers will have models to work from when they entre their own classrooms.
    • Technology can be motivational and help students publish good work and control their own learning.
    • For teachers, it can help store and retrive info and communicate with students and parents. All of this needs to be communicated to teacher educators preparing new teachers.
  • Why?
    • We need to assess the purposes for using technology. If we mirror traditional pedagogies, then it is not useful.
    • What are the goals attached to a digital literacy project? How does it contribute to the “whole” of their digital literacy?
    • Jester (English Education, 2002) – integrating technology into the writing process, focusing on multimedia and hypertextual aspects.
  • Personal experience
    • Use of Blackboard to share drafts, pre-write, revise, etc.
    • Kristine Blair’s “studio review” — have students move from computer to computer and put comments on the documents with Word.
  • Technological Pedagogies
    • Research shows that students do engage with technology
    • Begin with email, digital cameras, and iPods
    • Students can respond to one another through virtual pen pals, snap pictures and then write about details, engage in cyber quests, poetry websites, how-to speeches/videos, create newscasts, research and create PPTs
    • Incorporate place for a class “common place book” as a space for students to document and comment on their evolving relationship to writing (grabbing quotes and other materials to create a discussion starter)

Christine Tulley, The Univesity of Findlay

      • Background
        • As director of English Education programs, she sees many people: non-English majors seeking certification, second-career seekers, teachers wanting to move to community college, and graduate students seeking a certificate and degree all at once
      • Looming Problems with this kind of class
        • Writing Theory
          • These students do not have a writing theory course in their background (process vs product) for instance
        • Technology
          • They come to the program with a variety of program experiences and uses of the internet; skills from the workplace without direct connection to pedagogy
        • Training College Teachers (Methods)
          • Trying to meet the needs of those who want to become English Educators
      • Solutions
        • Writing Theory
          • Doing something with students each week with a practical applciation of a writing technology.
        • Technology
          • Use the technologies that they already know so they are comfortable with it and can think about it in different ways (comments and tracking changes in Word) and then they give feedback to students in her first year composition courses
          • Use traditional things that everyone has access to and do them in a different way. For instance, use PPT to express creative writing with graffiti writing and flash poetry
      • NCTE and alternative licensure
        • NCTE does recommends doing this by integrating technology into the coursework as well

      Emily Kemp, Groveport Madison High School

      • What do you wish you learned in your writing methods class in college?
        • I still struggle with revising and editing, trying to help students figure out how and why to change what they have written. They are concerned with how long it needs to be and what they need to do, and they are not concerned with making the writing better. I have to go back to the basics and use lots of form writing although I am trying to challenge them to get into creating digital texts.
      • What would you say technology is affecting you?
        • Using wifi laptops to have students compose PPTs and bring in United Streaming materials to show videos.
      • What was taught well in your methods classes that you think we should still do?
        • In doing a research paper, I enjoy showing students drafts of early and poor work so that they can learn from the models. Kids see other people’s writing and are better able to understand what it is that they are supposed to do. I have students use the rubrics from my college comp classes and write reflections on what they have done when they create a paper.

      Conclusion

      Teachers need to be digitally literate do that they can have timely, student-centered approaches to instruction. Also, teachers need to be confident with technological practices so that they can encourage students to be digitally literate, too.

      My Question for Them with Their Responses

      So, the tension lies between the types of writing that are assessed (generally formulaic) and emerging genres in writing (multimedia and hypertext), what do you suggest as a balance of assignments in a writing methods course?

      • Have them create a problem/solution paper based on a topic in writing (for instance, how to get students revised or motivating a reluctant student).
      • Skills that they learn need to be transferable from one context/platform to another. So, talk about the literacy skills embedded in the technology, not just the technology in particular.

    “Using Technology to Tell Stories” Blog

    Bonnie, Kevin, Tonya, Mary, and I are blogging at the “Using Technology to Tell Stories” blog. Thanks to Bonnie and Kevin for getting the ball rolling on this. We are focusing much of our attention on digital storytelling, but there are other threads evolving, too. So, check it out.
    Also, just to continue the read/write web circle, I figured we had to have a wiki, too. It’s write-protected for members, but just send me an email if you want to be a part of it.

    Enjoy and happy storytelling!

    Notes from Ellin Keene’s “The Intricacies of the Mind”

    Notes from Ellin Keene’s “The Intricacies of the Mind”

    NOTE: Email her for PPT.

    Keene, one of the authors of Mosaic of Thought, began by promoting the new edition of the book that will be coming out in May. She has been the director of the Cornerstone Project for the past few years, focusing on the 13 lowest income districts in the country that are located in the largest cities and most remote rural areas. Many of the “ahas” that she will share today come from the four years of work doing professional development in these schools.

    She makes the argument that comprehension strategies are about the intellectual development of the mind. She suggests that, “There is limitless capacity to the human intellect.” When she has a teacher, she reflected on how she didn’t really ask her students to be intellectually engaged, perhaps 10%. She thought of herself as a strong teacher with high expectations, working at the pinnacle of her abilities as a teacher. But, the students in these schools would produce 50 to 100 times more, with very little extra pushing. She asks, “How did my expectations as a teacher fall so short?” More over, how could kids from these schools teach me so much more than I thought was possible?”

    As a staff developer, she wanted to get into schools to work with kids first, so as to better understand what is happening in the classrooms. She related a story of a child, Jamika, with whom she was talking about her reading for the day. Keen asked, “Does your reading make sense?” Jamika replies “None of ‘yall ever tell me what ‘make sense’ means.” How do you help students understand what it means to make meaning from reading.

    Ten years ago, at the end of Mosaic of Thought, you could have been left with the idea that the cumulation of comprehension strategies means that you comprehended the text. Not so.

    Are we stopping teaching of comprehension strategies? No, absolutely not. However, we understand that using strategies is not enough. We need to ask, “What is the outcome?” In this initiative, we decided to not use the incremental approach that many scripted programs utilize. Instead, we decided to go ahead and lift the bar high and then go higher with the kids. Why? Because, typically comprehension programs in this country answer questions, retell, and learn new vocabulary. We have never defined “comprehension” at a higher level and it is not worthy of our students’ intellectual capacity.

    For example, Keene mentioned how one story in a classroom had 69 comprehension questions (more than twice the length of the text itself) without any questions about story structure, character, setting, or any other higher-level aspect of the story. If we expect kids to answer questions, retell, and learn vocabulary only, that is all they will do. There is only one lesson that the students need to pay attention to: what does the teacher want us to know? In this manner, we are never going to get anywhere and, this is harsh, “we deserve what we get” in terms of criticism. When we teach “comprehension” on the ability to answer questions and retell, are we teaching comprehension or testing it?

    We need to redefine “comprehension.” We spend the vast majority of time in our classes — when we think we are not testing — testing because we focus on comprehension in this way. Even with the types of projects that we ask students to do, we may not be asking them to think in authentic ways. We need to focus on thinking about a text, not retelling it. Asking insightful questions, and the places that these questions lead students, are the ways to think about comprehension with staying power. Right now, the outcomes of comprehension instruction are severly limiting what our kids are doing as thinkers. Many of the texts that we are using are good for fluency development, but not for comprehension because there was nothing provocative, complex, or meaty about the text.

    She asks and argues:

    • Is the text we’re using more appropriate for fluency instruction or comprehension instruction?
    • Do students need comprehension strategy instruction if all they’re expected to do is retell and answer questions?
      • She asks this one fecistiously, mentioning SRA and trying to get from “brown to aqua” as a goal
    • We may need to rethink our ideas about the nature of comprehension.

    Are we teaching kids to do all the things that comprehension strategy instruction asks us to do if we are only expecting kids to live up to an out-of-date, low-level definition of comprehension. Kids have intellectual capacity to do so much more. I asked far, far, far too little of students when I was in the classroom and I wonder how far-spread this habit is in our country today, both in the richest and poorest districts.

    So, what is it when we “understand?” Defining comprehension from many sources

    • Research in the field, but there isn’t much out there
    • Observing our own comprehension and extrapolating to instruction
    • Observing students in the act of comprehension, giving language to their processes

    What if we turn our attention to the kids and have them look at what other kids are doing when they comprehend, when they were on fire with their own learning? What if we articulated the highest level of learning for students? What if instead of starting at the basic levels, we started high and go higher?

    A kindergartener in tetheh corner provides one example. This student was trying to understand how the seasons change based on a story the teacher had read, and he had taken three days to read through a book and try to understand an idea. He was fervently studying in a corner, away from the hub-bub of the class. He wanted to dwell with an idea and, in his words, “on purpose think” about how the seasons change. Also, he created a model to help remember what he has discovered, not because he was assigned a project, but because he wanted to generate new knowledge and remember it. Keene also suggests that he was manipulating his own thinking, revising it to incorporate new knowledge and describe how thinking has changed over time. This way, the text becomes vividly real for readers. This student went beyond comprehension to a more personal, meaningful understanding.
    We are doing the right thing by teaching comprehension strategies, but we need to take it to the next level. For what purpose? To what ends? By using these strategies, we can define and describe what we have learned and how it changes over time.

    In another example, she talked about a student who was reading Little Women because she wanted to be a part of the book club in the classroom. She wanted to engage in discourse about ideas and flesh out our own ideas while understanding the perspectives of others when we argue and challenge them. We surprise ourselves with the clarity of our own thinking, when we have the language to define and describe what we are doing. This is about asking more than “What happened in chapter 4?” and moving into deeper, more thoughtful discussions that happen when kids have to defend their ideas. When their is cognitive dissonance, we learn more about our thinking when we have to engage with one another. Has argument been lost in our schools?

    To understand means that we are renaissance learners, that we have to allow ourselves the opportunity to meander through a wide range of topics and interests, texts, and genres so we work to undertand how ideas are related. Part of the problem with lack of engagement in fourth and fifth grade is that students are not allowed to pursue their own varied and interconnected interests. Keene worries about leveling in schools and how it takes away from kids ability to be renaissance learners.

    She gave another example of a student in fifth grade who just arrived in the US and didn’t know any English. This teacher read Elsie’s War aloud three times and, as a native of Eastern Europe, this student told the teacher how she wanted, despite her limited English, to read that book. By the end of the period, and with the help with a student near her, she made her way through the book. Did she “read” the book by any objective formula? No. But, she read the book because of the motivation, background knowledge, and help that she received. With this background in place — interest, multiple readings, student collaboration — unreadable books can be read.

    When we struggle for insight, we savor and learn from the struggle itself. We take ventures into new learning territory and fight the debilitating influence of judgment. Sometimes our rhetoric with children emphasizes making things quick, fun, and easy. Yet, to struggle for insight is a joy. It is supposed to be hard. Do we have faith and confidence that these students can learn from the struggle itself? Do we help them hear the voice that says “I can’t” and help them combat it? Our emotional connections seek beauty and understanding in the aesthetic journey. We seek to create something luminous, something that matters to others. Humans are hard-wired to leave something that will matter later to others, to leave a legacy. In this era of retelling and answering questions, we are not helping them leave this legacy.

    Ultimately, we remember when the experience becomes potently memorable to us.

    These “dimensions of understanding” are very much a part of our own experience as learners. Strategies for comprehension are tools for understand, but we also need to think about what else we need to do “to understand”: to engage, to argue, to struggle for insight.

    What does this mean for schools and classrooms?

    • Initiation of conversations in study groups, faculty meetings, and classrooms. How would we answer “What does it mean to understand?” How would we answer Jamika’s question?
    • Read shared texts to provide immediate experience in comprehension and provide context to discuss classroom applications.
    • Consider current practices and materials in light of the newly evolving definitions of comprehension — are practices and materials doing what we want them to do?
    • Study children in the moments of understanding and work to define and describe exactly what they are doing.
    • Be aware — what is it that we as human beings are doing when we work to understand?

    What does this mean for comprehension strategies?

    • Comprehension strategies are the tools that we use to develop deeper comprehension
    • Comprehension strategies are not an end in and of themselves
      • What do you get by using these strategies?
    • We can teach students to improve comprehension
    • We need to redefine comprehension in order to raise expectations

    The more effective comprehension teachers…

    • Are themselves readers and writers, constantly scrutinizing their own reading and learning processes in order to provide the most responsive instruction
    • Don’t follow recipes, scripts, programs, and prescriptions. They understand basic reading theory enough to generate enough instructional options to respond to students’ needs.
    • Use a wide variety of texts in terms of genre and level
    • Setting aside daily time to confer with kids; this is the key instructional venue
    • Create a classroom environment conducive to scholarly oral interactions and long-term study of comprehension strategies and concepts
    • Provide lengthy periods of time for students to read every day

    Our work showed that scores went up in 12 of 13 districts and, Keene thinks in the end, the scores went up because students spent time reading and writing independently. 45 minutes of reading per day in kindergarten with 60 minutes of reading in grades above that (along with 45 minutes of writing). The success rate in terms of dramatically extended the time that they are reading and writing also allowed for teachers to confer with individuals and small groups. In the 13th district, the transiency rate was 160% per year, and it was difficult to overcome the effects of students moving in and out of the district at such an overwhelming rate.

    The teachers got it in other districts by giving students time to read and write, understanding theory, and then give them time to work in professional communities.

    Nobis and Cook: Connecting Comics and Essays

    Nobis and Cook: Connecting Comics and Essays

    Mitch Nobis and Rick Cook are teacher consultants from Red Cedar Writing Project, and presented a number of ways that they connect graphic novels and expository writing in their writing classes. They will also be presenting a similar session at Bright Ideas.

    • Thinking about what comics are and how they fit in to the curriculum
      • People’s perceptions of “graphic” novels
        • Is it a long comic?
        • Are they just for entertainment?
        • Rick showed up and found out that he had to teach Maus, Mitch always wanted to teach it.
    • Why Comics?
      • Comics offer a way to teach visual literacy
        • Now, Michigan high school content standards address visual literacy and graphic novels
        • Comics are connecting an old media with new technologies
      • Comics offer an engaging meium for memoir
      • Comics invite expository porse and demonstrate how to read with exposition in mind
        • How can comics and graphic novels, especially a vignette, turn into something traditional like an expository essay
    • Comics and Literacy Response
      • Check out McCloud’s Understanding Comics for more on all of this
        • Iconography – everything is a visual representation of something else
          • In a way, we are so involved because we identify all comic characters
        • Closure – the gutter between panels lets you step in to the story and make meaning between the panels
        • Paneling – thinking how motion works between panels
          • From one image of a person to another image of the same person
          • From one moment to another
          • From one idea to another
        • Amplification through simplification
          • Comic art moves from complex to abstract and, in so doing, makes things more general
          • Comics are popular with kids for this reason, because they can connect so easily
          • Universality – we all look like that
      • One of McCloud’s main points is that iconography combined with closure makes something a comic
    • Looking at Maus with McCloud as a lens for visual/literary response
      • Utlizes students familiarity with the graphic medium
      • Capitalizes on the “breaking the rules” nature of using comics in schools
      • Introduces academic discussion of graphic techniques and symbolism
      • Provides scaffolding as students arrempt literary analysis responding the the visual with the verbal gives students a “blank slate” to fill with original responses
        • They are able to go from image to words, whereas they are used to going into the author’s words
      • Introduces using “text” as evidence
      • Text / Terms = Effect
        • By looking at the text, and talking about it with the terminology of visual literacy, they can discuss the effects that the author acheives
    • Comic Prompts for Expository Writing
      • Missouri Boy by Leland Myrick is a graphic poem that covers many adolescent themes
        • Chapter 1 is a prologue about how his grandmother is dying as his mother prepares to give birth to him and his twin brother
        • Writing When You Don’t Know: Visual Memoirs and Research Writing
          • Writing personal experience
          • The move from personal to public
        • Generating prompts = exploring what you want to know more about
      • Moving from personal to public
        • How does Myrick’s birth at the time of his grandmother’s death influence his relationship with his mom?
        • Find broad generalities such as “how do our origins/environments affect who we are?”
          • Context specific: how does farming breed character (it is not the story of growing up on the farm, or the statistics about farming, but the half-way point between the two)
          • How does the structure of school influence laziness, work influences personality, growing up in a church affects morals, etc.
          • How do concrete things have abstract meanings?
            • How is an iPod a shield?
            • How is a football field home?
            • How is a photo a story?

    Notes from Christopher Paul Curtis’ Keynote

    Notes from Christopher Paul Curtis‘ Keynote

    These are partial notes, as I was taking lots of pictures at the beginning of the session. Curtis shared some stories about his youth and talked about how some younsters get the “Scarlett B” on their forehead and how he didn’t have one. One story that he shared was when his parents bought a set of encyclopedias and that his sister would read from them to him.

    He then went on to discuss how he liked reading as a child, but he didn’t like fiction. He would spend time reading Newsweek, Time, and Mad, among others. SRA brought about some great memories, including attaining the level of “plaid.” He couldn’t find a book that “touched him” as a child because there were no books for, by, or about him — from an African-American perspective. For the level of a book being “touching,” there has to be something about you in the book. Many of the books that he read, didn’t give him the “I know where you are coming from” feeling.

    Today, he knows that his books, Jacqueline Woodson’s, and Walter Dean Myers’ offer something to a young child who will know the wonder of reading well before he did. Perhaps some time in the future, an African-American can reference one of these books when asked, “What book touched you as a child.”

    He talked about himself as a writer and referened his parents, both of them avid readers. His mother is 82 and still “knocks off one book a night and two packs of cigarettes.” His mother was protective, and he shared a story about how trick-ot-treating was off limits in Flint during his youth. Instead, she would go to different rooms in the house and they would go door-to-door. By the kitchen, the thrill was gone. (He told the story better than I am typing it, of course!).

    What makes me work as a writer? In the Watsons Go to Birmingham, he talks about how he modeled Byron off of himself as a young man. He talked about a scene in the book between the son and the mother that verges on child abuse and reflected on how that fits in only because it is contextual and related to the spirit of the times. (NOTE: I find that this makes for an interesting point, given the current issue with censorship in Howell.)

    As a writer, you are a powerful person. You can speed things up. You can slow things down. You can also use your imagination. Right now, he is working on what is currently his favorite book. It is called Elijah of Buxton. This is a place in Canada, a site of the Underground Railroad. This was a utopia for the excaped slaves. He adopts the persona of a young boy concerned with his place in the community.

    From there, he read from his upcoming book, much to the enjoyment of the audience.

    Doug Fisher’s “Improving Adolescent Literacy: Strategies at Work”

    Doug Fisher’s “Improving Adolescent Literacy: Strategies at Work”

    Fisher outlined a program that he and teachers at their high school (he has been on loan from SDSU) use for literacy achievement.

    Some Foundations

    • Reading time every day — practice makes permanent as it relates to SSR
    • Rationale for choosing strategies:
      • Is it research based?
      • Is it transferable across content areas?
      • Will these strategies have high utility in college?

    Literacy Strategies

    • Seven literacy strategies that teachers use in every class, all day, from K-12, that all the staff members agreed to:
      • Writing to learn
        • Not process writing like in ELA
        • Helps clarify students’ thinking and used as a daily assessment
        • Kids are only expected to write 6.5 minutes each day, on average, in high school content area classes
      • Read aloud/shared reading
        • These happen in every class, every day (5-7 minutes in a block of 90 minutes, and the teachers shares/models his/her thinking). Comprehension modeling happens in every classroom and kids can apply these ideas to all their other classes.
        • Good selections
        • Connected to the class
        • Access to the text?
        • Four categories of read alouds
          • Comprehension only
          • Vocabulary — thinking through it and getting contextual clues to solve word parts and meaning or access other resources. Thus, we should never tell students to “skip it” when they come across a difficult word. We would never model skipping; we model solving.
          • Text structures — teachers noticed and explained when they noticed certain text structures like cause and effect, problem and solution, etc. This works for both informational texts and narratives, too.
          • Text features — what do you add as a writer to improve comprehension? Graphics, titles, headers, fonts, etc.
      • Anticipatory activities (building background)
        • KWL
          • In 1998 when this began, high school teachers didn’t really know about this strategy. Fisher talked about a teacher who did the KWL for his students and thought that “the students don’t know anything.” He talked about how this is a shift in teachers’ thinking, not just implementing a strategy.
        • Discovery
        • Anticipation guides
        • Questions
        • Quick writes
        • Discrepant events
        • Demonstrations
      • Vocabulary development
        • General words used in everyday language with agreed meaning across contexts
        • Specialized (academic) vvocabulary are words with multiple meanings in different content areas
        • Technical, discipline-specific vocabulary that is dependent to field of study (photosynthesis)
      • Reciprocal teaching
        • Built by a class to class habit
      • Graphic organizers — students must do this work. Teachers shouldn’t just make a Venn Diagram and then expect students to fill it out.
        • Concept maps
        • Diagrams
        • Text structure charts (cause/effect, temporal sequence, problem/solution)
        • Students’ #1 choice — most helpful for remembering information
      • Cornell note-taking
        • Every class uses this note-taking structure with a major column, minor column, summary space at the bottom of the page
        • Note-taking is the single greatest predictor of college success
        • They teach this starting in kindergarten

    Model of Instruction
    One of the things that is very absent from school is a “gradual release of responsibility” from teacher to student.

    • Focus lesson – “I do it”
    • Guided Instruction – “We do it”
    • Collaborative – “You do it together”
    • Independent – “You do it alone”

    We can not have the “do it yourself” model where teachers give a few instructions and turn kids loose. We also need to consider time for kids to collaborate with one another so that they can consolidate what they are learning. We need to increase the amount of time that students are using academic language with one another. Fisher gave a great example of learning how to work with his cell phone and how the sales person led him through “guided instruction” so that he could learn how to do it. Everything that I have learned how to do, he explained, has come from this gradual release model.

    He is worried that reading strategies are becoming “curricularized” for large chunks of time (for a four week unit, for instance). He talked about how a student read “Stone Fox,” and how the kids had been predicting “everything, man.” The student will necer mobilize predicting on his own because it has always been a teacher-driven aspect of his learning.

    You have to do this work with interesting and engaging text. For instance, see Phineas Gage.

    Jim Burke’s “Teaching: The First Ten Minutes”

    Jim Burke’s “Teaching: The First Ten Minutes”
    Presentation at MRA 2007

    Jim Burke
    began by inviting participants to think about the actions that students must engage in to be successful in their core academic work. He then talked about how students need to continue a number of academic skills in classes that have traditionally not been heavily focused on those skills. for instance in health.

    He showed us a matrix of “academic essentials” that he invites students to use as they analyze texts. He discussed how this matrix can be used as a kind of mental weightlifting in which students push beyond what they initially are able to do into harder tasks. They move beyond what they are typically able to do in order to build up mental muscle.

    Then, he shared a “time use evaluation” model, asking us to think about how we divide up our class periods and how many “teaching moves” we make in a period. The goal for the first ten minutes, then, is to consider what you do, how you do it, and why so that the initial class time is purposeful and focused. We don’t want to do “drive by literacy instruction,” where we are so focused on checking off the standards that we forget what good teaching consists of. It is not a model of responsive instruction. Burke suggests that kids work well with about three instructional moves per class.

    Some examples that he shared came from the Academic Workout series that he has created for First Choice Publishers. One example is a “types of questions” overhead. The four types of questions that readers can ask of texts are:

    • Right there — factual questions that use the same wording from the passage
    • Think and search – interpretive questions that require searching and skimming
    • Author and you – answers to these questions are not directly in the texts and require inferential thinking
    • On your own – answers here are based on your own experience

    As a lesson, he would have the overhead up for students at the beginning of class and give them three minutes to take notes on the types of questions. Then, he shows a model and works with the class to generate a question about that text at each level. Finally, he moves from the first ten minutes into the rest of the lesson where students would do their own independent reading and develop their own questions. Through this process, students develop academic language.

    For another example, Burke showed an image from Cameron Clapp’s website and asks students to create a list of nouns, verbs, and adjectives describing what is going on, and then develops that into a full paragraph. He gives another example of a painting of a soldier with a number of elements that inspire thought and discussion. Questions could include:

    • Who is this? Where is he?
    • Why is he carring a gun different from the bullets he has over his shoulder?
    • Why is he wearing three dog tags?

    He begins his teaching with the idea in mind, “What do I need to do to help kids be successful?” He gives another example of a structured conversation that happens in the first ten minutes that can then help students structure the next task. For instance, having students talk about a text before they begin writing an essay. He then moved in to possible examples based on his current teaching with Crime and Punishment.

    Possible Beginnings for Your Class

    • Open with a question: “What is a crime?”
    • Post a quotation: “THe past is not dead; it’s not even the past” William Faulkner
    • Visual: painting, photo, ad, video, infographic
    • Text: Nietzsche, poem, article, excerpt
      • Bring one powerful paragraph back over and over again through the course of a unit so students can track their thoughts and opinions about it over time
    • Opinionaire: “When is an action a crime?”
    • 4Rs: Read, retell, respond, relate
    • Mini-Lesson: summarizing, questioning, compare/contrast writing
    • Discussion: share and compare
    • Generate: types and examples of punsihment
    • Priming the mind: questions to consider and background
    • Write: compare similarities and differences
    • Quiz: explain a line from the chapter
      • Reflective reading quiz: generate five words about tone, character, etc and choose the best word to describe tone/character/etc and why it’s the best
      • This embeds the language of testing (“choose the one that best describes”) in the context of an authentic lesson

    He also mentioned the Linda Darling-Hammond article about making homework purposeful, such that students want to do homework so they can come to class engaged and ready to work. Other research:

    • Nystrand in RTE (2005): Nothing has more significant benefits in comprehension and engagement than structured use of classroom conversation
      • The average teacher only allows for one minute of conversation in class per week, although even that one minute makes a difference
    • Wilhelm (2006): talks about organizing your class around an inquiry. Rather than just reading Romeo and Juliet, ask “What makes a good relationship?”
    • Reading Next (2004): teaching for meaning, not just to get through things

    Telling the Technology Story in K-12 Schools

    The past week or so has been crazy. Yes, busy crazy for me personally, for sure.

    But, I am talking about another kind of craziness.

    I am talking about the number of teachers that I have talked to who have been fighting filters, trying to get equipment to work, and generally trying to make meaningful use of technology in their classrooms.

    After last week’s Teachers Teaching Teachers about infrastructure, and being invited to talk with the group again this week, there are two stories that I feel I need to tell. The first comes from a research project about blogging and podcasting in which I am collaborating with an RCWP colleague, Dawn Reed. The second, from another RCWP colleague, Stacy Schuh who was trying to figure out who to get colleagues in her school to use blogs.

    First, Dawn and I have been working for the past few months to create an opportunity for students in her speech class to blog, podcast, and offer peer response to one another. In so doing, she has run into multiple layers of complications in regards to allowing audio content over her school network, having the appropriate equipment in her classroom for students to listen to podcasts, getting technical support, and having parents sign off on a consent form for students to post their work online (or, perhaps, getting students to take the consent form home for parents to sign…). In short, she feels that:

    Basically, I need help to get around what our technology is set up not to do.

    Now, this is not a matter of Dawn throwing up her arms in frustration at the first sign of a problem. Instead, I feel that this comment speaks to the deep and sometimes unseen forces that school infrastructure — both social and physical — can have on a teacher’s ability (and willingness) to engage in technology-based work with her students. These roadblocks that she has encountered are indcative of how we refuse to change what Tyack and Cuban would call the “grammar of schooling”: the ways in which the traditional school day, quarters, semesters, and years are structured as well as the generally restrictive and skill-and-drill ways in which we view using technology in school. These visisons continue to propel our decision making processes about why and how to use technology, even though the changes are happening faster than we can keep up with if we are willing to innovate, let alone if we are not.

    Second, Stacy a teacher at RCWP — who works at a public charter school — has essentially become the webmaster for her school because she was able to get the free Lunar Pages account for K-12 educators. The school didn’t have a website, nor did teachers have email, until she set up the site a year ago. She has had her students blogging this year on a Word Press blog that she installed on the site.

    Recently, she wanted to create a blog for her colleagues but everything in her school is filtered (Blogger, Edublogs, etc) except for the domain that she created through Lunar Pages because it is, essentially, the school website. So, as she and I were trying to think through all the options, I just suggested that she install another Word Press blog. She did. And they are blogging now.

    As I think about these two teachers and the infrastructure problems that they are encountering, I think that someone needs to help out. Perhaps NWP — or at least local sites — could team with a hosting company like Lunar Pages to make things easily available to teachers that can help them do their work better and empower them to make their own decisions related to technology. Then, teachers would have control over their domains, both classroom and web-based ones.