Notes from Kelly Gallagher’s Talk at the Dublin Literacy Conference

Kelly Gallagher kicks off the Dublin Literacy Conference with his keynote on “Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It.” Here are some notes from his presentation.

  • Kicks off with Barry Lane’s “Basalreaderville” parody. Interestingly, Barry asked me to have my students create accompanying slideshows that he could use in his performances. Here is a link to Katie Eckardt’s portfolio/slideshow she made for him.
  • Read-i-cide — “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools”
  • Mike Schmoker’s new book, Focus: Elevating the Essentials To Radically Improve Student Learning.
  • Gallagher is talking about sacrificing teaching in name of standards… I am not sure that this rhetorical approach of attacking standards is necessary anymore. The standards are not the curriculum, and we if we are engaging in a more holistic, integrated approach to teaching reading and writing, aren’t we meeting these standards and moving beyond them? In what ways can we move beyond this conversation about whether or not standards are useful or good? How can we think about teaching standards and not always seeing them as standardization?
  • Gallagher is talking about the fact that we are losing a focus on writing. Very true. See also the new “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing” from WPA, NCTE, and NWP.
  • Jeff McQuillan – The Literacy Crisis — more books equals more reading equals better reading
  • Concept of “word poverty” — Gallagher is showing political cartoons and and talking how context and background matters to reading comprehension. He argues that our mission is to build background knowledge for our students. I wonder, is this, in some ways, an argument for teaching cultural literacy or, at least a more liberated vision of cultural literacy, ala E.D. Hirsch?
  • Gallagher idea — read and respond to article of the week. Digital twist — have students post this to a blog or wiki, and copy quotes, make hyperlinks to the article, embed images, make connections to what others have written in their posts.
  • “Many kids are literally starving the lobes of the prefrontal cortex of their brains.” Jane Healy, Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Can’t Think and What We Can Do About It
  • Gallagher cites Kenneth Burke — imaginative rehearsals
  • Gallagher — need to find the “sweet spot” of instruction, not too heavy and not too light
  • Gallagher – “What you bring to the page is often more important than what’s on the page.”
  • Ideas from Gallagher
    • Sometimes the framing of the text should be motivational in nature. Reading an article about olestra and giving having them taste test potato chips.
    • More often, the framing should be to help gain surface-level comprehension. Carol Jago talks about the idea about giving students a guided tour during the first part of reading a text, and then dropping off and helping the kids go on the budget tour by themselves.
  • I had to leave before the end so I could go get things set up for my own session! I appreciate Gallagher’s humor and insights and look forward to hearing him talk again at the NWP Spring Meeting in a few weeks.


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Wikispaces announces free wikis for higher ed

http://www.wikispaces.com

For those of you who know my teaching and writing, you know that I am a fan of wikis, in particular of Wikispaces.

From my ENG 315 course to the Chippewa River Writing Project, from my own wiki full of digital writing resources to the wiki for my book, I use their wikis all the times for presentations, workshops, and teaching.

Along with having created a user-friendly and robust product with their wikis, the team at Wikispaces has always been responsive to the needs of teachers, including their free K-12 wikis that now number over 400K. This is not meant to be a straight up product endorsement. Instead, I honestly believe that the team at Wikispaces is working to support K-12 educators in all the ways that they can not just by offering free space, but by offering the time (through email support) and resources to make their wikis pedagogically useful, too.

So, when Sarah from Wikispaces asked me to share a new plan that they will announce next week — free Wikispaces for higher education — I was honored to post the announcement here.  Details of the plan, described by her, include:

  • Our wikis for education are completely private, have no advertising on them, are fully featured, and never expire. And teachers are welcome to sign up for as many of them as they like.
  • The features included in our education wikis usually cost $50 per year — but are completely free when used for K-12 or higher education.
  • We have given away over 980,000 free wikis for education so far, and are committed to giving away at least 2,000,000 in total.
Want more details? Check out this press release (Wikispaces Higher Ed Blog Announcement 2011-02) and watch next week on the Wikispaces blog. Thank you, Wikispaces, for your continued support of K-12 and higher education.

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Quick Thoughts on the State of Tech Ed

Earlier today, I was sent a request for an email interview from a CMU undergraduate. I only had a quick turnaround time to reply (so she could get enough info to write her paper about technology in education), but her deadline encouraged me to be brief in my responses. With her permission, I share her questions and my answers here. As I prepare for many professional development events coming up in the next few weeks, this was a good time to capture some of my thoughts in such a succinct manner.

What are some specific topics you have researched in technology?
My research focuses on the ways that teachers integrate technology into writing instruction. In particular, I am interested in how K-12 teachers blend a writing workshop approach to instruction with specific technologies such as blogs, wikis, collaborative word processing, digital stories, and other multimedia to engage students in meaningful writing and learning.
What are the “hot topics” right now?
Given President Obama’s interest in STEM and the new national educational technology plan, I think that the main focus on technology use in education is for science and math instruction. Also, with the push towards more student engagement, paperless classrooms, increased wireless broadband access, and tablet computing, I think that we have an interesting opportunity to change the ways that teaching and learning takes place inside and outside of school.
Describe the current debates of using technology in the classroom
I think that the main debate centers less on why we should use technology, as that is more or less a given, and more on why to use it. On the one hand, we have advocates for online/virtual learning that acts as a supplement or replacement for instruction. On the other, we have advocates who suggest that students should be using the technology to communicate and create, not just for remediation. As we continue to push for technology in schools, I hope that we invite students to be collaborators,  communicators, and creators, and not just to reinforce old models of instruction with newer, shinier tools.
Have you read any informational journals or books on technology?
I do read journals and books, and those are helpful resources, but get most of my news comes from educational bloggers/tweeters and eSchool News.
How do you conduct research?
For the most part, I do research with teachers as we co-design curriculum and instruction that is technologically-rich and pedagogically-sound. This involves time talking and planning with teachers, working with them and their students, doing follow-up interviews and surveys, and then integrating my thoughts and ideas into the existing literature and knowledge about technology in education and writing.
Where do you get funding to support your research?
Mostly from grant dollars which allow me to have release time. For instance, we currently have a grant from the National Writing Project for our local CMU site, the Chippewa River Writing Project. Also, I am working on a Title II Professional Development grant, WRITE NOW.
If I were to look for sources to write grants, where would I go?
For your own classroom, you would look most likely to local sources like community or school foundations. For the district or regional level, you would look to other agencies such as the Michigan Department of Education or National Writing Project.
What are the most enjoyable parts of being a researcher?
For me, the most enjoyable part of being a researcher is working with teachers to help them develop their own passions and ideas into classroom practice. The second most enjoyable part is being able to write and talk about those ideas in my own CMU classes and in professional development sessions that I lead around the country.
Do you ever work with a partner? How?
I am almost always working with partners. From the teachers that I meet with and plan projects to other CMU staff and faculty who help me develop and implement grants, I am working with partners all the time. Especially with writing, I am constantly working with colleagues to do grant applications, human subjects research applications, chapters, articles, books, and presentations.
What are the frustrations of being a researcher?
My main frustration is that I have to divert my attention away from research, writing, and collaboration to write reports and attend meetings that have little to do with my research. Yet, I understand that this is how the university works, and I really do enjoy being a researcher so I am willing to put up with the frustrations.
What do you think will come with the future of technology in education?
That’s a huge question. While I am not 100% sure of what will come, what I would hope will come is something like this: all teachers and students will have ubiquitous and uninterrupted one-to-one access to a tablet or other computing device, high speed wireless internet, and numerous online, open educational resources. This would allow for anytime, anywhere learning that truly pushes us to be instructional coaches and leaders for our students, since the answer to simple questions will only be a Google search away, and we can spend our time answering the bigger, more complicated questions through project-based learning.
Are there are connections to other disciplines? Or opportunities for interdisciplinary research?
Yes, there are many, many opportunities for this when you think about writing and technology. I think that you could connect to any discipline given the interest that you can generate from working with colleagues in that discipline. In particular, I am interested in how English teachers and librarian/media specialists could work together to address concerns about information literacy, copyright, and plagiarism.


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