Review of Stover and Yearta’s “From Pencils to Podcasts”

New books about ed tech hit the market everyday, and it is sometimes difficult to find ones that truly meet the needs of teachers while being approachable and accessible. So, a few weeks ago, when I was tagged in a Twitter post about a new book, it definitely caught my attention:

Cover Image from Solution Tree Press
Cover Image from Solution Tree Press

Flattery aside, as an author and educator, I always appreciate shoutouts like these, and I was a bit dismayed that I had not yet heard about the book.

And, after a quick hop to the Amazon website where I previewed the book and read a review, I could tell that my own ideas about teaching reading and writing were, indeed, in line with those of Katie Stover and Lindsay Yearta.

With that knowledge in mind, I asked Stover if I could take a look at the book and, thanks to Solution Tree Press, my own copy arrived just a few days ago.

And, in much the way that Stover described the teacher’s endorsement in her tweet, I would certainly agree: From Pencils to Podcasts is a book that adopts the same stance toward reading, writing, and digital literacy that I, too, hope to imbue in my own work.

From the opening pages, the authors articulate their belief that “[t]echnology, when used intentionally, enhances teaching and learning as students have more opportunities to create, collaborate, communicate, and share” (6). I couldn’t agree more. Throughout the early pages of the introduction and into the fourteen chapters that follow, Stover and Yearta offer a variety of digital reading and writing tools that will be useful to elementary-level educators.

Cover Image from Solution Tree Press
Cover Image from Solution Tree Press

The book is segmented into four major parts. In part one, Stover and Yearta focus on tools to facilitate comprehension and analysis. Here, the authors provide many examples of teachers and students at work, as well as descriptions of the technologies that they employed. I was most intrigued by an example where a fifth grader and a college student discuss the shared reading using Edmodo. At one point in the dialogue, the college student records herself on video providing an additional response and clarification for her fifth-grade reading buddy (25). These types of small, yet powerful, examples are sprinkled throughout the book and demonstrate how readers and writers can flourish when supported through effective teaching and creative applications of technology. Also, Stover and Yearta provide links and QR codes throughout their book that lead directly to the apps/websites being mentioned, and they also have created a companion webpage with those links conveniently listed along with reproducible handouts.

In the second part, Stover and Yearta move on to discuss tools that can facilitate evaluation and revision. Again, the authors provide a number of different lesson ideas and technologies as examples, and one of the most unique twists is the application of digital video to the classic strategy of “reader’s theater.” They describe the ways in which students develop fluency as they engage in multiple readings of their selected book and, ultimately, produce and publish their own interpretation of the book using digital video (70).

The third section of the book offers even more opportunities for teachers to think about performance and publication as Stover and Yearta explore infographics, digital story retelling, publishing with a digital book creator, and incorporating speech-to-text dictation. Similarly, the fourth section pushes teachers to think creatively about new applications of existing technologies such as using timeline tools to create reading histories, conducting digital conferences using tools like VoiceThread, and composing digital portfolios with Seesaw or Weebly.

Additionally, throughout the book, Stover and Yearta share many case studies of teachers using tech in critical and creative ways. For instance, in the final chapter on formative assessment, they invite us into the classroom of Katharine Hale, exploring the ways in which she uses Lino and Padlet as spaces for students to capture their reading ideas, questions, and connections in-process.

On the whole, Stover and Yearta have designed and delivered a very useful book. My only concern is this: while the authors do present many examples from students and teachers, especially text-based examples such as digital discussion boards, as well as screenshots of the interfaces for various websites and apps, my one hope would have been to see more examples of student work, both in the book as well as through hyperlinks on the companion website.

For instance, Stiver and Yearta share overviews of many tools including infographics, digital movies, and a book creator app, yet the reader is left to her own imagination in order to visualize what these final products, created by students themselves, would actually look like. In other words, it would be helpful – especially for teachers new to digital reading and writing – to see even more examples of how students were able to utilize these tools in different ways, and to have them available online as mentor texts that teachers could click on and share in their own classrooms.

If a teacher is new to using 1:1 technology, the book offers numerous ideas that will be adaptable across grade levels. And, even if a teacher is familiar with many of the apps and websites, Stover and Yearta provide new insights into the ways in which these tools can be used. For any book that is written for teachers, it is a challenge to create a resource that is overflowing without being overwhelming, and with From Pencils to Podcasts, the authors have certainly accomplished their goal.

I am, indeed, flattered that a teacher has compared my work to theirs, and I appreciate their insights into the connection between emergent/early literacies and technology. For any K-6 educator who is new to using technology in her classroom – or wants to look at integrating technology with a fresh set of eyes –From Pencils to Podcasts should be on your summer reading list.

Disclaimer: At my request, I was provided with a free copy of the book by Solution Tree Press.


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Updates from Our Book: Argument in the Real World

Image courtesy of Heinemann
Image courtesy of Heinemann

As a writer — both in the sense that I am a blogger and the author of texts for teachers — I am well aware of the fact that writing is never really “done,” it is just “due.” I am thankful that I have the opportunity to keep writing, keep sharing, keep updating. It is as important now as it has ever been.

When my colleague and co-author, Kristen Turner, and I were putting the finishing touches on our book, Argument in the Real World, last summer, we knew that the world would be experiencing digital arguments in many ways across the closing months of the US 2016 election cycle. However, we had no idea that “fake news” or “alternative facts” would become part of the Orwellian discourse. Over the past few months, the incredible team at Heinemann has been sharing a number of posts and videos related to the book:

They also helped us refine the MINDFUL poster:

How to teach students to be MINDFUL readers and writers of social media.
How to teach students to be MINDFUL readers and writers of social media.

Finally, here is a video in which I demonstrate how students can remix existing news content to analyze the implicit arguments presented in the news.

As teachers continue to work with their students to overcome the many challenges we continue to face with media literacy, we will continue to update the book’s wiki page and share more ideas. My hope is that this collection of resources is a good place to begin those difficult lessons and conversations.


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Hosting #engchat Next Week

This next Monday, Kristen Turner and I host #engchat for a conversation on Connected Reading. Here’s the announcement:

Recently, a friend of Kristen’s on Facebook posted a GIF that showed the evolution of a desk.  In 1980 the desk was covered with items: books, newspapers, magazines; a fax, phone, stapler and tape dispenser; a rolodex, clock, globe, calendar, and bulletin board; and a computer and phone.  One by one the items on the desk evolved – and disappeared, becoming an app on the computer – as a scrolling mast of years advanced.  By current day, only a computer full of apps and a Smartphone remained on the desk.

The GIF represents the possibilities of a digital world.  We can, if we choose to do so, conduct our professional and personal lives entirely on, with, and through devices, and a recent Pew study suggests that more and more teenagers and adults are making the choice to go digital.  What does this transformation mean?

As teachers of reading and writing, we recognize that our own desks – and those of our students – are markedly different than they were even just a decade ago.  We accept that, as the National Writing Project asserts, “digital is,” and we wonder how we can help adolescents to become critical readers in a world where they encounter short-, mid-, and long-form texts through their devices on a daily – and even hourly – basis.

For us, reading is not an isolating activity.  Digital tools allow individual readers to connect to a network of readers; texts of all kinds can be shared quickly and widely.  Digital tools also allow readers to share their reading experiences – before, during, and after – with others.  In a digital world, reading is visibly social.

In our book Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World, we describe a model of reading that takes into account the networked, social nature of reading today.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.39.36 PM

This model suggests that readers encounter texts in a variety of ways.  They may receive them from others, somewhat passively, or they may actively seek out new reading material by surfing without much intention, stumbling through sites with some intention, or searching with focused intention.

How do we help students develop their comprehension skills as they encounter and engage with Kindles and Nooks, RSS feeds and Twitter, hypertext fiction and digital textbooks?  How do we help them to read critically in a world where information flows constantly?  And perhaps most importantly, how do we help them to leverage the possibilities within a network of readers?

As we consider these questions, we look forward to the #engchat session on October 5, where we will discuss what it means to be Connected Readers.

In the mean time, you might be interested in reading this recent feature article in NCTE’s Council Chronicle: Teaching Teens—and Ourselves—to Be Mindful, Connected Readers.

See you Monday on #engchat!

Update on 10/27/15: Courtesy of Momchil Filev, the video creator, I have updated the link of the video to the original file available from BestReviews.com.


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More Updates from AILA: Notes Visual Literacy and the Digital Workplace

Here are some notes from the first keynote was from Wibke Weber, in her talk about “Fusing words and images — new forms of public storytelling.”

  • In recent years, the rise of multimedia creates a complex milieu of words and images; they must be seen as equal partners in meaning making
  • Data visualizations
    • In the past few years, these have found a home in “data journalism” — a hybrid form using images, words, and numbers to create a new cohesive form
    • For a long time, images were viewed as the “little sister” of language and the fact that images could represent ideas was largely ignored
    • However, we know that visuals have more than an illustrative function — they can help narrate and make arguments
    • The semiotic system of language appears in the form of headlines, articles, captions, but numbers and maps show visual orientation and analysis
    • With the continuing forms of data visualizations, there are many new ways to represent ideas
    • The strength of data visualizations is that they provide evidence; they explain something visible that is difficult to understand in text alone (if designed well)
    • On the other hand, visual evidence can appear misleading and can look “objective,” but this is illusive. Even though they are based on numbers and texts, they are always the artifacts of an artist and/or design team. They are open to critique of color, font, shape, and more.
    • This means that we need to look at the data source, how it was collected, how it was visualized, and more. Words tell, but pictures show. So the main function of data visualization is to show, to tell a story.
  • How do images tell stories?
    • A data visualization must have a beginning, middle, and end
    • Famous graphic from Charles Joseph Minard that depicts the devastating losses in Napoleon’s army on their march to Moscow
  • Comics
    • The use of the comic medium to cover events, even in journalism, is at an all time high. For instance, they are being used in the Guardian and NYTimes.
    • Comic journalism is not about funny pictures, it means that you are pulling on the news and using journalistic techniques and ethics
    • Like narrative journalism, comic journalism covers the public story behind the private one
    • They can represent a variety of ideas and events, for instance this one about Ebola
    • The challenge for comic journalism is that, because comics are generally seen as fiction, people may struggle to see comic journalism as “true” and authentic
    • Journalists must use verbal and visual clues to share the fact that they are a part of the work (e.g., having a picture of the journalist in the comic, or by having a historical photograph of a person with their comic representation)
    • Colors, tone, light, shape, handwriting or print — all of these devices are ways that comics can be read for authenticity. Speech bubbles versus text boxes, too. The stylistic elements corroborate the authenticity of the comic.
    • It must be clear that the journalists are telling the truth, not a fictional story. This becomes even more important when illustrating breaking news and when using virtual reality.
    • What are the authentication strategies that we can use?
  • Research/dissertation drawn as a graphic novel
    • Nick Sousanis’s “Unflattening”
    • We are often unable to see past the boundaries of our current frame of mind — we need to bring the visual into academic discourse. It allows us to step outside of our own system and to see work in relation.

She has shared a great list of resources for infographics, and I thank her for allowing me to post them here:

Tools: 

Blogs and Tutorials:

Finally, Daniel Perrin shared his thoughts on “Investigating intercultural communication in the digital workplace”

  • AL Research Frameworks
    • Beginning with a “newspaper extinction timeline” from futureexploration.net
    • How do we begin to investigate solutions in this field
    • Combining many frameworks
      • Ethnography, grounded theory, Realist-social theory, Transdiciplinary action research, Dynamic systems theory
      • Connecting to real life problems
      • Change and stability
      • Agency and structure
      • Practitioners and researchers bring in their knowledge as experts
      • Collaborate and learn from one another
      • Learn and adjust goals, methods, and findings
      • To produce new, emergent, situated knowledge
      • Focusing on what works, for whom, under which circumstances
      • Not about the grand theory, but what works in certain contexts
  • The Idee Suisse Research Project
    • Focusing on SRG public broadcasting which is caught between a public mandate and private forces while being asked to stimulate public discourse
  • Macro level findings
    • In the program mandate, SRG is supposed to promote understanding, cohesion, and exchange across the various publics
    • Intercultural communication is a part of the media company’s mandate, but they don’t have the right tools and knowledge to bring together contradictory expectations of public discourse and compete against private, entertainment programs
    • Managers talk the talk, but do not walk the walk in propositional reconstruction — “public service media are not the institutions to solve social problems.”
  • Knowledge transformation from the ground floor — it doesn’t come from management, it comes from those who are doing the work
    • Understand the macro results
    • Take a closer look at experienced practice
    • Discover emergent practices and “third ways” out of critical situations
    • Deriving and telling the good practice story
    • Formulating guidelines for knowledge transformation measures
  • Data collection and analysis
    • What are the distinctions between what happens in the newsroom, in the conferences, and what appears on screen — recording the data during the course of a year
    • This is the “mother of spyware” that we installed — so we had to plan for ethical and practical aspects, also just having people know what we were doing and why
    • How do we do all of this in a theoretically and methodologically sound manner?
  • Conclusion: from tacit to explicit
    • We had to look at the hypocrisy framework — the organization is exposed to contradictory expectations. They must response to the conflicts in order to survive.
    • We also looked at the tacit knowledge frame — looking at how individual, experienced journalists filled in the slots left open by management. They develop strategies to meet organizational and public needs.
  • Looking at a specific case
    • Thinking about the writing situation, activity, and the strategies/practices
    • A particular journalist was highly experienced and was allowed to do “forbidden things” such as closing a story with a quote. He was a counter-conventional person and had the skills to be able to pull this off.
    • He would write the text after composing the video with the editor.
    • He would also write the introduction for the anchor woman himself; this is uncommon, because the journalist normally writes the story and the anchor writes her own introduction
    • Normally, the anchor’s introduction is about selling the news piece. But, for this journalist, it is really important that the anchor provides context for the piece. He knows how to tell about complex things in a simple manner.
    • The journalist goes through a very linear writing process for the anchor’s part of the story. His own writing process is a bit more recursive, but he is able to get the info for the anchor created in a very linear manner.
  • In a more abstract format… writing strategies in a propositional format
    • To distinguish between the two stories (background and current)
    • To tell the recent story in the news text because it fits the recent pictures
    • To tell the background story because not all the audience is up-to-date
    • To tell the background story in the anchor text because there are no pictures
    • In short, there was a high degree of intercultural communication between the journalist and the anchor (different professional cultures within the organizations)
  • What are the strategies that the journalist uses across the writing process?
    • Goal setting
    • Planning
    • Controlling
    • Revising
    • Defining the task
    • Implementing the product
    • Reading sources
    • Reading the text so-far
    • Handling writing tools
    • Handling task environment
    • Handling social environment
    • Establishing relevance for the audience
    • Finding the sources
    • Holding space and time restrictions
    • Limiting the topic
    • Staging the story
    • Taking own position
    • Revisions
  • This differs from the traditional Flower and Hayes model, where a student is given a task that they are supposed to do for school
    • But, in real life, writing requires goal setting well before planning
  • The “good practice” story
    • Whereas critical situations denote exemplary constellations of circumstances which could lead to failure, good practice stands for potential success for everyone involved in creating the story.
    • Production conflicts force an emerging solution
    • Orientation to uptake to complicating action to resolution to coda
  • “what works for whom in what circumstances” (Pawson and Tilley, 1997)
  • Research-based guidelines for knowledge transformation measures
    • Fostering conditions as drivers of emergence
    • Ensure experience in teams
    • Facilitate negotiation
    • Promote variation
    • Reflect routes and develop repertoires
    • Expose to the unexpected — and remain open to it
  • Conclusion
    • Applied linguistics research shows and fosters intercultural communication on three levels
      • between societal groups of a multicultural society
      • between professional cultures within the broadcast company
      • between practitioners and researchers in trasndisciplinary collaboration
    • Linguists can identify, analyze, and solve problems related to real-life issues

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Rewiring Research on Teachers Teaching Teachers

This past week, I was able to join in a conversation with my good friend and colleague, Dawn Reed, on an episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers so we could talk about our forthcoming book, Research Writing Rewired: Lessons That Ground Students’ Digital Learning. Enjoy!


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Introducing Assessing Students’ Digital Writing

Assessing Students' Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely. Edited by Troy Hicks. Co-Published by NWP and TCP.
Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely. Edited by Troy Hicks. Co-Published by NWP and TCP.

By all measures, I am fortunate to work with so many incredible colleagues from the world of education, both K-12 and higher ed. Many times those collaborations happen in just a few hours, or a few says, and they then disappear.

However, sometimes they last for months or even years, and they transform into something much more powerful. Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely is one such example of that powerful kind of collaboration.

Here is the book’s description:

Troy Hicks—a leader in the teaching of digital writing—collaborates with seven National Writing Project teacher-consultants to provide a protocol for assessing students’ digital writing. This collection highlights six case studies centered on evidence the authors have uncovered through teacher inquiry and structured conversations about students’ digital writing. Beginning with a digital writing sample, each teacher offers an analysis of a student’s work and a reflection on how collaborative assessment affected his or her teaching. Because the authors include teachers from kindergarten to college, this book provides opportunities for vertical discussions of digital writing development, as well as grade-level conversations about high-quality digital writing. The collection also includes an introduction and conclusion, written by Hicks, that provides context for the inquiry group’s work and recommendations for assessment of digital writing.

Screenshots of Students' Digital Writing
Screenshots of Students’ Digital Writing from NWP’s Digital Is Website

Moreover, each of the book’s chapters include online resources available at NWP’s Digital Is website. One note here is a huge shoutout to my friend and NWP colleague Christina Cantrill who has made the companion site on Digital Is a possibility. There are six different pieces in the collection, including:

My sincere hope is that the student work shared in this collection and online will spark dialogue amongst teachers about when, why, and how they can and should integrate digital writing into their classrooms. If you have questions, please let me know.


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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!

http://player.cinchcast.com/?platformId=1&assetType=single&assetId=7568493

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

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