Friday, November 13, 2015

When Tech and Literacy Collide...

Quality literacy-focused instruction is at the core of everything we do in Waukesha. Teachers and students across our system demonstrate that with their planning and learning every day.

Just in my classroom walks and conversations this week a linked trend is becoming apparent: Teachers are finding interesting, engaging and thoughtful ways to integrate technology meaningfully into their literacy instruction.

Take Maria Meyers, Foreign Language teacher at South, for example.  Maria is having one of her classes write a fictional story in Spanish.  The academic goals are vocabulary development and greater fluency as students develop in their language acquisition.  The larger goal, as Maria shared with me in advance of the lesson, though, was the ability of the students to simply communicate their ideas -- to have and use their unique voices as they create and tell the story.

Using Book Creator, Maria's students have generated the written text of the story.  They have also
found or created images to support the story and give readers key context clues.  Additionally, the students are using the audio recording feature in Book Creator to find music and sound effects to set the tone and mood of the story they have written.  Just through a little creative planning and proper tool selection on Maria's part, her students are engaging with and thinking about the text they are writing more deeply than if they were to simply write the story on paper alone.

It does not end there, though. Getting even more mileage out of this activity, students are going to share their stories with their peers for review.  And what is the best feedback any author can get on their work?  That's right... immediate feedback directly from the readers. Maria's students will generate a reader feedback form (using Google Forms), ask readers some basic comprehension questions, and then place the link to the form RIGHT in the book.  

The authors will then be able to explore the feedback to determine if their combination of text, images, and sound was effective in helping readers to fully understand their story.

That is just one project, though.  Maria has two other literacy focused lessons she will be exploring in upcoming weeks that may have a similar impact using other tech tools.

Maria's classroom is just one place that the marriage of technology and high quality literacy instruction are apparent.

Another teacher I worked with this week is digging into iBooks Author as a way to deliver engaging digital texts to his students.  He included images, links, glossary terms, and even a pop-over tool that lets images pop up in the text to further student understanding (for instance, the students click on a location mentioned in the text and a map of that country appears). Even early in his journey with this tool, he mentioned how powerful he can imagine this tool will be in creating engaging text resources for all of his students to explore.

In my work at elementary schools, students in one of the kindergarten classes that I visited were eager to share their recently completed research on animals (specifically animals that might make good pets). The students researched and then collated their work using Book Creator to put their thinking, images, drawings, and links to their resources into a single location.  The enthusiasm in the room was palpable as students wanted to share their book and learning with a new face. One student even tried to convince me that, based upon what he learned in his research, a tarantula would be a good pet for me, as long as I purchased the right type of tarantula (I respectfully declined, but I did admire his tenacity).

The best news of all is that this is just a small part of the larger story of the ways that Waukesha students and staff are finding ways to meaningfully use the availability of technology to take their teaching and learning to new levels.