Week 7: Literacy and Technology

Week 7: Literacy and Technology


The first article I read this week was in The Reading Teacher and it was called, “Guiding Principles for Supporting New Literacies in Your Classroom.”   It emphasized that digital literacy is here to stay, and there is even a name for it:  “Information Communication Technologies” or I.C.T.  Karchmer-Klein and Shinas said there are several important new skills that modern digital navigators will need to know.  Firstly, how to tackle, (read,) nonlinear text.  Next, how to continuously evaluate resources, how to mine through irrelevant materials, how to make inferences, and how to use a range of media to create messages that are well-articulated and thoughtful.  So, all of this will need to be taught, and the authors recommend that educators begin with the basics and move toward the more complex by using informal measures and teacher-developed rubrics on multi-modalities.  The article recommends four basic principles for the modern teacher: 1.  “Keep you Eye on the Moving Target,” 2.  “Recognize the Complexity of New Literacies,” 3.  “Digital Natives Still have a lot to Learn,” and 4.  “Reconsider Assessment Methods.”   It rang true to me that when taught well, all the new ways to express literacy, the “multi modalities,” can be motivating and can actually extend a student’s ability to communicate well and for authentic reasons.  I find it intriguing that we simply don’t know where all this will lead in terms of the complexity of these new literacies.  Certainly, some things will fall by the wayside, but others will add enormously to our ability to communicate in the classroom.

Next, I read an article called, “Blogging as a Means of Crafting Writing” by Jan Lacina and Robin Griffith.  They underscored the importance of integrating new literacy technologies into our classrooms, and explained that web blogs are popular ways for upper elementary and middle school students to express themselves.  The authors said blogs were great for humor, playfulness, being used as rhetorical device experiments, and as a way for students to reflect on their writing for real audiences.  Karen Arrington is a thirty-year teaching veteran who is spotlighted in the article.  She is a technology coordinator in an elementary school, so she makes sure to talk about internet safety issues with her younger students.  The upper-elementary students get more of her time, and she teaches them to make “dollar” comments, (these are substantive, specific compliments,) as opposed to “penny” comments, which are just superficial.  Arrington has a paper blog activity which sounds motivating because the students end up with a list of peer-composed helpful suggestions regarding their writing.  She stresses the importance of creating a “community of writers” and gives four recommendations when starting a class blog.  First, she says “baby steps,” or start slow.  Next, she says to model with paper first.   For example, a “dollar” comment might be listed on a poster with the class contributing ideas.  She says to make blog expectations very clear and to use rubrics.  Finally, she says to give the writing community lots of choices.  The most important thing is for the group to be supportive and collaborative, so the experience will be as motivating and authentic as possible.

The third article I read was very short and helpful.  It was called, “Collaborative Literacy:  Blogs and Internet Projects,” and it was also in The Reading Teacher.  The first vignette describes a teacher, Erica Boling, who has come up with a blog host named “Jefferson Bear.”  The young students respond to his queries with composition and research.  One example was when he asked how should they respond if they were teased?  So the children are just hugely motivated to respond to this big brown bear with sensitive questions.  Next, a fourth grade teacher named Betty Collum is described, and we learn about her class blog literary discussions.  She  teaches her students to use symbols as they respond to each other’s writing about a shared reading of a book.  For example, a “wonder” is a question mark used during collaborative writing responses.  Mr. Hodgson uses something called, “Youth Radio,” to motivate students to share news through audio and podcasting with pictures and written responses.  I was convinced of the effectiveness of both of these examples because he also has had success as the students become more engaged and motivated to connect safely with real audiences.  The final focus of this article was on collaborative internet projects.  Four of the article’s authors worked on a Wiki website with a fifth grade classroom in Connecticut and a fourth and fifth grade classroom in California.  They said it required a lot of patience because so many revisions were necessary.  The idea was to motivate the classes to write cooperatively and discuss the process of their research on national parks.  Ultimately, it was highly successful and they were pleased despite the added work of building a Wiki.

Finally, I read an article called “Literature Circles Go Digital.”  This was a very interesting explanation of a new take on a book club.  Karen Bromley and seven graduate students read the novel Al Capone Shines My Shoes, (2009) and used multimodal digital resources and literacy circle roles to respond to the book.  Wow!  They each were assigned a different role, like “Discussion Director,” and they really responded creatively.  Since they didn’t have total access to technology, they used a blended approach with both online research and face-to face discussions.  Also, the students used a document camera on a large screen to share what they did and how they learned digitally.  Karen Bromley noted four themes that emerged.  The first was there was a great breadth of digital research, and this probably had to do with all the different student roles.  For example, Julia used Kidspiration to find a cause and effect graphic, and this matched her role as the “Illustrator,”  while Michelle, the “Summarizer,” used Glogster to create a 3-d poster response to the book.  The second theme that Bromley relates was a “Curiosity to Dig Deeper.”  She found that her graduate students were motivated to expand upon their research.  For instance, a student named Michelle became curious about the real Al Capone.  Her third theme was an “Enhanced Understanding of the Book,” and Bromley said that all seven of her students said the digital resources enhanced their comprehension and desire to do further research.  The last theme that she shared was a “Connection to Teaching.”  That is, five  of her graduate students actually connected to the experience enough to express plans to use it in future teaching.  Bromley cited very interesting research by Dalton and Grisham in 2013 that said digital work engages students, increases reading comprehension, and improves literary analysis of text.   She concludes the article by giving suggestions to educators including obtaining parent permission to use the Internet and guiding students to appropriate websites for research.  I was impressed by the creative contributions the graduate students made and the research that Bromley referenced.   Multi-modal digital work can increase reading comprehension and student engagement, and this was clearly true with her assignment.




Karchmer-Klein and Harlow Shinas, Valerie, (2012) Guiding Principles for Supporting New Literacies in Your Classroom, The Reading Teacher 65(5) pp. 288-293.

Lacina, Jan and Griffith, Robin, (2012) Blogging as a Means of Crafting Writing, The Reading Teacher 66(4) pp. 316-320.

Boling, Erica, Castek, Jill, Zawilinski, Lisa, Barton, Karen, and Nierlich, Theresa, (2008) Collaborative Literacy:  Blogs and Internet Projects, The Reading Teacher 61(6) pp. 504-506.

Bromley, Karen, Faughnan, Michelle, Ham, Susan, Miller, Melissa, Armstrong, Traci, Crandall, Cassandra, Garrison, Julia, and Marrone, Nicholas, (2014) Literature Circles Go Digital, The Reading Teacher xx(x) pp. 1-8.


Week 6: Interview with Diane Rheem of NPR

1.  Diane Rheem:  “Erin, how can schools make the best possible decisions with developing their curriculum?”

Erin:  “Well Diane, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a large, inclusive group of educators and school stakeholders to consider both horizontal and vertical alignment of the curriculum, along with due consideration to state and federal requirements.  The group needs to conscientiously reflect upon the objectives required for each grade level, and how to integrate those in a balanced way that builds year upon year.  Reading objectives are not narrowly taught or learned, so curriculum decisions should reflect that.  The decisions should always be made with clear annual goals in mind regarding what a student will be able to do by the end of a given year.  The final curriculum absolutely must line up with the specific reading goals of the schools.”

2.  Diane Rheem:  “Tell me some common pitfalls in selecting programs to teach reading?”

Erin:  “It’s funny you should ask that, because I recently read a Reading Teacher article by Peter Dewitz and Jennifer Jones that discussed that very thing.  The main idea expressed was there is a need to be critical when selecting a program, and not to feel like fidelity to the program is more important than trusting the expertise of an excellent teacher to adjust it for the real needs of the classroom.  A common problem in selecting new reading programs includes not making sure that the scope and sequence is basically aligned with your particular school district’s needs. It’s important to have a highly inclusive selection team that considers whether the program is in sync with state, federal, and even local requirements. So that means that lots of teachers are involved, and everyone is checking to see if the program is sequenced in a logical way that will work with the actual reading curriculum. For example, most programs do not come with enough texts for students to read, and so they should be supplemented with plenty of authentic literature from a multitude of levels and genres.  It’s so important to remember that only the teacher will be able to differentiate for his or her classroom needs because he or she will have the data that’s needed to know students’ sociocultural backgrounds and needs.  It’s terrible to see selection committees who don’t seem to realize that programs are “market-driven” and follow trends, so that needs to be clearly in mind.  A pitfall would also be an approach that seems to believe an entire reading curriculum is going to exist in a single box or “program.”  The committee should be a critical consumer.  It’s important to ask if an excellent teacher will be able to use the program, but also know when to go beyond the script to supplement, modify, and meet his or her particular classroom reading goals for the year.”

3.  Diane Rheem:  “What other advice do you have for reading specialists as they work with schools to maintain a high quality reading program?”

Erin:  “I would suggest that reading specialists work continuously to modify and improve upon the basal program.  Dewitz and Jones suggest going beyond the basal and using authentic literature for children’s read alouds.  Clearly this will change from year to year.  Teachers also will need help to build up student prior knowledge because basals do not really enlarge this.  So, it’s just very important for the reading specialist to  make sure that the teachers know to have their students read widely outside of the basal, because it generally will not include enough text to improve comprehension.  Reading specialists are aware that the volume of text being read is actually very important and has been a proven predictor of comprehension.  A good reading specialist will point out when the basal program does not include something essential to a state requirement.  An example recently cited was the required knowledge of text features that were not addressed in a core program.  Overall, I recommend that a reading specialist stays vigilant about the changing needs of their readers, because often core programs are adopted for five or more years.


Dewitz, Peter, and Jones, Jennifer, (2012) Using Basal Readers-From Dutiful Fidelity to Intelligent Decision Making, The Reading Teacher 66(5) pp. 391-400.

Bean, R. M. (2009). The Reading Specialist: Leadership for the Classroom, School, and Community. Guilford Press.

Week 5: The Role of the Reading Specialist


1. How has this week’s readings changed your perspective about presenting and reaching audiences?

I would say that the readings have just reinforced the idea that I really need to be organized and do my homework to have a successful presentation.  I like the idea of starting with the end in mind, (per Joe McVeigh in TESOL,) and looking carefully at a rubric such as the sample given by Concordia University.  The concise guide for writing a conference proposal provided by Educause will definitely work as an outline for me.  For example, it will be very important to think about who our audience is, (adult learners and primarily literacy professionals,) and to present with their learning styles and interests in mind.   I loved Don McMillan’s “Life After Death of Power Point” video and will try not to do so many of the silly errors that he pointed out!  There will be absolutely no flashing or simultaneously moving text in the presentation!  I really enjoyed his suggestions, and I think it’s because he used humor.  I will try to incorporate some humor into our presentation because I think it’s a great way to reach audiences of any age.  I noticed a reference after the Concordia sample proposals for TED presentation tips, called:  “The TED Commandments:  Rules every speaker needs to know:  http://www.timlonghurst.com/blog/2008/05/16/the-ted-commandments-rules-every-speaker-needs-to-know/.   This looked intriguing, so I will watch it this weekend.  In general, this week’s readings helped me to get focused on tailoring the presentation for the specific needs and interests of our adult, highly literate audience.  I love that I’m working with a partner because we will be giving each other second opinions and suggestions, as recommended by Joe McVeigh in TESOL’s “Tips on Writing Successful Conference Presentation Proposals.”  I think we will also ask Dr. Mesmer for a strong critique before submitting a proposal to VSRA, too.  So, these readings have helped me quite a lot with what to consider as we begin to prepare our presentation proposal.


2. What questions or concerns do you still have about presenting at VSRA?

Oh dear!  Well, I’m a little nervous, but thrilled to be working with a partner.  I would really appreciate lots of feedback as we formulate the proposal and work out the kinks of our presentation.  Do you know how much time a presentation is generally allotted?   What are some specific characteristics that you personally have noted about excellent presentations at VSRA?  What is the number one thing, in your opinion, to avoid when giving a presentation to adults?  I am open to suggestions for public speaking because it does make me a tad nervous.  On the other hand, I’m getting excited too.





Click to access Sample%20Conference%20Proposals.pdf




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