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.