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Tagged With: literacy

3 Favorite Webtools for students (and teachers)

favorite appsI subscribe to lots of technology-in-education forums (here’s a list of my trusted education advisors) and attend as many webinars as I can. In this way, I push outside of my bubble, away from my comfort zone, and along the way, discover some pretty amazing tools that I can’t wait to use in my classes.

Here are three that I found just since school opened. I’d love to know your thoughts on these:

  • Scholastic W.O.R.D.
  • Peergrade
  • Mission US

Scholastic W.O.R.D.

Scholastic’s W.O.R.D. (Words Open Reading Doors) is an independent K-5 learning resource that is committed to the principle that all kids should understand the words they use, how to use them to express themselves, and that doing so powers their lives. With this web-based program, kids learn to understand the high-utility word families that make up 90% of all texts. Since the number of words in the English language is far more for anyone except a bibliophile would be interested in, W.O.R.D. gathers them into manageable learning groups. Using a game-based format, students receive repeated exposure to high-utility words in multiple contexts and authentic ways that seem natural and age-appropriate. Learning objectives include homonyms, synonyms, expressions and phrases, picturable words, tenses, affixes, compound words, analogies, idioms, derivatives, and more — all broken down by grade level. They are introduced via themes to spark interest and keep students engaged. These include All About Me, What is a Hero, Blast from the Past, and more.

In W.O.R.D. (which by the way, is fee-based), students start with a placement test to determine their comprehension level and be sure they are challenged by assignments without being frustrated. They are introduced to words in their “zone of proximal development”.  Teachers can monitor progress on the teacher dashboard, broken down by class and student. Robust reports are available to identify opportunities for enrichment, deeper dives, or additional support while providing feedback on which word skills students have begun and completed.

W.O.R.D. is pushed out to students in flexible twenty-minute sessions at a recommended pace of two-three per week. Lessons fit into most existing literacy programs. This is perfect for either a focused lesson plan or for students to play independently as part of a literacy center.

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Categories: History, Reviews, Web Tools | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Why Teaching Children To Read And Write Should Be Fun

orton-gillinghamAsk a Tech Teacher contributor, Sara Stringer, has a good article this month on literacy among children and how to improve the dismal statistics:

In the Middle Ages, literacy was highly valued. People yearned for literacy then, the way an average American might yearn to win the lottery today. For instance, Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor crowned in 800 AD, was admired as much for his ability to read as for his military victories. However, he never did learn how to write, claiming that he never quite got the hang of it, and he left that to the monastic scribes.

In the Middle Ages, literacy was highly valued. People yearned for literacy then, the way an average American might yearn to win the lottery today. For instance, Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor crowned in 800 AD, was admired as much for his ability to read as for his military victories. However, he never did learn how to write, claiming that he never quite got the hang of it, and he left that to the monastic scribes.

The opportunity to read is no longer only something that kings and monks can do. The rare and valuable skills of reading and writing now available to almost everyone in the US can improve a person’s life in many ways. A literate person can reap the fruits of a rational life, earn more, and enjoy a higher standard of living.

Unfortunately, we have now come to take the opportunity to read and write for granted. In fact, the decline in reading ability alone in the US is alarming. Education Dive, quoting a Renaissance Learning’s 2016 report, said: “high school seniors are reading at a 6th-grade level, and only 9% of students in high school read texts above a middle school complexity level of 8, leaving students ill-prepared for college-level reading at about 13.”

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Categories: Reading | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Beyond Digital Literacy: How EdTech Fosters Children’s Social-Emotional Development

technology and student growthMost educators–and parents–focus technology benefits on how it helps academically, but efriend Joe Peters reminded me the other day that there’s more to it than that. Joe’s not only a parent, but a freelance journalist and tech enthusiast, so I asked him to explain that to me and to my readers. Here’s his article on how edtech fosters a child’s social-emotional development:

As technology has become mainstreamed in modern education, learners are able to enjoy many key advantages. These include acquiring 21st-century skills, stronger peer relationships, and a greater motivation to learn. Technology also helps to prepare students for the future and improves the retention rate of information.

A child’s emotional well-being and self-confidence is essential to social and intellectual development. A worldwide survey conducted by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group confirmed that the use of educational technology fosters collaboration, problem-solving, teamwork and interpersonal communications. These benefits can help children build important social and emotional skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

Importance of Social-Emotional Development

Every person experiences a broad array of emotions on a daily basis. These feelings are not right or wrong nor good or bad, but there are good and not so good ways to handle those feelings. Kids who are shown ways to identify, express and cope with their feelings will be able to handle tough situations later in life.

Parents and educators should avoid negating a child’s strong emotions. Dismissing child’s feelings may cause resentment, shame and confusion, and could make the child afraid to share similar feelings in the future. These negative emotions can also interfere with the learning process. Many parents and teachers do not fully understand social and emotional learning (SEL). They might see it as a way to get kids to behave rather than as a way to achieve improved academic, economic and social outcomes for their students.

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Categories: Education reform, Guest post | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Digital Literacy–What is it?

‘Digital literacy’ is one of those buzz words floated by experts as being granular to 21st century students. It’s everywhere, on everyone’s tongue, but figuring out what it means can be daunting. ‘Literacy’ is simple: the ability to read and write–so ‘digital literacy’ should be achieving those goals digitally.

Not that simple. Here are a few of the definitions I found:

the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.“.

–Cornell University

“the ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information”

–Digital Strategy Glossary of Key Terms

“the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers:

–Paul Gilster, Digital Literacy

“a person’s ability to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment… includes the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments

–Barbara R. Jones-Kavalier and Suzanne L. Flannigan: Connecting the Digital Dots

Philosophically, these are all good definitions, but after fifteen years teaching K-8 technology and grad school, I know ‘digital literacy’ is much more complicated than a couple of sentences, especially when we’re talking about students baptized in iPads and smartphones. Here are the eight transformative skills required of the digitally-literate student:

digital toolsBasic tools

Digital literacy implies the same reading-writing skills, but without paper, pencils, books, or lectures. It’s purpose-built and student-driven. As a teacher, you’ll want to provide the following:

  • digital devices–such as laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, or desktops, for daily use
  • a digital class calendar–with due dates, activities, and other events
  • an annotation tool (like Acrobat, Notability, or iAnnotate), to take notes
  • a class internet start page–to curate websites, widgets, and other digital tools used for learning
  • a backchannel device–to assess student learning while it’s happening (with tools such as Socrative, Today’s Meet, or Google Apps)
  • a class website or blog–to share class activities with parents and other stakeholders
  • student digital portfolios–to curate and collect student work for viewing and sharing
  • student email–or some method of communicating quickly with students outside class time. This can be messaging, Twitter, or a dedicated forum
  • vocabulary tool–so students can quickly decode words they don’t understand in their reading. Make this dictionary tool easily accessible from any digital device being used.

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Categories: Education reform | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Literacy In K-5 Classrooms

classroom managementCheryl Lyman has 12 years experience teaching K-12 computer science, most recently at McDonald Elementary in Pennsylvania as Instructional Technology Specialist. Awards include Classrooms of the Future Coach, Ed Tech Leader of the Year Semifinalist, PA Keystone Technology Integrator, PA State Peer Reviewer, and Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year Semi-finalist. We look forward to her knowledgeable insights in curriculum development and technology integration into the classroom.

The Importance of Literacy In K-5 Classrooms

I recently completed a literacy course through the University of Pennsylvania. This course was predominately geared towards secondary classes. However, it provided me with insight to the importance of literacy at a very early age and how I have the power to promote literacy as a teacher of technology.

By third grade, students can begin to lose interest in literacy. In some cases, that interest will never be sparked again. Many schools stop teaching reading in middle school at a time when higher level literacy skills are just beginning to emerge. It is assumed that if you can sound a word, you can read and reading skills and strategies are ignored. Is it no wonder that our student achievement scores have not improved in the last thirty years?

As teachers who embrace the use of technology in our classrooms, we have the power to keep the literacy embers burning and possibly ignite them for a lifetime for our students. Each day we have the opportunity to use technology with our students to keep them engaged in reading and writing. Keep in mind that we can be very creative in how we use our tools so students are immersed in literacy and they don’t even know it!

We can help students to annotate passages, take notes, look up words in online dictionaries they do not understand, develop creative thinking and problem solving skills –the list is endless for us to show our students how literacy will open doors for them.

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Categories: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, Kindergarten | Tags: | Leave a comment

New Literacies Enable Smarter Researching

In my last post, we talked about “digital citizens”, the modern student who lives in two worlds. One he can touch with his hands, the other only with his mind. It’s this latter one that has revolutionized education, provided opportunities for students to talk to experts on astronomy, walk through the ancient ruins of Stonehenge, and dissect a frog without touching a scalpel. This world is scintillating, but challenging, demanding students be risk-takers and inquirers.

Inquiry and education

That last—inquiry—has changed the K-12 classroom from what many experienced just a decade ago, for students cannot be inquirers without being risk-takers. They take responsibility for their own learning by following practical strategies for uncovering information despite the billions (literally) of places to look. Consider this: If you Google ‘space’, you get over 4 billion hits. That much information is worthless. Digital citizens develop practical strategies for refining this list to a specific need.

Digital citizens also differentiate instruction so it works for themselves, not change their learning style to fit what the teacher delivers. They hear the big ideas, grasp the essential questions, and then develop a plan that delivers it in their own unique and personal way.

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Categories: Classroom management, Education reform, Research | Tags: | 1 Comment