The Importance of Evidence in a Digital Age

On October 17th, we held our first professional development event and DLC meeting.  (Shout out to Clemencia, Elida, Jill, Joe, and Margarita for making their way to Madison for the event!)

If you missed the lecture, or you want to check it out again you can do so here.

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Shifting Roles: From Being a Spectator to an Active Player in Education

September 2013, one month after completing my  graduate studies at Fordham University, I began my teaching career at Urban Science Academy (MS325) in the Bronx, an urban high-needs middle school. A new beginning in a new profession, I was excited to begin but nervous for I knew it demanded attention, focus, lots of reading and practice to give the right service to students and their families.

Becoming aware about Professional Development (PD) sessions offered to teachers by the New York City Department of Education, I happily began to attend them to learn something useful for my teaching in Special and General Education classes across content areas. As a new teacher attending those sessions, I was interested in the presenter’s sharing of teaching strategies, tech tools and resources. I became deeply interested to learn how teachers were utilizing various technology tools available free of charge for us to support teaching content and use them as platforms for students to produce and complete assignments.  I began to play with and test the tools I felt more comfortable with and soon began using them in my classrooms to teach more effectively, motivate my students to want to learn and give them voice by letting them choose their favorite tech tool to finish tasks and major assessments. My new learnings helped me grow as a teacher, flourish along with my students and make a difference in their lives, especially to those kids hungry to learn and take advantage of what is taught and shared with them for their own intellectual growth.

Fordham Digital Literacies Collaborative (DLC) has been the first group of educators that has helped me become a better teacher and a better public presenter. I entered the teaching profession with great optimism and joining DLC has enlightened my practice and extended my teaching digital skills. Learning and collaborating with DLC has strengthened my courage to find ways to overcome obstacles and take advantage of opportunities that come our way to improve our craft to address the needs of our students who come from diverse, cultural and racial backgrounds. Listening to my peer’s  teaching experiences during our online google hangout and in person meetings for the past two years have motivated me to let my kids use tech tools to demonstrate their reading comprehension and improve their writing skills. And now I am in a position where I can share with other educators teaching digital literacy so they can also make use of tech tools to address their kids literacy gaps and enjoy seeing them make progress, explore, discover and appreciate their gifts and talents.

Last July 22, 2015, I had the opportunity and pleasure to give my first public presentation as a teacher to other educators at Fordham DLC Conference. It was my first presentation where I started to feel become a more professional player in education, a more participant in our field. My session entitled “Going Paperless in the Classroom!” was about how my 7th grade ELLs/ICT Science students used Google Docs to complete an essay assignment on Human Body Systems and Class Wikispaces to provide a variety of scaffolded readings below and at grade level. My students received continuous guidance and feedback to edit their essays and selected human body system readings I put together from books, readings, videos and images I found online for them to use and support their essay main points. Two of my students had the opportunity to share with the audience their experience using these two tools. It was a happy moment in my life to hear my students talk about their learning and how we all grew together as learners. And most important, other teachers felt encouraged to play with these tech tools with their students in the future.

I had a second opportunity to be a presenter at Fordham DLC Conference on July 13, 2016  and share with others how I used new tech tools available to teachers, students and parents. This time, I presented, “Expanding the Walls of my Self-Contained Classroom: Connecting with Parents and Students to Increase Literacy Skills,” a session about using Google Classroom and Wikispaces to post task/assignments and resources and Remind App to communicate with parents about the assignments their children had to complete in class and for homework. Again as an active player, I got  to share and answer questions on how these tools worked for me and my students and how these helped me motivate students produce works that put forward their language and artistic talents. After two years of presenting at DLC conference, as a teaching in a challenging middle school, I get to inspire teachers try innovative teaching practices and transmit that positive attitude many teachers have passed on to me.  

I’m still the student and teacher who will continue to learn from other educators, help me grow and  empower me to perfect my craft and do a better job when I’m in front of students. And those moments of enrichment will continue to transform me be a better professional educator to  support our students become better functional adults in a fast changing world. And in a closing note, my colleagues, I invite you to experiment with digital literacy with your students and join us to share and present your knowledge and experiences at conferences. It can look daunting at the beginning but all it takes is practice.

Announcing the 2016 DLC Annual Conference

Digital Literacies Collaborative

We are pleased to announce our third annual conference, to be held on July 13, 2016, at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University.

Amanda Lenhart, Researcher with the Data & Society Research Instittue, will give a keynote titled, “The Shifting Landscape of American Teens’ Social & Digital Media Use”, and we will have elementary, middle, and high school teachers share their own classroom practice related to digital literacies.

Register here.

See our conference flyer, and please share!

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Teaching (and Defining) the New Writing

When Kristen offered me the opportunity to host a DLC study group this year, I was excited to do so with the collection Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st-Century Classroom, edited by Anne Herrington, Kevin Hodgson, and Charles Moran. This book was one of several that we received in the DLC’s inaugural year, but we hadn’t read it together. I was intrigued by the idea of “new writing,” especially since the book was published in 2009 which was basically forever ago. Obama was inaugurated that January and promptly began reforming the nation’s healthcare system, the country was mired in economic crisis, and we lost a true pioneer of “new,” Michael Jackson. (I vividly remember learning of his death from the Times Square tickers as I exited a movie theater on 42nd Street. Eric and I had just seen one of the Transformers movies. Don’t ask.) Barnes & Noble released the Nook, and Yelp released its iPhone app, making it possible for me to finally find an environmentally-friendly dry cleaner reasonably close to my apartment. So clearly a lot has changed in the world since 2009. But what about in the world of digital writing? Has that change been as rapid? This was one of the topics we set out to discuss at our March hangout.

Since the book is a series of essays divided up by grade band (elementary and middle school, secondary grades, and college), I decided to facilitate this study group like a digital jigsaw. I posted a list of the articles online and invited DLC members to sign up for the one of their choice. I also asked each member to post the gist of his/her article and a personal response a couple of days before the hangout so that everyone could have a chance to read, synthesize, and reflect before our online discussion.Eleven DLC members signed up to read, eight of those posted responses to their articles, and ten people attended the hangout, making this one of the most well-attended hangouts in DLC history, I think. I’m not sure if the attendance was due to the jigsaw format (inviting participants to read one article rather than an entire book) or my relentless nagging on Google+, but it was exciting to have so many folks join us for what turned out to be a robust and rewarding discussion.

Unfortunately, all of my devices united against me in some kind of Ex Machina-inspired revolt about ten minutes before the hangout was set to begin. Kristen heroically got us up and running for our discussion, but we weren’t able to record the hangout.

As far as the question of what counts as “new writing” in 2016 versus in 2009, numerous DLC members remarked on the extent to which their articles felt dated when discussing such topics as the death of print media (Jeannette), the usefulness of Microsoft Office (Eric), and using podcasts in the classroom (Kristen). At the same time, many of us found our articles to offer relevant, timely, and inspiring ideas for enhancing instruction around digital writing, including multimodal research projects (Ivelisse), poetry podcasts (Joe), Paul Allison’s Self-Assessment Matrix (Judd), and revision as a collaborative process (Emilie).

Perhaps what is most important is not that we agree on some definition of “new writing,” given that “new” is a relative term and by the time we’ve defined what it means whatever we’re describing as “new” is already old. Rather, I find myself fixated–even kind of haunted–by something that Marva Solomon wrote at the end of the article that I read for the jigsaw, “True Adventures of Students Writing Online: Mummies, Vampires, and Schnauzers, Oh My!”:

Recently, I read a warning from literacy researchers Labbo and Reinking (1999 [!!!]) that “researchers who fail to acknowledge issues of technology in their work may have to face the reality that their findings…may seem outdated, incomplete, or irrelevant” (p. 486). I took their words as a call to teachers as well. Today’s kids are digital kids with digital lives bombarded by digital messages. If I don’t learn to incorporate the digital into my classroom, I am also in danger of presenting a curriculum that is incomplete.” (p. 37)

I feel so fortunate to be part of the the DLC, a group of educators who strive to ensure that the curricula we teach is complete and who are constantly working both independently and collaboratively to develop effective, research-based strategies for ensuring that our students are ready to read, write, think, discuss, and collaborate successfully, both now and in the future.

Discussion of Connected Reading, by Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks

 

Many thanks to those who joined us for our discussion of Connected Reading, by our very own Kristen Hawley Turner and her co-author, Troy Hicks. As Turner and Hicks do in Chapter Three of the book, we started the Hangout by discussing our own connected reading practices (e.g., forwarding articles, tweeting, posting to Facebook, & book clubs) and then moved into ways that we model and share those practices with our students.  Clemencia and I, for example,  post articles to student forums like Google Classroom, while Lauren Z. has tried Goodreads and Shelfari.

We all agreed that we yearn to show our students more of how we, as adults, interact with each other as connected readers.  In Chapter Five, Turner and Hicks offer lessons to “guide students in sharing their thinking,” which made us think and talk about how we use social media to share and discuss our reading with relatives, friends, & colleagues. This emerged as important part of our discussion as Rebekah pointed out that, while there are valid reasons for the separation between adults and students on social media, this division might, as she went on to say,  “deprive  students of opportunities to see the way that adults interact with each other.” Sadly, legal restrictions enforced to keep both students and teachers safe, also keep us from showing our students how we connect to other adult readers in an authentic environment. And we recognize that modeling connected reading and engaging in CR practices with students on a platform like Facebook might be a powerful learning tool for our students. This prompted Rebekah’s big question: “How can we create digital communities of leaders that…[bring] together students and adults…so that students can see the way that adults react in these spaces… and [can] interact with [teachers]?”  Many educators allow alumni into their social media circles. Those former students, in becoming part of teachers’ social media circles, become part of conversations about the many things teachers read; they can share in their teachers’ passions, not only for recreational reading, but also for reading on important social issues. But we can’t do that now! Or could we? How could such as space be created? Maybe this is a question we’ll be able to answer together in the coming months.   

Another highlight of the Hangout was our discussion about the ways in which teachers can harness the power of digital tools to engage our adolescent readers and the power of choice in reading and learning. If you could ‘t make the hangout, lament not your absence: you can click here to view the entire Hangout on Air.

Can’t wait for Rebekah’s digital jigsaw on Teaching the New Writing, by Anne Herrington, Kevin Hodgson, and Charles Moran on March 22nd. Hope to see you all there!