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Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

Being open minded is key for learning new skills, self-reflection and professional growth as a teacher in 2018.

The MIEE 2018 (inaugural?!) Hui held in the April school holidays offered a smorgasbord of opportunities for teachers keen to develop their digital technology kete, extend their ability to use a range of tools available via Microsoft apps and programmes and connect with other educators.

The problem with a smorgasbord is it is sometimes difficult to know what to choose. We were truly spoiled for choice.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if Lynette Barker’s Creativity with Literacy sharing session would be to my palette. Me a South Island based secondary teacher of English and Media Studies in a large coeducational state secondary school. Lynette a teacher Librarian in a Catholic primary school across the Tasman.

Time to ditch the diet.

Not only did Lynette present us with an exciting menu of ideas, she backed this up with examples, resources and honest answers to our questions. The added bonus is that following the hui, Lynette has continued to share resources via the twittersphere.

Her ideas help bridge the gap between written text and digital technology with activities that seamlessly integrate both and, were clearly linked to learning objectives.

Some of those ideas were:

  1. Telling a story with music  – using MS lens and PPT, scan pages from a text and then invite students to match the words with music. Lynette used Red Fox.
  2. Reversioning a story – using MS Lens and OneNote with a free pdf of a children’s illustrated book (available here – http://mybirthdaybunny.com ), students use a stylus to “graffiti” the original version of My Birthday Bunny with their own version.
  3. Augmented reality – use MS Paint 3d to add moving images to a story. Take a  pic of object, import to Paint 3d then animate via power point. (@ibpossum has had hour of fun with this 😉 )
  4. Comprehension and creativity – Lynette used Using Cups Held Out byJudith L Roth. Read to kids then gave them cup. Students  were asked to tell how they could show support to others OR whatever they took from story via photography. Their photos were then collated using Movie Maker.
  5. Vocabulary extension, development of  connotative and emotive language via blogging- using Piranaha’s Don’t Eat Bananas, students were invited to finish sentences from the story with their own words.  Using Last Tree in the City, students were asked to supply 10 words they associated with this story about environmental damage to word banks. They then did the same with A Forest, a story featuring a contrasting message.
  6. Catering for students with special educational needs –  Lynette set up a series of activities on One Note pages which were code protected. The student, working with a teacher aide, had to complete each activity to get a code to “unlock” the next task.

Like any meaningful PD, the proof is in the pudding. My goal is to develop and deliver a workshop for our teacher aides and share some of these ideas alongside those gleaned from Crispin Lockwood’s Immersion Session MS Learning Tools for Differentiation. The aim is to broaden the range of literary related activities offered to engage students with special learning needs and ESOL students.

And of course there are plenty of ways to adapt Lynette’s ideas for a secondary learning environment.

“Cups” could be used in Junior Media Studies to teach the Rule of Thirds as well as camera shot types and angles, Red Fox could be used to apply visual and verbal matching techniques for Media Studies and English students while the vocab extension activities would work alongside a short story/novel study or as a starter for Creative Writing.

 

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Still thinking about reluctant readers, sometimes it seems the best way to grab the attention of C21 learners is to add a digital element to tasks/activities. This has worked well in the past for writing activities so I’ve started looking for ways to use the digital world to entice (or ensnare – tomato/tomatoe) my reluctant readers.

Philosophically, I’m in two minds.  The debate that all reading is reading regardless of platform is almost passe but It seems a shame that students can’t simply pick up a book and engage with words on paper. Then again, I grew up in a different era with far less distractions so I’ll put that misgiving aside and focus on finding interactive sites and tools to bolster reading engagement.

One thing I hear a lot “I can’t find a good book.” Really?! (You pick your battles and that is not one worth fighting!) Is We offer recommended reading lists to our seniors and I talk about reading a lot in class, often bringing in books from home to create mini displays around themes we’re discussing or current issues. I also put best seller lists on the whiteboard and refer to those to encourage a reading culture while other staff review books on the school website. Last year, I set up a Pinterest page of good reads and promoted that in class. Simple to do and enables students to visually browse titles. (My juniors blog about their reading on Taieri HotReads but those texts aren’t generally sophisticated enough for Level One and Two).

A site worth checking out is Book Drum. The self-described companion site gives additional information on a range of titles so if, for instance, a student is reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, they can visit Book Drum for background information on the setting and events including maps, photos and a range of visual and audio materials. The Bookmarks Section has YouTube clips and interviews that help give context to the issues covered for titles featured.

These days you don’t need a special device or to download an app to read a book online. There are plenty of options for the digitally inclined to read online with texts easily accessible via the standard range of internet browsers.

A few years ago while teaching a media communication course, I discovered that our local public library has a range of magazine titles and newspapers from around the world which you can read FOR FREE online. All you need is a library card and a birth date to log in. Go to the homepage and under Digital Resources tab you’ll find a Newspaper Direct Press Display option (as well as a plethora of other great material ideal for research standards). There are a range of titles with articles suitable for Level One and Two. And did I mention, FREE!

The Dunedin Public Library website also includes ebook and eaudiobook sections. At the eaudiobook section, you can borrow via one of two services. The ulverscroft option features a catalogue of 184 downloadable titles enabling users to listen to books being read. This service can also utilised via a free app for Apple users. You simply download the app and bang, you can access the titles. Brilliant. This should be treated as complimentary activity – it’s still essential in the spirit of the Achievement Standards for independent reading that students actually read a text but for a slower reader, I see potential in having the book in hand and listening at the same time as they are reading.  The ebook section allows users to borrow and read books online, a familiar concept for a generation of people who have grown up around ereaders such as kindle.

At Read Any Book users can do just that, Ebook Friendly has done all the hard work for me listing the top 10 ebook sites (some titles free, others not) while TechSupportAlert lists a whooping 346 sites.

 

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One of the biggest challenges teaching senior “alternative” English classes is engagement. In the first week of school, that bubble of (barely containable) excitement heralding the arrival of junior classes is sadly missing for many of their senior counterparts. Some are repeating Level 2 English, some are ESOL students, most “hate” English and pretty much all of them “don’t read.” And so we embark on a sometimes tedious and (if you let it be) soul-destroying journey to teach and learn together.

Although it is always challenging, this is high stakes in more ways than credit counting. For many, it may be the last time they will study literature or attempt to craft writing which makes the quest to help them enjoy some sense of success and enjoyment even more pressing. After five years working with these students, I have learned to focus on the micro because for many attaining Level 7 of the NZC is akin to climbing Aoraki-Mt Cook – not impossible but a huge task.

So what can we do to try and inject some positivity into their learning journey? Course design is an obvious starting point. At an OATE PD day at the end of last year, wide ranging discussions were held on the inclusion of Unit Standards into courses (pros and cons), family expectations, school expectations, ministry expectations – lots of people expecting lots from these young people, many of whom continue to find basic punctuation a struggle.

At our school, we inform students and their families that for many, this is a two year course to ensure expectations are realistic. We are open to assessing work against Level Six and Seven of the NZC so students might pick up some Level One credits and we are picky about the extended texts we use in class. We’ve found that texts with an episodic structure rather than epic narratives work best.  This year, we will try The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien which lends itself to plenty of writing and research activities as well as being an extremely well crafted text in its own right. For many of these students, reading classic literature at school might score a high 10 on the moan factor today but they always feels a sense of pride when they finish reading these texts and, despite their preconceptions, engage readily with classics – which is why we still teach The Outsiders, To Kill A Mockingbird and the Lord of the Flies. They are timeless for a reason.

When it comes to short texts, I focus less on language features and more on content and meaning. We use lots of song lyrics that relate to themes we’re reviewing. Those that have worked well include: Hurt (Johnny Cash), You (Young Sid), Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd) and Goodnight Saigon (Billy Joel).  Wherever possible, I use visual texts so alongside Apirana Taylor’s Parihaka poem, we watch the kinetic typography clip. We also look at the earlier version by Jesse McKay alongside Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade and then read/watch Tim Finn’s lyrics. Connections anyone?!

In 2015, we offered Vocational Tasks for some achievement standards which helped with what is an enormous barrier to success for many – relevance. I see more scope for using these in the future although found the tasks themselves were extremely sophisticated for these learners – writing a “website” or investigative feature article requires specific skills and for many, the structure of a persuasive essay is safer territory.  Using their Career Quest generated findings (see upcoming post), some attempted to write a report on issues in their industry/career field using focus questions as subheadings. This research can also be used for oral presentations. To boost participation in this standard, we now allow students to record presentations to play in class and also give them the opportunity to work in pairs. This is a work in progress.

But above all, my big focus for Level 2 ENL is to help them become engaged readers. Over half of the Achievement Standards we offer rely on students reading independently and reflecting on their reading so that rather lofty goal has become my main focus via a series of small steps.

I keep folders in class of magazine articles, short texts, lyrics and poems organised via subject so that after getting to know students, I can steer them towards material that might engage them. (The bonus is that I have taught some students already so have a head start). I reinstated SSR and was thrilled when they all bought into this although not so thrilled that some opted to leave books behind in class… I took them to the library where the librarian presented a range of suitable texts with a focus on non-fiction linked to personal interest. This year, I plan to take this class to the library once a fortnight. If reading is key, this should be a worthwhile investment.

It is all well and good to say they should be reading themselves, but if they haven’t developed those habits, I’ll do my best to ensure they are reading at school. Who knows, even if the credits aren’t gained, maybe some will read a book or two and maybe, some might decide to keep reading beyond the confines of our classroom. It might not show up in a credit counting table but I’ll consider that a success.

 

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World Book Night

Although the purpose of this blog has been to investigate digital learning tools and technology, now and again I have crossed into traditional text-based literacy issues. Sometimes I’ve thought twice about posting on these issues but on reflection, feel the basic art of reading and comprehension is a starting point for online learning as well.

This is a very round about way of justifying a quick rant on World Book Night which will take place in the UK and Ireland on March 5 2011.  You can hear an interview from the organisers here. Basically a group of publishers are giving away a million books in a bid to get people reading.  The list of 25 books is included on the event’s website and while you might not agree with the selection (I’m not ashamed to declare myself a Marian Keyes fan and loved Rachel’s Holiday so have no problems with it!) you’d have to agree the sentiment is great.

I’d love to see something similar run here.  How about in secondary schools?  A publisher like Penguin could be approached to see if they would come on board with their classics range.  Quick, someone give me a job and I’ll add that to my start of year to do list!

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Is the Book Dead?

As newspaper subscriptions drop, the print media are scrambling to find a model that will monetise digital versions of their product. One answer could be through distributing their product via a growing range of ereaders although as yet the profit-making part of the equation continues to elude even the most mogul of media giants such as News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch…(see this week’s Sunday Star Times on how the world’s top media organisations are attempting to embrace the portable digital world)

Will Gen Y be reading the daily newspaper on newsprint delivered to their door each day or will they be scanning news items of interest to them on an ereader? According to Sherman Young, Media Studies lecturer and author of The Book is Dead, unless we embrace the new media technologies of ebooks and electronic distribution, book culture is on its way out (ironically a proposition presented in hard cover paper format…).

Also in this week’s Sunday Star Times, Books Editor Mark Broatch, test drove an ereader for a week.  Broatch concluded that he personally would never give up paper books, magazines or newspapers because he would miss “the romance of buying irresistible new titles, that freshly printed smell, the sublime art of a good cover, finding their perfect position on the shelf.”  However he also observed that, “the coming generations of those who have never known a time when there wasn’t the internet, already get their information, their opinions, their sense of community online.”

And even more pressing for English teachers than debates about how we recieve news is the more vexing issue of how are young people going to find time to read a book when there are some many forms of entertainment vying for their eyeballs?

Rest assured kids are still reading…just not necessarily in ways that we used to. In fact from what I can tell, not only are they still reading, they are possibly more discerning readers than young readers a couple of decades ago due to the variety of ways they are receiving, consuming and assessing fiction and non-fiction.

 In part two of my interview with Kings High Librarian and avid reader, Bridget Schaumann, we traverse the role of librarians in helping to make reading relevant for boys, current hot reads among her clientele and if we really need to lose sleep over how much they are reading.

PS: Here’s a link to a good discussion from Radio NZ’s This Way Up programme (June 5, 2010) on digital books.

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One person who knows the power of blogging is Kings High school librarian Bridget Schaumann.  Not only does she blog but this C21 savvy librarian tweets, texts, surfs the net and is a great exponent of how librarians and teachers can work together using digital technlogy to enhance students’ learning. Every school should have a Bridget!

Bridget created the school’s blog two years ago to further inspire the Year 9-13 students at the single sex Dunedin  school to share their reading preferences through reviewing books and posting information on their favourite reads.   

Since then, the blog has attracted a world wide following and although this was not entirely the original intention, Bridget remains commited to continuing the blog as part of a wider approach to ensuring libraries and books remain current for the students she works with and for.

I visited Bridget at the library this week to find out more about how the blog has evolved and where it might be heading in the future.  You can hear what Bridget has to say about blogging, boys, reading and more here!

PS – A confession.  I had such a good time talking to Bridget I’ve split the interview into two instalments so expect to hear more soon…!

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