Thursday, September 29, 2016

Journal Entry 3

I was most intrigued by the concept of blogging in the classroom.  Blogging is something I've done for a while.  I used to blog about my travels and adventures.  Then I blogged a lot about my adoption process.  I still occasionally use my blog to express opinions and give updates on our life.  Blogging is really easy and blogger is pretty self explanatory.  I hadn't, however, considered blogging with my students.  

Since starting the class I've been intrigued with the idea of using media and technology to increase my students' interest in literacy activities.  My students can definitely be described as reluctant readers and writers.  Writing is especially a struggle for them.  And why wouldn't it be?  They write a piece, hand it in to me, I read it, grade it and put it in a folder.  Why would they pour their hearts and souls or even minimal effort into that?  What's the purpose?  Where's the motivation?  

As I read about A'idah (Vasudevan, DeJaynes, Schmier, 2010, pp. 29-30) I had visions of my kids blogging about things they are actually interested in.  If the goal is to learn to write a topic sentence and supporting details, why can't they write about a movie they saw or their favorite rapper instead of a "boring" topic from a book?  Maybe if their writing was out there for their parents, teachers, administrators, and the public to see, they would be more motivated and more interested in producing quality work.  

Students can learn a lot of techniques from blogging.  Many of my students are proficient texters.  They rely heavily on their phones to correct spelling and capitalization.  While they can text, they struggle to type on a keyboard.  With today's technology, almost all jobs require at least basic keyboard and computer skills.  If they gain enough skills, they can also learn HTML, photo embedding and editing, video embedding, music uploading, linking and all kinds of other skills (Vasudevan, et al., 2010, pp. 29-30).  If they don't advance that far, they can still learn to express opinions and write well.  

I was so impressed with the idea that I've started a classroom blog.  We have a long way to go until the students gain the skills they need to blog really well but they are excited to take their turns writing on the blog and to have their pieces heard and appreciated. 

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2013). A new literacies reader. New York: Peter Lang.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Journal Entry 2

What counts as literacy?  How does literacy change in response to the new media landscape?  What value should we ascribe to the new forms of communication that continue to emerge and evolve online?

For years I taught students with severe and profound disabilities. That experience taught me to see literacy as processing print in any form.  The vast majority of the students that I taught during that 14 year period could not read passed a first grade level.  For them, literacy meant reading a "Danger" sign or reading a package label to find their favorite kind of chips.  Now that I work with middle school students in an alternative school setting, I still tend to use that definition to define literacy.  Most of my students are considered to be "reluctant readers."  Only one of them ever chooses to read for fun.  So, I've learned to choose literacy activities that focus on what they enjoy and what they like to do.  We've read some of James Pattersons' Middle School series because the chapters are short, many pages contain drawings, and the print is large.  We read Tim Green's Unstoppable because many of them are they are interested in sports.  We read the Outsiders and watched chunks of the movie as we went to increase their comprehension and keep their interest in the book.  They have used the internet to research their favorite celebrity and write a biography.  You have to reach kids where they are.  If I start presenting Shakespeare or asking them to write biographies of a historical figure that they don't care about, I will lose them and they won't be participating in literacy activities at all.  

Literacy absolutely is changing in light of the new media landscape.  My senior year in high school, we had to write a thesis.  We spent months researching.  Hours upon hours were spent in the library looking through microfilm and hard-bound journals trying to find the information we needed.  Now, students can research a paper with some help from google.  Instead of teaching kids how to use the microfiche, we need to spend time teaching them how to find a reliable source on the internet.  It would be crazy to make them go back to using the methods that we used to research a paper.  Instead, we need to figure out and teach the skills that they need to know to properly use today's changing media.  

I think we have to value new forms of communication or we will lose our students.  When I started teaching, we copied notes and flyers and put them in students' and colleagues' mailboxes to communicate.  Now, we get countless emails a day to inform us of information.  Parents can use the parent portal and check in on their students progress.  Teachers use apps like Dojo to send daily progress notes and reminders to parents.  Why would we not allow our students to also use emerging technology and media?  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Journal Entry 1

"The distinctive contribution of the approach to literacy as social practice lies in the ways in which it involves careful and sensitive attention to what people do with texts, how they make sense of them and use them to further their own purposes in their own learning lives" (Gillen and Barton, 2010, p. 9)

The most important part of any literacy program is how the students internalize and use what they are learning.  Technology, social media, and the internet are a huge part of my students' lives.  At times, it can be a huge distraction.  I'm excited to learn ways to make it more productive for them, especially as it relates to literacy.  

As Wilber (2010) points out, new literacies are more interactive than traditional literacies.  If you write a paper and turn it in, you read it and the teacher reads it.  That's usually it.  If you write something on a blog, your classmates can read it.  Your family can read it.  Strangers can read it.  Anyone can have an opinion on what you write.  This could be both beneficial and detrimental.  I think my students might put more thought and effort into their writing if they knew that it would be read by a wider audience.  They might also learn the value and importance of the written word.  On the other hand, I think it would be hard for some of them to have their writing and ideas criticized, especially by someone they don't know.  

I have not used blogging in my teaching practices.  I think about it often but worry about what my students would post and how I would "police" that.  I have used it extensively in my personal life and have found it very helpful in connecting with others who are walking through a similar life journey.  Both Wilber (2010) and Huffaker (2005) pointed out that blogging can connect our students to peer-groups in the virtual world.  This could be especially helpful for some of my students who are not really connected with the other students in our very small classroom.  

I think one of the biggest things that we have to be careful of is intentionality.  Introducing new technologies is not the same as using new literacies.  Teachers must be very careful to use the new technologies in collaboration with data-driven pedagogies to promote literacy among students and not just increase technology time.  As Gillen and Barton point out, schooling and training in technology are often steps behind the emerging technology because creating programs and curricula takes time.  I think this is yet another reason to choose technologies and programs carefully.  If schools are going to invest in technology, it needs to be something that will be useful and relevant for a significant amount of time.  

I am looking forward to learning new ways to incorporate new media and new literacies into my classroom to help my students better connect with and understand texts.  

This post was written in response to the following articles:  

Gillen, J & Barton, D.  Digital literacies: A research briefing by the technology enhanced learning phase of the teaching and learning research programme.  1-30.  

Huffaker, D.  (2005).  The education blogger:  Using weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom.  AACE Journal, 13(2), 91-98.

Wilber, D.J. (2010).  Special themed issue:  Beyond 'new' literacies.  Digital Culture & Education, 2:1, 1-6.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Grad School.....Again.....

My advice to young teachers out there---go get your masters degree now!!  While you don't have a house or kids or a spouse.  Do it now.  Please.

I started several times but had two major problems.  1.  I never really found a program that interested me and that taught me more about the kids that I worked with at Elim.  2.  Life kept getting in my way.  I got halfway through a program and then decided to move to Mexico.  I started another program and then Sara came along.  I thought about going back but then we were moving.

Well, New York requires a masters so I'm starting mine online.  This could be very interesting.  One of the classes requires some blog posts.  I decided just to add a page to this blog so you may see some very interesting (or extremely boring) posts for the next few months.  Hang in there with me, I'll be back to advocating (or adopting??) in no time....