One of the fantastic sessions I attended at NCTE was called “Beyond Classroom Walls: Honoring Voices of Young Readers.” It was led by Julie Johnson of Raising Readers and Writers, Katie Keier of Catching Readers, and Cathy Mere of Reflect and Refine. Let me start by saying that all three of these women are the kind of teachers I would want teaching my daughter. Their passion for working with young people was evident from the second each one of them spoke. I picked up so many tips about how to incorporate new technology into the classroom from the 75 minutes I spent listening to them. I only wish I had a classroom of my own right now. One that was brimming with iPads and computers so I could try out all of the incredible things they suggested in their presentation. Alas, I don’t have my own classroom now so I wanted to share some golden nuggets from their session so you can try these things out in your classrooms in the upcoming weeks.
In the past I used Edublogs to facilitate my students’ blogs. However, another resource is KidBlog, which Johnson’s class uses for blogging. I checked out the KidBlog website and it’s a lot like Edublogs, but seems even more user friendly. It’s worth checking out if you want to administer and monitor your students blogs.
Wonderopolis has a question of the day, such as “How do touch screens work?” Then there’s a little video and then it asks a “did you ever wonder” question. Here’s what Wonderopolis has to say about the “Wonder of the Day”:
Learning is happening everywhere, all the time! We have bottled a little bit of that learning in each Wonder of the Day®. Experience a daily dose of time with your child to make the most of each and every moment together — learn something new, try out an idea, create a masterpiece, imagine possibilities. It’s easy. It’s fun. But the learning is big! (Retrieved on 11/27/11 from http://wonderopolis.org/about/.)
When you go to Wonderopolis, one reads an article can also leave a comment. The folks at Wonderopolis are really on top of the comments readers leave (i.e., they respond to readers’ comments). In Julie’s classroom this site led to an “I Wonder” bulletin board where students post questions about things they wonder about. Then other students pick a topic and research in order to look for answers. What a great way to get kids excited about research!
Keier said, “Children need to be creators and producers of digital literacies.” She reminded attendees that technology is a tool to make, create, and do. In that same spirit, she asserted that technology play can be a powerful tool. Keier has one iPhone (with the SIM card removed) and an iPad in her Kindergarten classroom. In addition to traditional literacy activities, Keier allows her students to sign up to use the iPhone and the iPad. She has downloaded a bunch of digital storytelling apps, such as StoryKit, Stoyrobe, SonicPics, and Fotobabble. Some of these apps, like StoryKit, are so easy for kids to use. For instance, StoryKit allows children to use their fingers to draw pictures and then they can record their voice to tell their story. Then, the story can be emailed or uploaded to a blog. If a class has a blog, then a StoryKit story can placed on the blog allowing for immediate publishing of the student’s work.
One reminder that the presenters gave is that we need to remember to think about curriculum first when we thinking about how to integrate technology into classrooms. I couldn’t agree more with that premise. I cannot begin to tell how many people I’ve heard brag about having SMART Boards in every classroom in a school. I’ve often noticed that there are well-meaning teachers who have the technology in their classrooms and are first thinking about how to use the technology in every lesson rather than thinking about how using the technology will enhance the lesson. Therefore, I believe that having a curriculum first, technology second mindset is helpful into making meaningful decisions about how technology will help students learn better.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.