Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blogging about Blogging

How can blogging impact your instruction?
By allowing students the opportunities to share their thoughts by reflecting on a post question or another peer's reply, the teacher is opening up a forum to encourage writing. Improving writing skills is a never ending goal, for all students. Having a simple process, but including high expectations is key. With blogging, the teacher can set up the expectations, i.e.: correct grammar and spelling, complete sentences and developed thoughts, but still include social media aspects which students gravitate towards.
Rockhurst University Graduate student, Brady Cramer shares his thoughts:
Perhaps it is the mindset of the historian to live in the past. Sure, social studies encompasses economics, sociology, government and political science, but the bulk of the social studies sections in public education relate to or simply are history instruction. With minds in the past and technology leapfrogging itself every day, advancement in the classroom seems to be a particular struggle for secondary education history teachers. Not all hope is lost, as some technologies that are not exactly cutting edge are re purposed through these innovative tools by some teachers who are tired of living in a stale method of instruction. Using blogs, wikis, and digital media-sharing spice up classroom instruction and shake the dust off of inactive students and teachers. As mentioned in previous blogs, (The Future of Literacy, October 4, 2012) students now read, write, and communicate in way different that even just a decade ago. Blogs allow for students to informally write about guided topics and challenge each other in an academically productive way (Wilson, 67). When students in high school or even my age take to the computer regularly to share their ideas voluntarily, it is not such a stretch to convert those thoughts to an educational arena. Wikis and digital media-sharing sites such as or are not only familiar to many students but also allow for collaboration in a safe environment with teacher instruction. Videos on YouTube can be protected to allow only certain viewers, as can invite-only wikis. As students’ interests change, it is as important for teachers to appeal to that as it is to take advantage of their learning strengths.

So, again, going back to my first question: How can blogging impact your instruction? Post a comment on THIS blog!

Wilson, E. K., Wright, V. H., Inman, C. T., & Matherson, L. H. (2011).
Retooling the Social Studies Classroom for the Current Generation.
Social Studies, 102(2), 65-72.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Future of Literacy

In an article for The Reading Teacher, Bogard & McMackin (2012) demonstrate one way that technology is being used in the English classroom to support and augment student participation in the traditional writing process. They observe students using iPads and Smartpens to record themselves orally rehearsing and graphically organizing stories they plan to write. They conclude that this use of technology has proved especially effective because “it allowed [the students] to formulate ideas, revisit their initial thinking, and make decisions about what was working or not working without placing the considerable cognitive demands on working memory that written texts require” (Bogard & McMackin, 2012, p. 322). I find that this research also suggests something further about the promise of technology for developing literacies old and new: a potential for integrating speech and writing in a way that could establish continuity, if not shape the future of language arts instruction.
Addtionally, In the article “Secondary Orality and Emerging Literacy in an Age of Multimodal Literacy,” Matthew Skillen and Kenan Metzger outline the ways in which technology contributes to students development as members of a “secondary oral culture” and the ways teachers need to address this shift through multimodal literacy instruction and assessment. While our society’s dominant culture and educational structure continues to focus on traditional literacy (reading and writing), the saturation of technology and digital media in everyday life means that many students are wired to respond to and communicate best through oral-aural means. The authors suggest a variety of ways teachers can adapt to this change and enlist multimedia and new literacies to account for this dramatic change while guiding students toward competency in a variety of literacies, including traditional literacy. One important example they provide is the use of video “book talks,” where students review a book they read through recording a YouTube video to which teachers and classmates can post comments and start a conversation.

Skillen, M., & Metzger, K. (2012). Secondary orality and emerging literacy in an age of multimodal literacy. SIGNAL Journal, 2012(Spring/Summer), 57-61.

Special thanks to Michael Falgout and Brett Mach for contributing to this blog.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

ESL/ELL Learners and Technology

Here are a few quick research briefs shared from students in my ED 6030 Course: Technology in the Classroom:

In “Jump-Starting Language and Schema for English-Language Learners: Teacher-Composed Digital Jumpstarts for Academic Reading,” Judith Rance-Roney discussed how the use of digital storytelling technologies can help significantly improve language comprehension among ESL students. Initially, ESL students were dedicated during their first few months in school to acclimating to the English language and culture and only once a certain level of understanding had been reached, they would be expected to begin studying content areas. However, recently this has changed. ESL students are now required to combine these two stages into one due to statewide testing and teachers are forced to find alternative ways to teach language, culture, and their specialized area of study. Due to these changes, “it is critical that we seek innovative and effective skill improvement approaches that increase the rapidity of content literacy development while simultaneously developing the four language skills of writing, reading, listening, and speaking” (Rance-Roney, 2010, p. 386). The article focuses on the use of digital storytelling technology (such as iMovie) to create interactive presentations with students that will provide essential vocabulary training in multiple forms, illustrate the critical cultural background information necessary for ESLs, and connect this knowledge with the current classroom lesson. The advantage of using such technology is that the ESL students can review the “digital jump-start” in the back of the classroom on computers, at home on burned DVDs, or on YouTube in the library.

In her article “ELL to Go,” Jennifer Demski describes how ELL teachers in Arlington Heights, IL and New Braunfels, TX have utilized iPod Touches and iPads to not only help students with their academic grasp of English, but also give them a tool to improve their English with their peers and at home (2011). She notes how teachers in these classrooms used various apps like dictionaries, voice recording, note-taking, vocabulary games, and others to engage students in the classroom, at home, and with their peers. As an ELL paraprofessional at a public middle school, I have seen first hand how iPads and other technology can be a useful tool in looking up words and providing visual, image-based support to help students better understand certain concepts. Both this article and my own personal experience suggest that technology like iPads, Tablets, and iPod Touches can be valuable tools to help ELL students succeed academically in their ELL and general education classes.

Teachers must not use technology simply to complete tasks more efficiently, but rather must use it innovatively and creatively to meet students where they are intellectually, socially, and culturally. Demski describes the example of one teacher who allowed uncomfortable, still-adjusting ELL students to record their voice at home and send it to the teacher instead of speaking before the class. This teacher’s awareness of how intricately her students’ social and academic needs are interwoven is an excellent example of effectively utilizing technology. Although most educators do not have a classroom full of ELL students, this article provides several useful examples of how teachers can use different iPod and iPad apps to support ELL students in their general education classes. 

In addition to accessibility, the language learning content available on mobile phones is astonishing.  Mobile phones can store and deliver vast amounts of information, including different language learning programs and audio/visual language learning materials (Bahrani, 2011).  As a language learner, it is imperative that you have exposure to audio and visual content. Because of the large storage based content available on mobile phones, the learner has accessibility to a multitude of songs, and other audio/visual materials (Bahrani, 2011). This exposure will help the learner better understand and comprehend pronunciation for phonetic purposes, and see the spelling and usage of words in the target language as they are used in written context. This enables the user to learn on a more interactive level than just regular textbook based written activities. Being able to engage the student with audio content makes learning the foreign language so much more meaningful, especially if the user is able to record the sounds of their own voice for translation and pronunciation purposes.

Special thanks to Lauren Armstrong, Abra House and Annie Papineu. Read more about research regarding these topics from the folllowing sources:

Bahrani, T. (2011). Mobile Phones: Just a Phone or a Language Learning Device?. Cross-Cultural Communication, 7(2), 244-248.

Demski, J. (2011). ELL to Go. T.H.E. Journal, 38 (5), 28-32. Retrieved from

Rance-Roney, J. (2010). Jump-starting language and schema for English-language learners: Teacher-composed digital jumpstarts for academic reading. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(5), 386-395. Retrieved from