Tag Archives: technology

Innovation Reality Check

I love this image created by David Carruthers during #IMMOOC because I truly subscribe to Global Teacher mindedness.

Using technology and social media to reach beyond our classroom walls is both a passion and an obsession of mine. It is also the very anchor of student Digital Leadership. But this week has really given me pause to think about not only the importance of global connectedness, but also the nature of Innovation.

I co-moderate a book club at my school and my students always want to not just read books but do something to promote a love of reading. We have been talking about sharing our love of children’s books and the students really wanted to reach out to the local daycare or local elementary school to read to the kids. Unfortunately, there seem to be lots of road blocks preventing this from happening.

That’s when I suggested that perhaps I could speak to Lorna Pitcher, from Children of Hope Uganda to see if there we could create something that would help promote the love of learning at their Uganda school and learn English. When I spoke to Lorna I was somewhat shocked at their reality:

  • the school is approximately 40 minutes away from electricity (let alone wifi)
  • the roof of their school blew away in a storm last week and they are trying to fix it so students can attend school again
  • currently, students cannot write any state exams to graduate because they need more lightening rods for their government to accept them as a school
  • they have been seeking a VCR so the students can watch some of the educational tapes that had been donated
  • shipping costs are astronomical so we would have to consider soft-cover books only for our initiative

As I scoured my house for VCR’s and set about brainstorming how we might use one of the very old iPads (which hasn’t been signed out in well over a year because it can’t be updated) in creative ways to reduce the amount of physical things we need to ship, I thought about Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, BreakoutEDU (and digital), the collaborative power of G-Suite, the ready access of Wifi at our school, and our ability to research, create, inquire, and connect with others by sharing a simple link.

What does innovation look like to the Barlonyo School? They are already doing much with so very little! They are making items to sell that go back to their communities and are making strides towards self-sustainability.

Will sending them a solar-powered speaker, a VCR, and an iPad loaded with our stories and apps that they can access without wifi and a trunk filled with books be new and better for them?  I would say, yes.

I can’t wait to hear about how excited the children are when they hear the voices of my students as they turn the pages of their new books through a solar-powered speaker. I can’t wait for my students to start creating and fundraising for this group of children who will very quickly become near and dear to them. Already they are thinking about their own privilege.

As much as we say innovation is not about technology, what we are able to do for and with our students when we use tech can be transformational.

I will be sure to update you on our project as we move forward.

Literacy Redefined

Literacy is not just reading and writing

“Literacy continues to evolve as the world changes and its demands shift and become more complex.  Literacy is not only used for reading and writing, but also to increase one’s understanding of the world.”

–Adolescent Literacy Guide, Ministry of Education (Ontario), 2012

I am in the process of writing a report itemizing the ways in which I have provided literacy support to administrators, teachers , and students in my District over the course of this school year and I’m thinking about how much my role has changed in the last four and a half years.

When I came into a Literacy support position (first Program Resource Teacher and now Consultant), the most significant part of my job was to help teachers and administrators prepare students for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT).  I poured over statistics and data  and I shared it.  I created practice tests and resources.   I was also involved in co-planning, co-teaching and debriefing with teachers specifically around reading (to support our District-wide goal for continuous improvement).  I still do this, BUT…

Two years ago, I became one of the lead learners in a District-wide initiative to integrate technology. I know that a few people might look at what I do and see this as two separate job-descriptions.  I have actually been asked, “Are you working on Literacy today or 21C?” And certainly, in those early days, I too thought that the work to support teachers to use technology in their classrooms operated separately from the literacy support I provided.  Today, I see it as the same work: multi-dimensional, multi-modal, and very necessary.  Thankfully, I work with people who support this modern approach.

Consider the NCTE definition of Literacy as seen in this wordle:

Literacy

Read full Definition of 21st Century Literacies, National Council of Teachers of English, 2013 here.

This is the kind of Literacy Consultant I’ve become.  When I’m co-planning with teachers and the focus is on students using metacognition when reading, for example, I have found it to be very powerful to capture their voices using Google Forms, or Todays Meet.  It also makes sense to offer students the choice to do a close reading of text on paper or by using Explain Everything or Read and Write for Google.  I am mindful of the fact that  helping students to communicate effectively in today’s world also means showing them that they can read text using devices (that we provide or that we allow them to use) using the accessibility features on the iPad or a Chrome browser.  Students do not seem to see this accommodation as a stigma as they have in the past.  I’ve had great success having students share their metacognitive reflections and the strategies they find most effective by offering the choice of using paper and pen (or electronic doc), as well as tools like Garageband, iMovie, or other digital storytelling tools to demonstrate their learning.  When combined with the high-yield, face to face collaborative strategies that we know work with students, the literacy learning becomes even more powerful.

And how do we define text?  This video, “Effective Instruction in Reading Comprehension”, from Learn, Teach, Lead shared by Donna Fry speaks to many of the questions I’ve been asking myself.

Effective Instruction in Reading Comprehension – VIDEO – LearnTeachLead.ca
Are we defining “text” too narrowly?  How can we support students to be critically literate when they read, write, create, view, represent, etc…, if our notion of text consists only printed text or the canon?  

      • How does your District or school define literacy?
    • What are the implications of looking at digital literacy as separate from Literacy? Numeracy? Assessment? vs the benefit of integrating it (both at the District level and at the Ministry level)?
  •  What courageous conversations need to be had to open up the definition in order to truly support our students to make sense of the world around them?

     At the time of writing, George Couros’s #EDUin30w7 question asked:

There are lots of great submissions to the #EDUin30w7 hashtag that are worth taking a look at!  Would love to hear about your thoughts.