Friday, April 10, 2009

New Literacies Reflection

Growing up, I thought literacy only meant that you were able to read and write. I had no idea that technology, and visual, cultural, emotional (ect) literacy were also incorporated into what it meant to be 'literate'. Coming from a small town, I thought it would be most beneficial if I choose to explore cultural literacy. But, what 'culture' could I focus on that would be beneficial to all students? In being a Special Education major, I knew what area I too needed more background knowledge on - and that was understanding Autism. 

I occasionally babysit a 7-year old boy who is Autistic. I have been working with him and his family for over a year now, and I have been fortunate enough to see amazing growth in his academic and social life. I don't remember exactly 'what' my preconceived notions were of Autism, but I did not quite understand how it affected each individual and their family. I learned that Autism is more of an 'emotional disorder' that affects the individuals way of communication. The most touching video I viewed while researching Autism, is called My Language  . It allowed me to better understand that even though we may not always be able to communicate and understand how someone is thinking/feeling - it doesn't mean they aren't as 'smart' or as 'capable' as the average John or Jane Doe. 

Originally, I wanted to create a movie that incorporated all the video clips, interviews and statistics I found while researching my topic on Cultural Literacy. However, I quickly found that to import a clip to iMovie, you needed to not only have permission to you the clip, but you also needed to download and save the file... This is one reason why my movie is not only brief, but not as in depth as I would have liked to have gone with this topic. There is so much controversy around 'The Causes of Autism,' and 'Treatments.' Although I wasn't too concerned about the exact cause, or why it was becoming more prevalent - I focused on advocacy and how to better understand and support those with Autism. 

Another 'bump' I ran into while using iMovie (and this whole time I thought I was 'tech-savvy') was that it wasn't user-friendly when trying to import text for informational clips. I could have filled over 5-6 minutes of only textual information - but I didn't think that would be the most appealing to the general audience. Rather, I settled on my final product that I feel best grabs the attention of the audience, draws them into understanding and sympathizing with this culture and how they can help (advocate) for change. 

Even though I came from a small town of mainly white middle-class, I was still exposed to culture in other ways. We went on field trips, did biographical studies and plays on famous people, and volunteered through Girl Scouts.... However, not every child will have those same advantages as I did - so I thought that this movie was a great introduction into better understanding a culture that is so misunderstood. Not only is it beneficial to have an understanding and appreciation for another culture, but in showing students that their way of thinking (and their way of life) isn't how everyone else in the world operates. This allows the student to be less focused and centered around their own ideas (wants and needs), and understand and be accommodating to their peers as well. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The new technology that I chose to use was called Blurb. Blurb is a website in which you can publish books. To create the books, I used a program called BookSmart. In classrooms that I have been in during the past, I always created books. These books recorded things like apple taste testing, number scavenger hunts, and show’n’share of stuffed pets. The children really enjoy reflecting on their experiences by looking at these books. However, to create these books, I would bind computer paper by staple or binder.

What this new technology did for me was provide a new source for making books. The program was VERY easy to use. Not only was I able to manipulate the layout, style, and appearance of the book, but photos be uploaded with a small click of my mouse. The most complicated aspect of the project was the transfer from BookSmart to Blurb. There are many steps when copyrighting a text, but the site provides scaffolding. Ultimately, the upload time due to graphics was just a matter of patience. In the future, I would definitely use Blurb. In fact, I would actually have the children use the program to publish the work that they had made. They could be the authors and illustrators of the book, which could be developed over a period of time during writer’s workshop times. The book could be published on the web, for their parents and family to see. This also gives them the choice to buy the book if they can afford it (but without feeling the pressure). I feel like this technology fits directly with ideal literacy instruction. The students work to develop a book. They could do research, peer revising, and write to a specific genre. They could present it to others. Essentially, it brings together multiple aspects of literacy: listening, writing, reading, speaking, and technology.

As for the literacy, I chose environmental. When researching the different literacies, I was drawn to environmental. The idea behind it makes so much sense. Environmental literacies consists of real life, environmental issues presented in a way that helps students develop opinions. I am not discrediting any of the other literacy choices. Instead, I found the idea of environmental literacy so natural. I found it very natural in the early childhood portion of education. Children are constantly trying to make sense of the environment. They are exploring and using their senses to discover and interpret the earth’s wonders. In this way, I believe the environmental literacy is imperative to help aid in this discovery.

At the start of the semester, I divided literacy into the following categories: reading, writing, listening, viewing, reading, speaking, and the incorporation of technology within all of them. Now, my interpretation is different. I now believe that literacy is this huge thing that really cannot be defined or categorized. It cannot be broken into a hierarchy, considering some parts more relevant than others. I am not sure if one could accurately define literacy in a 500-page book. If I claim that literacy is something, can someone else argue that my interpretation is wrong? I really do not believe that any of the books that we have read in class could/has provide a definition either, as none of the books is the end all of literacy knowledge.

I think that literacy is directed based on the student’s individual needs and interests. No two children have the same experiences, learning styles, and interest, so as a teacher we need to continue to modify our views on the topic. If we do not, we actually provide a disservice to our students.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Writing Instruction

I rarely see any formal writing instruction. The children do complete DOL every day. However, I feel like there is a vast gap between the writing instruction I see in DOL and the writing I see while reading their writing contracts. When working on DOL, the students will usually place commas in correct locations, capitalize the first letters in sentences and names, and identify proper grammar. When looking at their work, the students will not usually get any of this right. They are unable to transfer their knowledge from one to the other.

When she does a lesson on writing, she provides too much scaffolding. The CT will structure the entire paragraph on the poster paper on how she wants it written. The children have little/no room to expand their creativity because if the children try to go a different direction, she requires them to rewrite their paper.

The earliest writing that I remember is journaling in first grade. I wrote about myself: my favorite thing to eat, what I did on the weekend, and my best friend. The next thing I remember is DOL in fifth grade. In sixth grade we started writing workshops. We could make a rough draft in class and were expected to bring the final copy in the following day as homework. I would write the rough draft, not do the homework, and scramble a horrid rough draft or a couple sentences during the four minutes before class. In HS, we were taught the five power paragraph structure. My freshman year of college, I was told that everything I had previously learned was wrong and taught myself how to get by, in order to get through college.

After spending time in placement, the single most important element that I want to use in writing instruction is enjoyment. When my CT introduces a writing lesson, around ten student’s will automatically place their head in their arms and disengage from the classroom. To make the learning experience authentic and meaningful, the children need to have positive interactions with it. Although there are many things that I envision in my classroom regarding writing, I believe that writing (and learning in general) needs to be enjoyable.

Writing Instruction

Do you see it? How do you remember experiencing it? How do you envision teaching it yourself?

Writing instruction in my class is as my mom would say, "slim-pickings". We occasionally do "writers workshop" but the lesson structure is very slim. The CT tends to read a short story, then says , "see, writing with more _____ words is better. Go ahead, and write." This structure seems to allow the students a lot of time to write, but not very much direct instruction. The students also tend to experience more of the drafting portion of the workshop and not much of the revising/editing aspect. Many of the students create final drafts that still contain spelling errors and grammatical errors ( such as capitalizing). There does not tend to be very much writing in other subject areas, even in math the students struggle with word problems.

I remember doing many of the same procedures for writing, writing many short stories in class. I thought this was enjoyable, but that was because I enjoyed writing. I also feel that writing was incorporated into many more of my subjects throughout the day than in my field placement. It seems that in my field placement we essentially do bellwork, some abstract lesson in the morning, silent reading after lunch, math, recess and then sometimes a spelling lesson. The day does not have much academic content. I also do not remember having much direct instruction, especially on grammar and grammatical skills, which I think is a negative aspect of schools.

In seeing that my CT's day does not have much academic content makes me worried about my classroom and the time I will have for academic content. I like the idea of having a classroom blog, which my CT has but uses sparatically. I also hope to use writing and reading in all of the subject areas in my classroom, and helping students connect to content areas through writing and journaling. I hope to teach more about grammatical skills, such as verb tenses, punctuation and capitalization. I also want to work on spelling, but in a way that is not so much as a spelling test but more of a 'real world application'. I hope to incorporate writing into much of my academic day.

New Literacies Reflection

For my new technologies project, I created a set of digital books and then created a webpage to store my digital books. My website creation got very exciting and now contains resources for special and general education, things I have created and a blog for my thoughts. I presented my digital books to my students in field placement (4th grade) and they seemed intrigued. They paid more attention to this presentation than they usually do, and they shared very animated responses to how I could create this. Even though the website is more teacher-oriented, the website can be used in the classroom by the teacher to further develop his/her classroom.
I have come to understand that my knowledge of literacy has grown immensely. At the beginning of the semester, I viewed literacy as mere reading and writing. Reading happens from books and periodicals and that was it. But, as the semester has progressed, I have come to love the ideas of different subheadings of literacy (Cultural Literacy, Digital/Information/Media Literacy, Emotional Literacy, Environmental Literacy, Numeracy Print Literacy, Social Literacy, Visual Literacy).I feel that throughout this semester I have become more comfortable with using technology to present and teach literacy/language arts skills, and using technology as a medium for assessment of students. When I took the digital natives quiz, I found that I am not a native with as many digital tools as I had thought, but was introduced to many new tools.
In creating my digital books, I worked very hard to accommodate the student’s individual needs. I had originally created the books as movies that flowed through the pages as it read. But, as I played with the creation of this, I found that having the computer roll through the pages was a negative aspect because it determined how long the students could look at illustrations and text on the pages. As I created my webpage for storage of the digital books, I became enthralled with the creation and included lots of additional resources and even a page for me to blog not only on literacy but my education and classroom experience as a whole. As I developed this website and project for my class assignment and the digital books for my students, I found this to be very beneficial and useful for myself, and think I will continue working on my website, updating resources as my career continues.
I believe there are many possibilities of ways to incorporate technology into your classroom and literacy instruction, and I have found that out in a first person manner. In the classroom I am in now, there is not much of a student connection with the technology. The teacher presents power points and uses a smart board, but the students do not have much interaction with it. Also, the classroom has a “class blog” but is not updated regularly and appears to not be structured. Had the blog been set up like our blogs in this class where the students are grouped our have designated days to write, or blogging is a center, the blog could have been more authentic and useful for the students. There is also not much diversity in reading and writing instruction which I think turns the students off from reading and writing as a whole. IF the teacher would incorporate more of the new literacies that we had discussed in class, the students would have more of a connection with their instruction and their education.

Reflection Prompt

· How has your conceptual understanding of literacy changed since beginning this class and how does the technology you explored inform your thinking? Describe your growth in what you understand to be literacy (or literacies) and how that growth has altered your conception of learning in English language arts. You may choose to offer a reflective commentary or a chronological account of "this is where I was when I started, here is where I am now, and these are the readings, events, or experiences from this course that got me there." Alternatively, you may decide to organize your discussion around themes, issues or other 'big ideas'.

· What does it mean to provide “effective literacy instruction” to diverse learners and how does the particular technology you explored inform your thinking? To help you think about these questions, review your Noteblog posted on September 10 providing your definition of literacy and the conditions for literacy learning. Also access the Grade Level Content Expectations you worked with to plan your language arts lesson. If students at that grade level were learning to use the technology you explored, what knowledge, capacities and commitments in reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing would they need to develop in order to be successful? How could you incorporate that learning in your language arts curriculum and instruction?

Be sure to include:

  • a clear description and/or introduction to the new technology, and explain what was “new” for you compared with using more traditional literacies
  • examples of the knowledge, capacities and commitments you needed to develop in order to use the new technology to create your product.
  • your thoughts on the knowledge, capacities and commitments required of K-8 students (as outlined in the GLCEs) to use the technology successfully for authentic purposes
  • how learning to use a technology like this fits with (or not) your current conceptual understanding of literacy, and your ideas of effective literacy instruction