Thursday, January 24, 2013

This is How We Teach

Regardless of the subject, good teaching is good teaching.  One new piece of tech does not change all that we know about instruction.  As we develop curriculum and practices in technology we use strategies and tools we know work for students.  We scaffold their learning and provide support when needed.  Just like we do in reading, writing, math and content we make anchor charts for technology that guide students along the way.

Here are a few anchor charts my students and I developed during technology minilessons. 

 This anchor chart lists resources or strategies my students use when researching.

 Here, an anchor chart displays frequently used iPad commands.

Modes for taking our inquiry circles public.

 An introductory anchor chart to blogging.

Guidelines for posting comments. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Flipping for Nonfiction

Flipboard has revolutionized the way my students look at, share, and respond to nonfiction.  Flipboard is an app that takes multiple informational sites and creates a digital magazine to flip through. It is simple and easily accessible for adults and students alike.  This doesn't sound like such a big deal – kids can pick up a magazine and read articles any time they want to. Why do it digitally? 

Timely material 
Flipboard uses the RSS feed of any website.  If a site has an RSS feed, you can add it to the shared student Flipboard account, and every student iPad will receive updated content as it becomes available.  This means that my students' digital Flipboard magazines are updated daily and include current events, science concepts, and any other type of current content you can find online.  Since the "magazine" is ever-changing, 5th graders can't wait to see what they will find next. 
This is what they saw on Monday...
...but on Tuesday they saw this!

Real world reading 
The third time we used Flipboard, one of my students said, "It's like you are teaching us to read like adults do everyday!" The reading that we do in school should inspire students to create habits that can last a life time.  When these young people grow into adults, they will have an academic way to look at digital reading. 

Accessible for all
I have loaded over 20 sites for students to follow on their iPads, which gives them a vast amount of choices.  Students make their own decisions about what they read on a regular basis.  Some sites are more challenging than others, but they all contain a variety of pictures, tweets, and comments that make the articles accessible, even if the student can't read the full article. Obviously, my instructional choices and conferring ensure that the students choose articles that are appropriate for them. 

How we got started with Flipboard
As with everything that I do on the iPad, I started with just having the students access Flipboard. I had a  few questions prior to starting.  Will the students be able to navigate Flipboard? Would flipping the pages and the amount of content overwhelm them? How could we use the app for more than reading independently? What technical skills would students need to use this tool and share their reading? To answer these questions, I had to actually use it with the students and see what happened.

Start reading
This is an easy place to start! I wanted to see if there was enough material to keep their interest.  I knew that, without student buy-in, nothing else I did with Flipboard would get off the ground.  After two days of investigating the articles in Flipboard, I saw students whispering and sharing their screens with each other.  They were energized and wanted to share what they were learning, so I knew I had to give them a platform to do so. 

Promote sharing
Edmodo was the obvious choice for sharing.  Students already had accounts, they knew how to use it, and I could easily set up one large group or smaller groups based on student interests.  Students shared links to articles they read so their classmates could read them. 


Apply non-fiction reading strategies
We shared links to articles for a few weeks, but students quickly grew out of it, in true 10 year old fashion.  As students shared, they wanted to have conversations about the articles that they read, and they began talking about these articles during reading instruction.  I asked my students to take the reading strategies that I was teaching and apply them to their Flipboard reading.  They did this by completing graphic organizers in Pages, taking a screen shot of that Pages document, posting it as an image in Edmodo, and including the link from their article in their post. This gave their peers access to the article, as well as to the student's notes and thinking -- and it gave me a way to assess the depth of their Flipboard reading and their use of comprehension strategies. You can see below how these posts inspired other students to reply and engage in an online discussion about the articles.

Flipboard continues to grow like wildfire in my classroom.  Students are engaging in conversations about reading strategies in authentic ways via the digital world.  They see themselves as powerful consumers of nonfiction and don't shy away from choosing to read in that area.  I love it when an app I "play around with" becomes a powerful educational tool in the classroom.