by Jeremy Hyler
As the discussions about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) intensify within the states that have adopted them, there is another thought lurking in the corner of some, if not most teacher’s minds. How am I going to integrate technology into my classroom? Isn’t the fact my students use word processing enough? To be honest, no, it is not!
Since 2010 I have dived head first into the CCSS and have learned that the idea of integrating more technology into one’s classroom is not just about pulling Microsoft Word up on a screen for a child to type or allowing a child to read on their Kindle instead of a book. For instance, anchor standard #7 in the reading strand of the common core reads:
“Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.”
Also, speaking and listening standard 7.1 wants students to:
“Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one,in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics,texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.”
Immersing our classrooms with technology means allowing our students to: analyze digital texts, collaborate with others, and present assignments in different genres with the use of different media.
However, because the Common Core isn’t that specific how we teach these skills to our students, it can be difficult to decide what to do with them. Pile on the numerous digital tools that are available and it can become overwhelming. Don’t sweat it, I often tell teachers to try one or two tools out a year so it doesn’t seem so difficult to implement.
If we look five years into the future, that opens the potential for five to ten new technologies being implemented into a classroom. In our forthcoming book, Create, Compose, Connect: Reading and Writing with Digital Tools, Troy Hicks and I would like to offer some helpful tools and suggestions pertaining to literacy, technology, and the Common Core.
1. Use Social Media
One particular tool that continues to be successful in my classroom is Celly. Celly is a social media platform that can be used on any mobile phone or device; including laptops. Teachers can create a “cell,” or network, for students to communicate freely while keeping phone numbers private. Furthermore, teachers can moderate what is being said by the students. The best part about Celly is that it is free (chapter two of our book elaborates more on the use of Celly).
When I originally started using Celly I was using it to distribute journal prompts and for the students to collaborate and discuss the prompts they were given in class. In addition, I used it for sending out notifications on homework. It was a space outside of school where I could communicate with my students without giving away my phone number or them giving away theirs. Now, I use it to not only communicate with students outside of class, but I use it in a unique way for students to collaborate. One example is when I have my students work in literature circles; a concept first introduced by Harvey Daniels.
2. Make Literature Circles Digital
Troy and I define literature circles in our book as “…small groups of students consisting of three to five students who are reading the same book”(108). Each student has a job or task to complete for the group where they are participating. Each task helps with the discussion of the book that is being read. Students use Celly as a way to collaborate outside of school to discuss their reading, post questions for their group, and remind each other of what they need to do in and out of class (See chapter 6).
Elana Aguilar, a blogger for Edutopia gives more insight into literature circles and the reason why every classroom should use some form of them. My students have been participating in literature circles for the last three years and it was just last year I added a digital component where students not only use Celly, but they used Wikispaces to help organize their groups. Wikispaces is another online collaborative tool where students can share their thoughts and ideas.
Each group sets up a wiki for their particular book where each person has his/her own page related to their task and made public for every group member to view. It is a great place for students to collaborate and help guide their conversation. Students can even embed screenshots of annotated passages mentioned in Troy’s post. Though students can work on the their created Wikispaces outside of class, I encourage them to use their wiki in class. Furthermore, student use the wiki to connect to other websites, youtube videos, book trailers, etc.
By using the guidelines set forth by Daniels in his book, my students aren’t simply reading the book and using technology, but using the technology as a means to collaborate, build on other’s ideas as well as their own.
Technology and the use of digital tools such as Celly or Wikispaces are only a few examples outlined in our book. In addition, these two tools are only a few tools that are currently available without cost to educators. Furthermore, teachers can use various tools with various projects. Beth Holland outlines a few other ways to integrate technology with reading by having students create book trailers, podcasts, or even illustrated character analysis.
We hope that you continue to think about how to implement technology into your current lessons and how students can implement and evaluate content in diverse media and formats. We would like to encourage you to check out our book as well as our own wikispace that is a companion to our book. As Troy and I continue to think and reflect about digital reading and writing and the impact that it can have on our students today, you can also check out our blog we write associated with our book.