Apple Announces New App – iBooks Author!

A GAME CHANGER

The textbook industry will never be the same. Apple has just made it easy for educators to create and publish their own textbooks with the new app iBooks Author. According to MacWorld, the app is as easy to use and works seamlessly with other apple products like Pages and Keynote.

What does this mean for teachers and school districts? This will enable us to create highly customized materials at significantly less cost than previously possible. The textbook publishers no longer hold the reins on the quality of content delivered to students.

It will also allow for dynamic, interactive ebooks that incorporate video, sounds, links and high quality images. As with all ebooks, students will have the benefits of keyword searches, highlighting, annotating and bookmarking. As well as having all their books and notes stored in one lightweight device!

Also announced today is the new iTunes U app which allows teachers to create an entire course curriculum with video, documents, apps and books. Students can search iTunes U catalog to browse ratings, description and course outline. iTunes U is already being used by colleges and universities. Now, for the first time, it is available for K-12 schools.

The new iBooks 2 app, iBooks Author and iTunes U app are all free. Although, it is too early to tell how these products will affect classroom instruction, providing access to tools that steer the K-12 system away from traditional methods of content and instruction delivery is another step in the right direction.

Using Digital Media to Create Authentic Writing Experiences for Students

by Heather Parris-Fitzpatrick

With all the buzz about ebook readers, it is time for teachers to explore ways to incorporate epublishing into their student writing assignments.  There are several applications available that allow students and teachers to create remarkable, user-friendly ebooks that can be published on the web, printed, shared, or saved and stored locally.

eBooks allow students to follow the five step writing process: brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing, with renewed interest in the final step.  The audience must be carefully considered and is no longer limited to simply the teacher or classmates.  In addition, ebooks allow students to support their ideas and content by embedding video (mp4) and image files into their writing pieces. For little or no cost, students can now create authentic multimedia viewing and reading experiences and publish them digitally (.epub) for a variety of audiences.  

ePub Bud is a free website that allows you to create a new book with their application or upload any sort of document and convert  it to the open .epub format.  You can store your books online and even sell them on Amazon and the Apple Bookstore. They also provide a forum for teachers to share teaching activities that incorporate epublishing.

If you are an iPad user consider downloading Book Creator by Red Jumper Studio.  This app costs $6.99 but is well worth it.  It is easy to use and the resulting ebook is polished and professional.

We learned about an excellent example of epublishing in the classroom at the NYS TESOL Conference.  ESL students in Amityville worked with education consultant Annette Shideler to create a book entitled “Surviving in Amityville.  A guide written by middle school English language learners for all English language learners.”

While reading “Swiss Family Robinson” students discussed the themes of adaptation and survival.  They connected the themes to their own experiences as newcomers in Amityville. Every student had a story to tell and advice to offer.

Then the ESL students collaborated on the survival guide. Each chapter provides an individual students unique perspective and advice.  The end result is an eleven chapter book that includes video and photos. The ebook is an authentic published work now available through iTunes.

For more information about this project read “Students pen middle school survival guide”

 

 

 

 

 

Long Island Technology Summit 2011

How can technology help engage students to learn content? 

As educators, we know that engaging ESL students is key to academic and linguistic success.  We are faced with the daily task of teaching grade level content in a language that poses many challenges.

Dr. Michael Nagler, Superintendent of Mineola Schools, presented a workshop entitled, What Are 21st-Century Skills Anyway?   Though, the workshop was not limited to the needs of ELLs, there were many points that Dr. Nagler shared that highlighted the challenges for all learners. 

Dr. Nagler stated that, “technology is the tool of engagement and we must stop teaching content and start engaging students in the content.”  During this discussion, he described that the order of Bloom’s Taxonomy was now reversed.  With information being readily available, students must learn metacognition – “think about thinking and how they are learning.” 

Today’s student is growing up in a world much different than ours. Educators continue to use traditional teacher-centered methods of instruction; this is a fundamental contradiction to the way our students learn. For many of these students, even the pace of technological advances will even make digital natives into digital immigrants.  What is certain is that 21st century skills remove boundaries and promote academic success for ELLs  and for all students.

So how do we change the way we teach content and how do we use technology to leverage it?  Give students the ability to become problem solvers and critical thinkers.  Don’t give the content, but start with the end first through methods such as project-based learning.  Technology must be used as the tool that provides a means to the end.

Simple Digital Solutions in Complicated Times

Monitoring Student Work with Discovery Education’s Assignment Manager

by Heather Parris-Fitzpatrick

Nowadays it is more important then ever before to document and monitor student progress consistently. Fortunately, there are educational websites that make life a little easier for our beleaguered teachers.

One of my favorite sites for managing classes and creating interactive learning experiences for ELLs is Discovery Education Streaming. In addition to the free teacher resources (hint: they are easily found by scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the homepage), school districts can purchase a subscription to the site.

Discoveryeducation.com provides subscribers with a simple solution for monitoring student progress.

After building assignments, quizzes, writing prompts, or science assessments in My Builder Tools, teachers can keep track and document student work using Assignment Manager. Users can select a tab to view results in three different ways: by class, by student or by URL or assignment code.

Viewing assignments by class is useful to see how many students have submitted or completed the task. Teachers can edit the assignment or due date and determine the progress the class is making as a whole.

Viewing by student allows a teacher to determine whether a particular student requires remediation. Teachers can assign extra practice or decide to delete student attempts on the assignment.

You can also view assignments according to url or assignment code. This may be useful when an assignment has been given to several different classes and you would like to view all class results together.

In addition to simply viewing, teachers may decide to export the results to an excel file so that it can be stored locally and shared with others. The excel file can be imported into a school-based student data system or printed for a parent teacher conference or a student portfolio.

That reminds me, e-portfolios are another great tool for student assessment. More on that next time!

Digital Storytelling for ELLs

Developing Writing and Oral Communication Skills

Teachers are enhancing their content-based lessons using 21st Century tools to develop ESL students’ language and communication skills. They are discovering that digital storytelling projects increase motivation, creativity and overall achievement in the language classroom.  Not only do learning projects like this enhance the acquisition of English, but the students are also acquiring transferable 21st skills.

Free or fee-based  online subscriptions to sites such as discoveryeducation.com provide teachers with a variety of media that can be searched by subject, grade or media type as well as lesson plan resources and classroom management tools. Teachers have the option to download full video or video segments and to save what they like so that students can view and review them anytime or anywhere.

Teachers and students can script, record and edit their own digital stories. The Flip camcorder is portable and easy to use, but we don’t use their editing software.  Instead video clips can be imported into Windows MovieMaker or iMovie to create video lessons and study prep guides on content area topics.  Both MovieMaker and iMovie allow the user to import additional sound and picture files to create a movie project that is polished, professional and tailored to the learning objectives of the class.

Hall Davidson, www.discoveryedspeakersbureau.com, an expert on digital storytelling and teaching with media technology states: What veteran teachers suspected the research has proved: 21st Century students are different. With different attention spans, higher IQ test scores, and social networks, their sophistication comes earlier—with a different skill set. There is a silver lining: We can teach this “New Brain” more effectively, more efficiently, more engagingly. We have the technology! Media has evolved and education must evolve to match.”

Play-Based Learning On The Go

I recently spent 5 hours driving in a car from New York to Maryland with my eleven year-old daughter & twelve year-old son.   Before heading on our journey, I decided it would be a good idea to bring my iPad for entertainment.

First, I had to set some time limits on how long each one would have with the iPad.  It’s no easy task deciding how much time each could play or who will be the first!  Nevertheless, we were on our way.  Besides a few music requests from my music library, they got to play their favorite apps.

I encourage my kids to play educational apps that challenge their thinking and yet are fun.  Two apps in particular that we all like to play are Stack the States and Stack the Countries.  The object of the game is to earn a random state or country for every level completed to create your own personalized map.

The Stack the States app features questions about capitals, state shapes, abbreviations, bordering states, locations on a map, nicknames and other trivia.  The Stack the Countries app features questions about capitals, landmarks, major cities, continents, border countries, languages, flags, and country shapes.

Though some of the questions seem easy such as, “Which state borders New Jersey?”  Others were a little more difficult like, “Which country shares a border with Malaysia?”  My kids find it particularly interesting when I can’t figure out the answer.  Though those times are few, I do enjoy sharing the tips to figuring out the answers.

Educational apps help reinforce what is learned in school, build memory and critical thinking skills.  Why not use them in schools?  What a great tool to integrate in a classroom where English Language Learners can work side by side with their Native English speaking peers.  ELLs are a resource and bring a world of knowledge into a classroom.  Play-based learning with their classmates provides the perfect low-anxiety opportunity for them to use the English language to share their world view with others!

Every Teacher is a Language Teacher

During a meeting with educational administrators today, Lisa and I were asked a question that we hear over and over again.  Every time, it goes something like this: “How do I help my English, (Math, Social Studies, Reading, Science, etc.) teacher work with the ESL students in his/her classroom?”  They go on to explain that their teachers don’t know what to do.

One unique book that addresses this very important issue is “Every  Teacher’s Toolkit – Closing the Achievement Gap for English Learners” by Karen Kwaguchi (Pearson-Longman).  This is a great book for teachers who have little or no experience with ELLs.  It includes lots of basics like a description of ELL language proficiency levels, a glossary of commonly used terms in English language teaching, and tips on teaching academic vocabulary. Each unit includes mini-lessons, useful graphic organizers and insights on ESL methodology.

Content area teachers need to be reminded that every teacher is a language teacher and every lesson they teach  includes a language component. At the same time, we need to provide all teachers with strategies that will enable the English Language Learner to access the content of each lesson.  This is the basic premise for The SIOP Model (The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) created by D. Short, M.Vogt and J. Echevarria (Pearson-Allyn&Bacon/Merrill). Visit http://www.siopinstitute.net/ for more information.

The SIOP model is  “a scientifically validated model of sheltered instruction designed to make grade-level academic content understandable for English learners while at the same time developing their English language.  The protocol and lesson planning guide ensure that teachers are consistently implementing practices known to be effective for English learners.” -from the SIOP Model for Administrators, 2008

Of course, I know there are no quick fixes or easy answers on training all teachers to effectively address the educational needs of English Language Learners.  The good news is that the right questions are being asked, which means better instruction for all ELLs in the long run.

A Multicultural Perspective on Women’s Rights

Women’s History month is the perfect time to raise awareness that multicultural views and perspectives must be part of the curriculum all year around. Wow! By far one of the best group projects I have seen recently is about Women’s Rights, created by Larry Reiff, an English teacher from Roslyn High School, NY.

Using Proboards.com, Mr. Reiff has set-up an online forum for his students’ group based discussion on women’s rights around the world. Each group is assigned a video clip for viewing along with several thought provoking questions to discuss together during class.  When they go home each student must watch the remaining videos and blog the answers to their questions using Proboards.

Proboards allows teachers to set up free forums for their classes to interact on.  Mr. Reiff set his pages up so that the students could easily find their assignments by clicking on the tab that had their group number on it.  More importantly, the content of each video expressed authentic, real-life struggles and successes of women from around the world such as the Dowry Killings in India or the moving speech “Ain’t I A Woman” read in honor of the author and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

This is exactly the kind of rich multi-cultural content that ELLs and all students need exposure too.  When it is delivered to the students through tools such as Proboards and video,  the diversity of the world comes to life in the classroom, the content is more comprehensible and the students will remember it!  By the way, I discovered that Mr. Reiff is currently a participant in the Apple Distinguished Educator program.  Congratulations to him!