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”

 

 

 

 

 

RTI for ELLs: “Our Kids” or “Their Kids”

by H.Parris-Fitzpatrick

Last week we presented at a NYC Conference for the CEI-PEA Children First Network.  The theme was RTI for ELLs and the audience consisted of both teachers and administrators who work with ELLs, but who are not Bilingual or ESL educators.  This audience analysis is a critical piece of information as it points to future trends in ESL pedagogy and the growing demand for information about our students.  

I can’t speak for everyone, but in my past experience, ELLs were not the center of the local or national education agenda.  In most districts, the ESL program was tucked away in a corner of the building and the responsibility for the academic success of ELLs rested primarily on the shoulders of the ESL teacher.  As an ESL professional, I shouldered this responsibility with pride and knew “my kids” needed me to navigate through the school system.  The ESL teacher still facilitates many things for their students; however, now there appears to be some relief on the way.

Call me Pollyanna, but we addressed a room full of teachers who were not trained in ESL methodology and they were warm and compassionate and eager to learn about how they can help “their kids”.  This is a big shift in school culture and I have some theories about why this has happened, but I’m not going to address that at the moment.

What is important to note, is that ELLs in education is a hot topic.  People want to know more about the instructional needs of ELLs.  The emphasis on literacy that is at the core of RTI, has brought to light this diverse population that is an equally important part of the general student body.  

So how can RTI help?  What exactly does it mean? In brief, at the Tier One level, RTI is a reminder to all content area teachers that academic tasks should be tiered and scaffolded for ELLs and that direct and explicit academic vocabulary instruction is required in order for them to be successful.  It is a reminder that teachers must monitor content and language comprehension.  It is an acknowledgement that we are all English language teachers.

As mentioned in a Practicioner’s Brief from The National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST), intervention designed to improved literacy for ELLs is multifaceted. In “A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners, the authors highlight the need for comprehensive teacher training, http://www.nccrest.org/Briefs/Framework_for_RTI.pdf “less than 20% of the 56% of public school teachers in the U.S. who have at least one ELL in their class are certified to teach ELLs (Waxman, Tellez & Walberg, 2004). Thus, most teachers lack the training, expertise, and experience in teaching reading and other subjects to ELLs.”  

So, how do we address this need and maximize this time in the spotlight? The article provides guidelines that all districts need to consider when implementing RTI for ELLs

It is indeed ironic that this focus on ELLs comes when there is rising hostility regarding immigration and when economic times have depleted resources and programs. Yet, with every crisis, comes opportunity.

As ambassadors for our English Language Learners we are in a unique position.  People are ready to listen.  Get the word out.

 

Esparza-Brown, J., & Doolittle, J. (2008).  A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners

 

 

iPads for ELLs: Enhancing Critical Thinking

Here are the highlights from the workshop “iPads for ELLs: Enhancing Critical Thinking” which we co-presented at the 2011 Long Island Tech Summit on October 18th. 

The workshop focused on three essential questions and provided a brief overview of the iPad and how it can help ELLs reach their full academic potential. 

 How can educational iPad applications strengthen and support critical thinking for English Language Learners?

When the the right educational iPad application is integrated into a content rich lesson, it provides multisensory access to that content, facilitating comprehension and allowing ELLs to participate more effectively in academic discourse. Apps can be used to scaffold activities that may otherwise be difficult for ELLs to understand.  In addition, using multimedia apps to deliver content enhances traditional methods of delivery that are largely text-based.  This opens up the door to critical thinking by lowering the language barrier and channeling the instructional focus to academic content.

The following quote sums up the need to provide content-based language instruction that challenges ELLs to think critically in order to attain academic parity with native English language speakers.

 “Merely using the language and knowing the meaning is not enough. To become proficient in a language, learners need to use creative and critical thinking through the target language.”

 From: Muhammad Kamarul Kabilan. (June 2000) A. Creative and Critical Thinking in Language Classrooms The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 6,
http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Kabilan-CriticalThinking.html  

 How can teachers integrate iPads into their classroom toolbox?

Before selecting an app for use with students, educators must first identify the   instructional goals and objectives of the lesson, not the other way around.  Instead of discovering a fun or exciting app and trying to build a lesson around the app, take a lesson that has proven to be successful and find apps that can be integrated into the lesson to scaffold the content, differentiate the instruction and enhance the outcome.

For example an interesting project idea “The Alternate History Project” was showcased at a poster session at ISTE 2011 http://tinyurl.com/whatifhistory . Integrating social studies apps such US History Tools or On This Day as well as a graphic organizer app like Popplet and a digital media app such as Discovery Ed Streaming (Mobile.DiscoveryEducation.com) can help ELLs meet the goals of this project successfully.

How can iPads, digital media and Web 2.0 tools remove boundaries and promote academic achievement for ELLs?

Finally, it is important to explore the bigger picture of using instructional technology and to identify the purpose for using iPads in the classroom. Consider the following list of pedagogical goals in order to identify how this device can help promote equitable educational opportunity for ELLs.

  • For Intervention (RtI)
  • For Enrichment
  • For Assistive Technology
  • For Digital Literacy
  • For Reading
  • For Organizing Resources

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/05/27/five-ways-readers-are-using-ipads-in-the-classroom/

If you’d like to read more about how teachers are using iPads with ELLs read “ELL to Go” by Jennifer Demski

http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/05/02/ell-to-go.aspx?sc_lang=en

 

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!

Special Apps for Special Needs

Using Mobile Devices with Limited English Proficient/Special Education Students

More and more school districts are investigating the use of mobile devices such as the iPad to facilitate learning and instruction for LEP/ELLs in Special Education settings. As K -12 teachers continue to adopt 21st century learning models, curiosity is growing over the integration of mobile devices into the classroom and the practical applications of these new tools.

LEP/ELL students with special education needs present a distinct challenge: how are the language needs met while also addressing various required learning accommodations? One of the key reasons why teachers are exploring mobile devices is that they provide ways to differentiate content and accommodate a variety of learning needs and styles.  This is especially true when planning instruction based on the unique needs of a special education student as delineated in his or her IEP. Educators are discovering that mobile devices come with wealth of applications that assist struggling learners and many of these devices have built in accessibility options. 

The number of quality educational applications continues to grow daily.  These apps can be downloaded onto an iPhone, iTouch, iPad as well as any Android device.  Let’s take a look at just a few of the apps that make mobile devices so unique and so useful for LEP/ELL Special Education students.

Here is a list of applications that are designed for use in Special Education settings:

IEP Checklist -Provides a list of items (with description and ed code) to complete for an IEP

Proloquo2Go Full AAC solution with over 7000 symbols, natural sounding voices, automatic conjugation, and more.

DAF Assistant Delayed auditory feedback and frequency shifting to help improve stuttering.

Sign 4 Me With more than 11,500 words in the library, you can learn signed English from a 3D avatar.

Sign Smith ASL With more than 1,200 signs, you can learn American Sign Language from a 3D avatar.

iCommunicate Pre-loaded pictures and storyboards/routines (e.g.,schedule) facilitate language comprehension.

Other Classroom Management Tools:

iReward With this motivation chart, choose the behavior, the reward from your camera or photos, and optional praise.

Dragon Search Voice recognition to speak, see and edit your text, then search on Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, iTunes, & Twitter.

iWriteWords In easy or regular mode, trace numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters using numbered prompts.

MindMeister Create, view, and edit mind maps, then share them to a website to view and edit further.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Advantages of Mobile Technology

Nothing could have prepared Dorothy for the events that were to take place during her journey to see the Wizard of Oz; but, what if Dorothy had GPS to guide her home?  What if her smartphone had allowed her to make a few calls?  If only Dorothy had the capabilities of WiFi or Bluetooth, she would have used her small, portable device and “dreamt” up a quicker way of getting home.

In today’s world, information is ubiquitous and students are accustomed to fast-paced easy access to information – when they want it and wherever they want it.  Mobile technologies maximize communication in environments never before imagined.  Just like Dorothy, our students are in a new world and need to use technology to navigate their journey.

Smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, and laptops allow teaching and learning to take place inside and outside of the classroom.  These technologies strengthen interactions between students and teachers and support differentiation of instruction for English Language Learners.    

English Language Learners bring the world into our classroom.  As Milton Chen explained at the 2011 Celebration of Teaching & Learning Conference, the key to educational innovation is to make School life = Real life.  As educators, we must provide our multicultural English Language Learners with authentic learning experiences that provide “real life” communication and relevance to their own lives. 

Here are a few apps that allow students to access information whether they are inside or outside of the classroom.

Dictionary.com app delivers trusted reference content from Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com. No internet connection is needed to search nearly 1,000,000 words and more than 90,000 synonyms and antonyms in the thesaurus. 

SAT Vocabulary Visuals and Audios app includes unique illustrations for thousands of SAT words and explains their meanings using audios from professional narrators. This app translates words in Spanish, French, Chinese and 50 other languages.

iTranslate app translates words and whole words in sentences in 52 languages, and uses text to speech with 43 voices in 16 languages. iTranslate now includes voice recognition and an exclusive conversation and 18 free voices.

Star Walk app allows the user to point the iPad or iPhone at the sky and see what stars, constellations, and satellites you are looking at in real-time.  Star Walk also allows you to find information on stars, planets, and satellites. 

Leafsnap app is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.

Moon Globe app turns your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad into a precision instrument for viewing Earth’s Moon.  Hold the Moon in your hands. Satellite imagery and topographic laser altimeter data are combined to render the Moon with realistic lighting in realtime 3D.

 

 

 

 

iPad Training for Teachers: It’s all about the Apps

We recently conducted a three-day workshop for teachers who are using iPads with kids in grades K-12. Although all of the teachers worked with ELLs, some of the teachers were ESL teachers, others taught ELA, Math, Social Studies, or Special Education.  You get the picture.  We were all over the map as far as our audience was concerned.

So,  the obvious question is how do we train teachers from such a wide variety of settings to use the iPad effectively in their classroom? This answer lies at the very core of what makes the iPad so unique: differentiation through apps!

Once the initial how-to session about the functions and features of the iPad is completed, the emphasis must switch. Professional developers must model differentiation for the teachers, just as they would do for the students in the classroom, through the use of solid apps.

This begins by exploring applications that are truly educational and useful for each teacher in their subject area or focus. First share the apps that are basic tools for instruction such as reference tables, calculators, readers, and dictionaries.  Introduce apps like iBooks, Stanza, Periodic Table of Elements, Google Earth, and CalcMadeEasy.  

If you are part of a district wide initiative using iPads, there should be one set of student tools for managing notebooks, submitting classwork and studying for all students.  You must decide as a class which tools you will all use.  Index Card is a great app that allows users to customize flash cards and organize them into categories for studying. 

Ideally teachers should create a paperless system. (Can you imagine a world where you do not have to carry home 5 classes worth of assignments on Friday night?) By allowing students to submit their work via the iPad, teachers begin to model one of the true 21st Century learning protocols.

 The buzz at ISTE 2011 was that Evernote works very well for this and is a robust app for creating, storing, and sharing documents.  The native app Notes is a simpler note-taking tool.  Of course, you always have the option to print out assignments when necessary.

As for instruction, remember that oftentimes the best apps cross over into many disciplines. For example, after we distributed our best apps list for ELLs, a teacher shared with us her best apps for Special Ed and we discovered a whole new bunch of apps that can be used with a variety of students. Apps for brainstorming and mindmapping such as iThoughtsHD and Popplet are universal tools for differentiated instruction.

Finally, teachers have to establish a classroom routine that works for them and their teaching style. Whether you have an iPad center a few times a week, or each student uses an iPad every day, the priority must be to set up classroom rules about how and when the iPad is used to achieve the instructional goals the teacher has designed.

What iLearned at ISTE 2011 – Part 2

What if? History Project

During our visit to the poster sessions at the conference, we learned of an interesting project conducted by students attending the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  The teacher, Diana Laufenberg, created a counterfactual or alternate history project that focused on the investigation of historical events through research and creativity.

Students were responsible for identifying a point in American History where they would change the outcome.  After reading background information and identifying the point of divergence, students researched three events preceding their point of divergence, and then introduced three new events in history leading up to 2011.

The essential questions addressed three main ideas for this project:

How do the actions of individuals impact the historical record?

How do systemic changes impact the historical record?

How influential can one decision be in the historical landscape?

Students worked independently and collaboratively with their peers in developing their presentation of ideas.  The project included an organizer, a work contract and a journal to record the process. Projects were assessed using a rubric and presentations were uploaded onto the school website.

American History can be one of the most difficult subjects for English Language Learners because of the unfamiliarity with historical events in the U.S.  The research needed for a counterfactual project can help ELLs gain an understanding of the impact these events have had on our lives today.

Just imagine the alternate history that would be created if a student had never moved to the U.S.  How would this have affected their lives, schools, or communities?

For more information on the What if? History Project please visit:

http://tinyurl.com/whatifhistory

What iLearned at ISTE 2011 – Part 1

The ISTE conference in Philadelphia was one of the most exciting events we have recently seen.  Everything we attended provided us with new insights into tech and education.  

We left Long Island at 6:00 a.m. and arrived in Philadelphia bright and early ready to tackle the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  We found a parking lot for $10.00 just four blocks away!  That was a great start to a great day.

Our first workshop was “Tammy’s Top 20 Favorite Free Web Tools.”  Tammy Worchester demonstrated a variety of websites for educators.  Here are some of our favorites for English Language Learners:

Bibme.org is a fully automatic bibliography maker. It’s a very easy way for ELLs to learn how to build and format a works cited page.

Qwiki.com is a great way for ELLs to search for information.  The information is delivered in a storytelling format that uses visuals and audio.

Wolframalpha.com is a knowledge engine that generates results by doing computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods.  This is useful for ELLs because unlike typical search engines, results can be found for many different academic tasks.

Fur.ly is a site that shortens multiple urls into one.  This is a useful tool for teachers and students alike.  It makes it easy for ELLs to navigate and categorize webpages.

After the workshop, we met Tammy Worchester in the exhibition hall at the Visions Booth.  Visions publishes a large collection of classroom resources that incorporate technology.  For more information on their products visit www.toolsforteachers.com.