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”

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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.

The iPad Revolution!

Using iPads with ESL students

So, by now I am sure that every teacher reading this has gotten his or her hands on an iPad, right? Well if you haven’t, you have just been given your summer assignment.  In my opinion, there is no other tech product currently available for teachers that can facilitate teaching and learning like this one.  I think you will find that the iPad is a revolutionary educational tool.

For our purposes, I’m going to narrow the focus to the use of the iPad for English as a Second Language Learners. If you haven’t become a devotee of the iPad universe, join me. Let’s take a look at just a few of the things that make the iPad so unique and so useful for ELLs.

iBooks Struggling readers will find the tools available through iBooks absolutely indispensible.  The highlighter, bookmark and note tools facilitate student comprehension and encourage students to use the reading strategies we have taught them to readily access the content of a text.  By simply touching a word or phrase, they have the option to get the dictionary definition, highlight, annotate, or search.  In addition to marking up a page, the student can  find all the notes and bookmarks in one place when reviewing the text. They can also type in and search for key words or phrases within the text.

Students are able to download  and store books and pdf files without breaking their backs with overloaded book bags.  The library can then be sorted by title, author or category.  Upon opening a book, students can browse the table of contents, flip through pages, or advance to any page in the book with one or two gestures. The brightness, font size, or page color can be adjusted to suit the reader’s preference.  If you prefer to use a Kindle e-reader, (I like it too) you can download the app to your iPad and use that one as well.  There is also an app called OverDrive, which allows you to borrow e-books from your local library!

Notes Lisa and I have been experimenting with several different note tools.  I have found that for basic note-taking the Notes application that comes standard with the iPad is okay.  However, several of the apps now available allow students to record a lecture while drawing, writing or typing their notes.  This is very useful for ESL learners. They can play back the lesson as many times as they like while reviewing and revising their notes. Notes Plus is one such app.  inClass is an app that offers audio, video, and photo note-taking, as well as a student organizer. Other writing apps that are being used in school districts include Office2HD, PaperDesk and iAnnotatePDFDragon Dictation is a speech to text application that is great to use with Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE). Verbally is an assistive speech application that allows users to communicate by selecting from a word bank. Speak it! is a text to speech application that allows  students to hear what they are typing.  UYH Gold is a good for practicing handwriting with SIFE.

Educational Apps We continue to test out apps that are both fun and educationally useful for ELLs.  There are several good ones.  Flipboard allows you to customize and browse the web in a magazine layout that is easy to scan and fun to read. There are also many good word game applications. I like the traditional Boggle and Scrabble.  There are also lots of flashcard apps, such as Index Card, that help students learn study skills. Apps like Stack the States and Star Walk help with content area studies.

Other Tools But wait..there’s more.  Some of my favorite apps include Google Earth and Translator.   We know that our ELLs benefit from having visuals and the iPad screen is the perfect size to view videos and images – not too big and not too small. You do run into a wall sometimes because iPad does not support Adobe Flash, but you can definitely work around that.

This is just a quick look.  There is a lot more.  I hope this has piqued your interest.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to use an iPad yet, my best advice is to get one and see for yourself.  If you know about some useful apps, tell us!

There are a lot of pilot programs for iPads springing up in schools. Here’s a link to an article from Scholastic.com that highlights an iPad pilot program in a  NY school district on Long Island. Who knows, maybe your district will be next?

NYSABE-New York State Association of Bilingual Education Conference

Encounter with an ESL “Rock Star”!

We were at the New York State Association of Bilingual Education Conference (NYSABE) on Thursday and Friday and had the pleasure of meeting Keynote Speaker, Ana Uhl Chamot, the co-designer of the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA), an instructional model for English Language Learners. (if you haven’t heard).  We were like groupies, got our books signed and took lots of pictures. We even got to talk shop a little.

Of course, we discussed the use of technology with ELLs and how it aligns perfectly with the CALLA model.  Many tech tools encourage metacognitive development and reinforce the use of differentiated learning strategies.

E-Book readers are good examples.  They make it easy for students to practice their reading skills with links to additional content, one touch access to word definitions, instant highlighting, and note-taking tools.  iPods are great too, as you can teach study skills with electronic flashcards and applications such as iQuiz.

We know that our students learn best when they have a repertoire of learning strategies to draw from and when they are reflective, critical thinkers.  As Ana Uhl Chamot mentioned,  the CALLA model encourages showing students how to practice vs. practicing more, breaking down tasks and modeling what the outcome will look like.

This allows students to practice strategically and identify the thoughts and actions that they use to help them complete a learning task, especially when they are struggling with a concept.  Having many learning strategies means more use of higher order thinking skills which equals more success for our students!