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Tuesday
Jun302015

How digital and media literacies are woven into a fourth grade class room

As the Internet continues to change and grow, new literacies have emerged which involve the use of digital and media technologies. It is crucial that students are able to comprehend and adapt to these literacy requirements if they are to become successful, productive members of society.

Part of the problem is that many teachers themselves, particularly the older ones, may not have experience with the new literacies that are out there, and thus they are unable to lay the groundwork for their students to transition.Their skills may still be rooted in the old style of literacy teaching which focused on the use of paper and pencil. In order to teach effectively in this day and age they need to be open to new ideas pertaining to the teaching of reading and writing, and aware of the fact that their teaching tools are constantly changing now due to the Internet, and they need to be flexible.  

Expanded literacy experiences

Some of the new literacies are as follows: innovative text formats new and higher reader expectations, and new activities. What all of this translates into is that these new literacies have expanded the usual literacy experiences which remained the same for a long time, and now there is an amazing amount of information available on the Internet; along with search engines which make it possible to swiftly find information, there is also the ability to assess internet sources; improved communication through email, chatting, and texts; and another big change has been in the increased use of word processing programs.

The Internet has prodded educators to meet issues pertaining to new technologies head on and with a swiftness that is alien to them, due to the fact that past technological innovations took much longer to be fully accepted and were not adapted in so many areas at the same time. The power of the Internet comes in part from the fact that it opens the door to the instant sharing of information with only the click of a link. One link and it's done, that's pretty remarkable.  

The role of the internet in today’s schools

What's more, most schools now provide Internet access for their students. This is another contributing factor. Statistics state that in 2005, approximately 95% of K-12 classrooms in the United States had internet access. Plus, 80% of kindergartners use computers and the percentage of children under 9 years old who use the Internet is above 50%. What's strange about all this, and gives pause for thought is the fact that the average amount of time U.S. students that use computers in school was 12 minutes per week. This data speaks volumes as it indicates that while computers and internet access are readily available to students, most students are not given enough time to use this technology in school to develop new literacies.

Introducing new literacies to students

While teachers are frequently the focus of our wrath when students fail to learn properly, it should be noted that introducing new literacies to a group of pupils is not a simple job for a teacher. We assume that they know all about it, but the fact of the matter is that two thirds of teachers feel that they themselves are not experienced enough to use the technology they are to teach to their students. There are many other difficulties which teachers must cope with too.  

Things such as lack of resources, their own lack of knowledge and the necessary skills (which stems from being underprepared by the schools in the technological fields they are supposed to teach), failure of school leadership, teachers' own opinions towards new technology, and evaluations (which fail to take into consideration new expectations. Here are three essential items to consider before attempting introducing new literacies to classrooms:

1. The mere use of software programs on computers is not enough to ready students for new literacies' experiences.

2. New literacies are great, but they are also in an unending state of flux, or change and necessitate that teachers accept and promote these changes regardless of how they actually feel about them.

3. New literacies are a must in all classrooms in order to ensure that equal opportunities are available to all students and that they are able to take advantage of them.

By Christopher Austin and LoveReading.co.uk!

Sunday
Jun212015

New Internet Technology for Children and Their Authors 

 

We live in a technological world. My four year old granddaughter knows exactly how to use iTunes on my phone. My sons recently threw out all my cds in a flurry of housecleaning and then placed all my favorite albums (are they still called that?) on my iPhone. “You don't need all that clutter,” they told me.  The only catch was, I couldn't turn it on, and worse, once I did, I didn't know how to turn it off. Hallie, who will turn five this summer, continuously impresses me with her knowledge and agility, using her tiny fingers to show me new things on my phone. So, when buncee wrote and asked if I would like to join their program, it took about a second for me to say, "Yes!"

Buncee’s goal is to foster students’ technology and digital literacy skills in an easy and cost-effective way. By combining their artwork and web media on the site’s digital canvas, teachers and students can create anything from multimedia presentations & projects, to digital stories, and more. 

Kids today are used to keyboards, touch screens, and instant access to a world my own children could only dream about. The idea of interactive programs that can change and adapt to your child's interest is as fascinating as it is thrilling. At buncee, they are requesting authors to actually "talk" to the readers, creating a personal atmosphere that is inviting to the child. A child can listen to the author's own words and learn why they wrote the book, what their favorite part is, and finally work with questions to help in their understanding and appreciation of what they are reading. They have personalized reading books! This is using the computer for children in the best possible way, combining what is so easy for them with the idea that they are in control and can take their lesson as far as they want to go.

Buncee has so much to offer classrooms all across the world, whether they are homeschooled or in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Teachers, parents, and students can produce their own original work with the use of the site’s backgrounds, graphics and animations, as well as text, drawings, audio, photos, videos, cited images, and more. After being inspired by the words and stories of authors featured in the Author's Corner, students can then use the site to create their very own tales and share with other students around the world.

What I loved about Buncee is that their technology brings creation, education, and imagination to life! It's easy-to-us e and fun! It's an online creation tool for students and teachers and their just released newest project on edu.buncee.com - the Author’s Corner, is a unique place filled with lessons, projects, read-alouds and more! Authors featured in the corner each have their own buncees full of amazing content for educators and children to share and learn with. Students can then do their own book reviews, story logs, and digital storytelling projects on buncee based off the books in the Author's Corner. Their goal with the Author’s Corner is to provide a special library that sparks literacy curiosity, inspires students, supports children’s book authors, and makes learning fun! For more information on Carole P. Roman books visit her at www.caroleproman.com

Friday
May292015

8 Easy Secrets to Supercharge Your Writing.

Writers in any genre are essentially practicing a form of mental telepathy. They must take the image or idea inside their head and transfer it to another person’s mind. It really is amazing and transformative when done correctly. The reader can be transported to a mountaintop high in Tibet or perhaps will suddenly understand a complex concept in physics. The tool writers use to pull this trick off is written language, or more specifically words and syntax. The more powerful and precise the language, the more crowd pleasing the trick is. Here are eight easy ways to have the multitude on their feet cheering!

Change the locale you write in. Writers are affected by the world just like everybody else, probably more so. If you need more depth, ideas, twists, etc. then change the stimulus around you. A quiet room might seem like the ideal location but sometimes it can become a prison. Write at the beach, in the mountains, in bars, in churches, at raucous sporting events, in subways. Some of the best writers carried a notepad with them and wrote all the time, letting life reflect in their work as they lived it

Instruct your subconscious. Your subconscious is smarter than your conscious mind. Among other things, I do web programming. If I’m stuck on a problem, before I go to sleep I tell my subconscious to work on it. Nine times out of ten when I wake the answer pops into my head courtesy of the unseen mental machinery that grinds away in the background all the time. If you are stuck in your story use this trick. Prepare to be amazed.

Look at a photo. Don’t rely on your memory for essential objects in the scene. Do a Google image search for the item you are writing about. Find one or two pictures that really fit the subject. Study the images, look at their details, every crack and crevice. A photo is frozen time. Perhaps you will want to anthropomorphize the object, give it human characteristics. Get to know the item like a best friend. Your writing will reflect this deep visual knowledge.

Write without thinking too much. Sometimes thinking deeply is what you want and sometimes not. Change up your style. Put the words down fast and furious without analyzing their worth. The real genius is usually in the editing anyway. Ninety percent of the word torrent will probably be junk but that remaining ten percent could be a brilliant gem that would not have been found in any other way. And you might get lucky and find the whole shebang to be genius!

Listen to music that fits the scene. Again, you may not want to do this all the time but sometimes it will fit the bill perfectly. If you are writing a fight scene listen to heavy metal rock or if it’s a love scene try some cool jazz or if it’s an idyllic mountain vista you are describing then a classical string symphony is apropos. Music is the most emotional of the art forms and the melodies will find their way onto your printed page.

Watch a video. This is related to looking at a photo, but different. In video time is moving and the sound of the action is also present. Once I was writing a scene that involved an AK47 rifle firing. I’ve never been around that type of armament even though I knew a lot about its history. A YouTube search soon showed me the rifle firing in semiautomatic mode and full auto. The puffs of white smoke, the specific sounds and vibrations all ended up on the page, making the writing more real and believable.

Work on ideas while exercising. The underlying ideas are the most important part of any writing. They are what give the subject matter depth. There’s plenty of research that shows the increased blood flow to the brain while exercising increases creativity. Get those plot lines for a story or concepts behind a technical paper sketched out in your mind while running, bicycling, walking, swimming or gardening. You can write the words down later.

Visualize success. This is not as touchy feely new age as it sounds. Writing is real work, sometimes it’s grueling. A strong image of your eventual reward will help you get through those times when you want to throw up your hands and quit. It will also be reflected in the strength of your writing. Ninety five percent of people only talk about doing something, you on the other hand are actually sweating it out and turning dreams into reality. You will be rewarded!

 

Ron Burch manages his own web development company, Code Planet. He is also author of the noir detective book Beyond the Trees. In his spare time he bicycles twenty miles a day and is hooked on streaming movies.

Friday
May222015

Life-Storying

 I’m writing a biography of a woman who has fascinated me since I first heard her name in the 1970s. I can’t give her name – yet. And you might not even recognize it when I do, for she died at age 65 in 1983. Time will tell. But if you are a writer and you are interested in trying your hand at biography, I do have some news you can use.

Writing biography is different from tackling a memoir, even though both are nonfiction, true accounts of true lives. Obvious difference: the memoir is about you, the biography is about someone else. But there is more to it than that. Readers and writers have been known to confuse biographical writing with historical writing. I like the distinction Virginia Woolf’s biographer, Hermione Lee, makes. She calls biographical writing “life-storying,” putting the emphasis on narrative and not just the verifiable facts of more academic histories. In addition, the biographer also wants to convey some sort of idea about the writer’s subject, which is why two biographies about the same person, let’s say John Fitzgerald Kennedy, can be so different, as with Kenneth O’Donnell’s Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye and Nigel Hamilton’s JFK: Reckless Youth.

I can tell you this because I’ve been studying the craft of biography the way I studied memoir when I was writing Staying Alive: A Love Story, my memoir of loss and recovery. I loved that book. Loved that it made my husband’s life present in his children’s and my life again and because it has become respected in the field of writing about loss, receiving a 2012 Reader Views memoir award, a 2013 award from the New York Book Festival, and a recommendation from the American Institute of Health Care Professionals. But I’m on to something else now and in its own way, being essentially about someone else lessens the emotional weight of the project.

Yes, in trying to write something non-autobiographical, I’ve tried fiction. But my heart wasn’t in it. The same way Truman Capote’s heart wasn’t in his fiction either. And yet, just by picking up the New York Times one morning in 1959, Capote knew in his gut he had to write a book-length investigation of the news of that day, the Creeper family’s murder. Thus, In Cold Blood was born, the nonfiction book that broke the mold of true reporting when it was published seven years later.

So, in getting serious about the biographical writing, I found that, unlike memoir, there’s very little advice about craft available. Google how to write a memoir and pages and pages of “how-to” books will pop up. Not so when you google how to write a biography. I’ve found only two, Hermione Lee’s Biography which is part of the Oxford Very Short Introductions series and Nigel Hamilton’s How to do Biography: A Primer. Both have been very helpful, along with reading critically praised biographies and profiles.

The same dearth of information goes for online or on ground workshops on biography. I found a single four-day workshop on writing biographies being offered at this summer’s Yale Writer’s Conference, but the cost was just under $1000, nonresidential, just over $1000, residential. Both more than I could afford.

Finally, I came across a surprising good podcast: How to Write a Biography by Carole Angier, available for free at http://coventryuniversity.podbean.com/e/how-to-write-a-biography-carole-angier/. It is also available on iTunesU. So, if your heart is in nonfiction and you are passionate about someone else’s life, take some advice “life-storying” advice from Lee, Hamilton, and Angier.

Laura Hayden is the author of Staying Alive: A Love Story (website: http://laurabhayden.com) She teaches writing at Asnuntuck Community College and in the WCSU MFA in Creative and Professional Writing program, both in Connecticut.