All posts by Craig Steenstra

Digital Text Sources and Tools

Many teachers express that they are overwhelmed by all the options available for finding and interacting with digital texts. At our recent Technology to Foster Reading and Writing study sessions,  Andrew and I facilitated investigations into some of the options that we feel have the most value to educators and students. Here is some of what we uncovered:

First, we really like Diigo, especially when used as a Google Chrome extension. When added, users can highlight and make notes on any webpage or PDF, and it’s all stored in a user’s library in a way that can be shared. It also has an outliner tool and a groups function, both of which can be used for many purposes. Tip: make sure you access the education upgrade to get more features.

We also looked at a number of platforms and sources for texts. See below for some basic details about the ones we chose.

    • Newsela / Newsela Elementary
      • Allows choice of non-fiction articles with option for different Lexile level for each article
      • Access articles by link without logins or set up a class
      • Helpful cross-text features like Issues and Text Sets
      • Users can annotate text but teacher can’t see annotations w/o paid model
      • Assessment questions available (more complex and varied than Teen/Tween Tribune)
      • They try to lure you into their paid model – comparison of free vs paid
    • Teen/Tween Tribune
      • Allows choice of non-fiction articles with option for different Lexile level for each article
      • Access articles by link without logins or set up a class (You can see student results w/ login)
      • Assessment questions included with login (mostly simple recall questions)
      • Provides a commenting option that allows students from everywhere to post comments on articles and reply to each other.
      • Student can access articles, take quizzes, and post comments without teacher assigning
    • Mel.org/books
      • Some great options for finding and exploring texts
        1. Bookflix (Read and listen to texts)
        2. NoveList (find books by interest, lexile, and more) No full text.
        3. eBook Collection / eBook k-8 Collection
        4. Gale PowerPack (magazines & more)
    • ReadWorks
      • Large library of articles searchable by lexile, skill, and other filters w/ audio option for some K-5 content
      • Questions, strategies, and much more available
      • Requires downloading or printing texts and sharing w/ students
      • Digital ReadWorks
        1. Requires logins for teacher and students
        2. Students can annotate texts, which are visible by teacher
        3. Allows teacher to assign and track quiz results
        4. Students can’t alter Lexile level but teacher can assign articles to specific students to differentiate
        5. Questions are fairly low level but provide feedback for students
        6. No way for students to select articles on their own

Yes, that’s a long list, and there is more to explore no doubt. Hopefully this helped you determine what might be best for you. If you have other ideas to share, please add them in the comments.

Dig lit image

Digital Literacies in the Classroom

This is a reminder for the digital literacies group to complete the personal exploration task detailed below, but it is also an update that can be accessed by all LCN members. Here is the link to our learning guide for details on our group. Please contact Andrew or myself with any questions or thoughts.

The digital literacies group is working to better understand the changing nature of literacy and how to increase knowledge and skill in this area to better support our students. The first chapter of our book, Understanding Digital Literaciesprovides a good overview of what digital literacies are, and we elaborated on the content during our first LCN session.

The group participants were tasked with this:

    • In the coming months,observe and take note of the digital literacies of your students as they partake in tech-related activities.
    • By the end of November, post a blog entry that addresses the following:
      • What types of digital activities you have observed or participated in with your students.
      • What are some areas in which they need more support in order to improve their digital effectiveness in school and beyond?

Have fun, enjoy Donalyn Miller, and see you in January.

1E – Feedback for Blogging in the Classroom Blogging Activities

Andrew and I are reflecting on our blogging in the classroom work from this year, and we are addressing feedback/commenting in our final session. So, we thought it would be a good idea to elicit feedback from our participants through blog comments. That way we can discuss feedback/commenting skills and apply them in an authentic way.

Please consider the blogging activities we have done this year (see our shared doc for reference if needed), and provide comments on this post to indicate what you liked and what you see as areas for improvement. Utilize the strategies for commenting that we have studied and/or ones that you have adopted. We appreciate your input as we seek to improve our practice.

Blogging Strategies and Tips

In our last Blogging in the Classroom breakout meeting, we dug into some of the preparation and strategies teachers need to consider when using blogging with their students. The group collaborated on three documents that address the topics of student freedom, creating blogging time, and strategies for moderating blogs. See the links below to see what we created.

Student Freedom

Time for Blogging

Moderating/Responding to Blogs

If you are considering implementing blogging in your school or classroom, these resources will help you get ready for success. If you are already using blogging, they will help you refine your practice.

Blogging in the Classroom Update (Jan. 14)

The blogging in the classroom break-out group had a great session last week. Everyone was digging into the nuances and possibilities of this powerful learning option. I want to follow up to post our agenda and note that we added a step-by-step guide for organizing and providing access to student blogs. There are also a number of helpful links that show how to control permissions and privacy settings in various blogging tools.

If you are not if this group and want to know more (or if you want a copy of the book we are using), please see Andrew or Craig.

Let expression flow.