Help Them Take The First Bite!

tree of knowledge

 

The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.

~ Arthur Miller

Not only am I eager to help my students take the first bite of the apple, I’m literally clambering to help them rip the apple from the tree in the first place. Knowledge is power and attaining it is a challenge; even in the age of Google.

Teach your students to question, define, discuss, imagine, share, criticise, explore, speculate, evaluate and most importantly…to enjoy doing it. Teach them “to see more, not less”!

Image courtesy of j4mie on Flickr.

#edread – An Update!

crowd

On Thursday I began a ‘crowdsourced’ discussion about getting kids to read, titled #edread.

The purpose of this post is to:

  • Add clarification to the purpose of #edread
  • Clarify how you can get involved in the discussion
  • To show how many great ideas and resources have been shared already.

(Perhaps I should do a weekly update? – I will give this some thought!)

1. What is the purpose?
I have started the discussion to develop a fuller understanding of how to engage students in reading and to also collate a bank of resources that can be used for this purpose.  While starting the discussion it became clear that there were three different types of student who I wish to focus on:

  • The student who does not read at all and does not see any value in it.
  • The student who wants to read but is afraid as they feel that they simply “can’t read”.
  • The student who knows they can read but is happy to coast along reading the same (level) book rather than challenging themselves with higher (level) material.

2. How do you get involved?
Simply share any ideas, thoughts, links or resources on Twitter using the #edread hash tag.

I have set up an archive of #edread tweets here.  And there is a dedicated page to #edread here on my blog.

3. Ideas and resources shared on Twitter so far:
Thank you to everyone who has gotten involved already. Here is what has been shared so far. (I have removed the #edread hash tag and also done some cleaning up – replaced abbreviations with full words, changed grammar etc.)

  • kvnmcl Make time to read to the class every day – whether it be from a book, comic, newspaper, child’s story – read to them and read well.
  • joysimpson “Book displays deeply affect the mindset of those who see them” – Aiden Chambers. Book corners/displays in classrooms matter.
  • joysimpson Lists available such as – if you like..(Tracy Beaker.).then you might like these… Librarians to help and use of Google docs to create.
  • missbrownsword children are never too old to be read to, brings books to life for them.
  • missbrownsword get authors into school.
  • daveterron When having silent reading, read a book as well. Set an example and they’ll follow. (Sound advice, I have done this since I trained to teach.)
  • missbrownsword use reading journals to encourage kids to engage with what they’re reading.
  • Joga5 In Primary have storytelling at break and lunchtimes – could be MDSAs, staff, volunteers (1 school I know has crowdsource events!)
  • DKMead @missbrownsword have you seen peelweb.org. It has a great structure for reading logs encouraging thoughtful interaction with texts.
  • Joga5 Remember that reading has to be uncomfortable and challenging at times (challenge, subject matter, genre etc).
  • Joga5 (Primary) Swap teachers around to read to classes on regular occasions.
  • Joga5 Kids aren’t stupid. Don’t restrict an emphasis on reading to World Book Day & Book Week – be consistent with fun splurges of events.
  • missbrownsword when I was a bookseller I often went into schools to do reading workshops, teachers – make friends with booksellers!
  • missbrownsword RT @MichaelRosenYes My 20 point ‘how to make a book-loving school’ at www.readingrevolution.co.uk.
  • damoward RT @jamesmichie: use a wide variety of texts in lessons 2 let them experience different types of writing & language.
  • jamesmichie use wallwisher as a book review page to encourage reading – get students to write a short summary, opinion and include a picture of the book.
  • jamesmichietake your new Year 7s to the library often, teach them how to select a book to read – encourage them to explore.
    • BiancaH80@jamesmichie That’s a great idea. Sounds so simple but it’s so important. I haven’t taken mine once. I will next week.
      • jamesmichie @BiancaH80 thanks, when I had a Year 7 class I took them at least once per half term – I sat with them & discussed their choices.
  • jamesmichie when studying a class novel get students to buy/download it – ownership of the text helps them to value it.
  • BiancaH80 We do literature circles at our school – started last year. I’d like to do it once a term. Mini-bookclubs.
  • BiancaH80 These bookmarks are great: http://bit.ly/d1Z7IH Get them to write you a letter about their book.
  • IDrumly Make a museum of artifacts as you read. Encourage food, clothes, diary. Design FaceBook pages for characters. Choose actors for a new movie adaptation.
  • jamesmichie great presentation about reading strategies by Bill Boyd: http://bit.ly/3hZ7rJ and lots more great material on his blog: http://bit.ly/fUgdG.
  • AntHeald My school is using AR – http://bit.ly/9URFR8 Definitely working for some.
I hope that if you are reading this you are finding it useful?  If you have not contributed yet please join the discussion and share your ideas via Twitter using the hash tag #edread.Image courtesy of Hannes Treichl on Flickr.

#edread – A Crowdsourced Twitter Discussion About Getting Kids To Read.

vocab-despondent

It is easy to feel despondent as a teacher.  It can seem that an insurmountable list of problems face us as educators in the 21st century.  As an English teacher I feel that I am attempting to address the short comings of a society in which reading is under-valued, to engage students who fail to see the value of reading, having grown up in a world of XBOXs and iPods and to deal with a growing number of students who do see reading as valuable but due to the fact that they find it too difficult have completely disengaged from it.

However, I believe that we should not feel despondent.  In fact, I believe that we have a duty to feel hopeful looking upon these issues as challenges and opportunities to be addressed rather than just problems to be bemoaned.  My students’ vocabulary does not measure up to what my own was like at their age. Okay, this does not make me happy but if that’s the case then I need to do something about it. I need to get them reading! How am I going to do it? I don’t know exactly (because each case is different) but I do have some guiding principles:

  • I can not expect my students to want to read so I need to inspire them and help them to see the value in it.
  • I need to teach them to overcome their fears about reading and to overcome the barriers that are there stopping them from becoming good readers.
  • I must not cut off routes to understanding simply because it does not fit in with my own value system – if they don’t want to use my Oxford dictionary to look up a word but want to use Google instead then that is fine by me.
  • I need to offer them the opportunity to read the kinds of texts that they will come into contact with in real life.  Every lesson does not have to be about Shakespeare, Austen or Dickens!
  • I have a responsibility to read myself and model good reading.  The best reader in the room is me so I should not be a lazy teacher and ask them to read all of the time – sometimes they need to hear the words come off of the page as they were meant to.

These are my core beliefs as an English teacher who is passionate about reading and one who tries very hard every day to help his students enjoy and value reading.

Getting kids reading is firmly on my departments’ agenda at the moment. Having been involved in the undoubted success that was #movemeon (via @dajbelshaw)  I would like to engage my Twitter PLN in a discussion about how to help young people value reading.  I have identifed three types of pupil:

  • Those who never read and see no value in it.
  • Those who want to read but believe they can’t.
  • Those who read the same thing over and over again rather than challenging themselves.

This then calls for three questions:

  • How do you help the student who never reads and does not see the value in it?
  • How do you help the student who wants to read but won’t because they believe that they can’t?
  • How do you help the student who is happy to coast along reading their way through Tracey Beaker or Alex Rider but is unwilling to challenge themselves and read something more involved?

I am going to use the hash tag #edread and have created an archive here at Twapper Keeper to record all of the tweets. I hope that you will help me out and get behind this project.

[Update] I have created a dedicated page here to keep a record of the project – featuring links to any related posts and an archive of all tweets tagged with #edread. I may also turn this into a book – most likely an online pdf but I have not fully thought this bit through yet.

Crowdsourcing seems to be the model of choice at the moment and I am not about to argue with that.  I think it is the most effective way for us to collaborate and share ideas. What’s more I thoroughly enjoy it.

Should you have any questions please contact me @jamesmichie.

Image courtesy ofsolbronumberone” on Flickr.  Found using “Compfight“- a Flickr Search Tool via @iusher.

Assessment For Learning With Twitter

There is a lot of discussion within the #edtech community about the value of using Twitter within the classroom, which is, in turn, followed by a second conversation about whether educators should be using Twitter in school at all.

I personally believe that Twitter has the potential to be invaluable within education as long as the right safeguarding precautions are taken.

The most obvious use for Twitter I feel is to utilise it as a tool for giving feedback as part of assessment for learning.  Therefore, I decided to start there and trial this with one of my Year 10 classes.  Why Year 10?  Mainly due to the fact that I believe they are mature enough to handle the use of Twitter sensibly and that if successful it could become part of our working process; having time to develop its use through to the end of Year 10 and beyond.

My students set up their accounts with me in the classroom.  I gave them a clear set of instructions about how to set their account up – most importantly that their account name be created in such a way that they can not be personally identified by it and that their account is locked so that they can control who is following them.  To make the “following” aspect even more straightforward I followed (with a specific Twitter account I set up for use in school) all of them and created a group “list” that they could then follow.  It meant that they were not searching through lots of other people to find each other and possibly coming into contact with people and tweets that they shouldn’t.

I wanted to be sure that they looked on this as an educational tool – although that was not too hard as some of them were quick to tell me that: “Twitter is for old people like you sir and Facebook is for us, teenagers!” – thanks a lot I thought to myself.

The group of students I decided to trial this with were my Creative Media Diploma students.  They are a small pilot group so provided a situation that was manageable to try out a new form of Assessment For Learning.  Here are some examples of tweets by the students:

twit feedback 1

I feel that the 140 character limit was actually one of the most effective aspects of the process – the students found it challenging at first but once they got over the fact that they were being allowed to communicate as they would in a text message or e-mail with friends they quickly adapted and began sending very short but constructive comments to each other.  The unit had culminated in the students creating a multi-media presentation (animated still images and audio) comparing BBC Radio 2 with either Capital FM or XFM.  The students were required to evaluate both the analytical content of the presentations and the visual/auditory features.

twit feedback 3

To facilitate the process each student was assigned a hash tag which was made up from the first three letters of their name and then the initials of the course “cmd”.  This allowed for easy searching and provided some uniformity and structure to the task. I asked them to make one positive comment and one comment that offered some constructive criticism.  This was handled fairly well and only one student on one occasion wrote something about another students work that the rest of the class and I felt was not appropriate.  Due to the public nature of the process the students were quicker than I in picking up on it, making the student who sent it send a tweet apologising and for them to delete the offending tweet.  You see it is about teaching the responsibility.  If we treat what we do online seriously they will take it seriously.

twit feedback 2

Each hash tag ended with cmd as an identifier of the task being evaluated.

After the evaluations were complete the students were asked in the following lesson to use Twitter Search to locate all of their tweets.  They printed out a copy of all the tweets that contained their given hash tag for their portfolio and read through them reflecting on the positive and negative points that they had been given.  They then set themselves two targets. One target explaining how they could improve the content of their presentation and one target as to how they could improve the visual/auditory features.  Here is an example of a students targets which they submitted to our Virtual Learning Environment (moodle), printed out and stapled to their tweets inside their portfolio.

example of target setting

This was an enjoyable and (I feel) highly effective process.  It certainly was for me as a teacher, being able to offer feedback and advice instantly but in an alternative way to the usual verbal approach.  The 140 character limit helped I believe as I had to get to the point rather than waffling on! There was a record of it all, just as if I had filled in some laborious assessment sheet. And they were able to respond to the feedback and they got to not just know what I thought but what their peers thought as well.

Furthermore, it was helpful to me to see what the other students were saying – giving me an insight into the way they saw each others work at the same time I was assessing and evaluating it.  This made me stop sometimes and re-evaluate what I was saying in terms of feedback.  As the process developed, being able to read each others tweets, we all got better at it – providing better and better feedback for the student being evaluated.

While Twitter remains available at school I will definitely use it again for this process and hopefully for others.  I have considered using Twitter to help develop my Y10 English class’ writing skills – a story or poem developed tweet by tweet!  I also saw, just today, as I was working on this post that @tombarrett used Twitter in his classroom today using his PLN to tweet what the weather was like in different parts of the country.  I’ll say no more as I know that he plans to blog about it himself! This to me was a fantastic use of Twitter in school and exemplifies the value of it being left open and free for use, not shut down (behind a firewall) like so many other great social learning tools seem to be.

If you would like to know more about this project or other ways I plan to use Twitter in my classroom please feel free to tweet me @jamesmichie.

New Blog! New iPod! An Update!

Since this whole blogging thing started with my new iPod touch I thought that it would be fitting to make my final post for week one of “James Michie…a 21st Century Educator” an update on my progress learning to use it, the apps I’ve added/deleted and my first game download.

apps 19.02.10

The image above is my current set of apps and the layout that I am currently working with, since my last post I have done the following.

  1. I realised that apart from “Tasks” there was no major benefit to me having each Google feature as a separate button – I can access them all from within the “Google Mobile App” and once I am in I usually leave them loaded up so that I can simply return to them at leisure within Safari.
  2. Instapaper is even more useful to me now that I have access to it on a mobile device.  I have been reading even more, increasing my productivity and in turn filling up more of the free space in my “brain-attic“.
  3. Having moved from WordPress to Blogger I have installed but not used the “BlogPressLite App” – it has gained mixed reviews but I will try it out sometime in the near future.
  4. I have read two whole books, downloaded with “Stanza“.
  5. I have used the Notes App twice when asked to go pick up some odds n’ ends from the shops.
  6. I have gotten somewhat annoyed by the fact that if I check my mail using the Mail App that it leaves a copy of the message in the All Mail folder after I have deleted it from the Inbox.
  7. I have watched bits of programmes on both BBC iPlayer and through “TVCatchUp“.  Although, I have not settled with myself the idea of watching a whole show on such a small screen – after all I am at home and have a 17” Macbook Pro that serves my online viewing pleasure very well.
  8. I deleted “Wikipanion” after I realised that learning the touch-screen finger swipes to move, zoom in/out, select all, copy+paste was not that hard, using Wikipedia on Safari was not that difficult after all.
  9. I am going to stick with “TweetDeck” – it is working as well for me on the iPod as it is on my desktop.
  10. Finally, I downloaded my first iPod touch game.  I have not really played a computer game since university so this was a treat.  My first computer when I was just five years old was a “ZX Spectrum 128k” (the one with the built in tape deck) – its bread and butter was platform games.  So I went for “Ghosts’n Zombies” a single player-platform game with plenty of shooting, lots of bleeps and squeeps and nice cartoon-styled graphics.  It makes good use of iPod touch’s “accelerometer” and I have enjoyed playing it – while it’s a new game to me and the input method is very different to using a joystick or joypad it was an almost nostalgic experience.

Well, that is all for this week.  I have enjoyed exploring and learning to use my new iPod.  Being back at school next week will give me the opportunity to push one or two of its features further inside the classroom and during meetings.  It is my hope that it goes someway to furthering my efforts to be paper-free!  I can’t really call myself “…a 21st Century Educator” if I’m still reliant on pen and paper, now can I?