Reading and writing can be acts of courage that bring us closer to others and ourselves. Author Michelle Kuo shares how teaching reading skills to her students in the Mississippi Delta revealed the bridging power of the written word -- as well as the limitations of its power.
This talk was presented to a local audience at TEDxTaipei, an independent event. TED's editors chose to feature it for you.
Reading is the gateway to knowledge, insight, and joy. But for many students that gateway is never opened. They may show progress reading aloud, but when reading on their own they often struggle, fall behind, and lose interest in reading entirely. If their physical reading skills are weak, it doesn't matter how good a student's vocabulary is. They won't be able to keep up. If a student's comprehension skills are weak, they will lose confidence and get frustrated. This is true for students in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. Only Reading Plus integrates the physical, cognitive, and emotional domains into one personalized online reading program. We build the physical skills essential for fluency and stamina, provide the texts to build vocabulary and comprehension, and tap into student interest to build confidence and motivation. Reading Plus opens the gateway to discovering reading as a source of knowledge, insight, and joy. The result is not just a better reader, but a lifelong reader.
By CHRISTINE HAUSER DEC. 6, 2017 The New York Times
Parents and educators at struggling schools in California say students there are not reading well, and lawyers this week sued the state, arguing that it had failed to provide the children with the resources they needed to learn.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesdayon behalf of parents, teachers and students at three schools — La Salle Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles; Van Buren Elementary School in Stockton; and Children of Promise Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Inglewood.
It said California had failed to follow up on its own report by state literacy experts that found there was a “critical need” to address the skills and development of students, particularly those who are learning English, have disabilities, are economically disadvantaged, or are African-American or Hispanic.
The suit, announced in a statement, is the first in the United States to seek recognition of the constitutional right to literacy, the lawyers said. It alleges that the state failed to intervene when students achieved low proficiency rates in reading and fell behind at the three schools, which are among the lowest performing in the state.
“It has been five years since the state identified urgent literacy issues and their remedies, but it is yet to implement a plan to address these issues,” said Michael Jacobs, a partner at Morrison & Foerster, which filed the suit along with the nonprofit law firm Public Counsel.
“In the meantime, children in underserved districts fall further behind and lack even the most basic literacy skills,” he said. “It’s time for the state to be held accountable for the success of every student.”
The state of California, its Education Department and Board, and the superintendent of public instruction, Tom Torlakson, were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
A spokesman for the Education Department, Bill Ainsworth, had no comment on the lawsuit. But he said that California had one of the nation’s “most ambitious” programs to serve low-income students, and that it was investing more than $10 billion annually to help underserved students.
The state also collects data to help educators figure out where to target resources, he said, adding that 228 districts will receive additional support next year, including the three schools named in the suit.
Last year, the schoolwide proficiency rate in reading at La Salle Elementary was 4 percent, and as many as 171 students out of the 179 tested were not proficient by state standards, the lawsuit says. One was an 11-year-old boy who tested at an early third-grade reading level when he was finishing fifth grade.
The schoolwide reading-proficiency rate was 6 percent at Van Buren, which is in the Stockton Unified School District, the third-lowest performing large district in the nation. One student there, who is now 14, read at a second-grade level when he was in seventh grade, the lawsuit says.
At Children of Promise, the reading-proficiency rate was 11 percent in the 2016-17 school year. In one classroom, teachers used an audio version of a social studies paper because students were unable to read it.
In addition to literacy levels, the lawsuit also outlined problems with crowded classrooms, high teacher turnover, and a lack of guidance and assignments in classes.
It says the state never implemented the conclusions of its 2012 report on literacy, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Plan, which said that many students in the state would be at “academic risk” if improved literacy instruction was not an “immediate and central focus” of the system.
Plaintiffs include Cadre and Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, local outreach and advocacy groups that help struggling families.
“Public education was intended as the ‘great equalizer’ in our democracy, enabling all children opportunity to pursue their dreams and better their circumstances,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with Public Counsel. “But in California it has become the ‘great un-equalizer.’”
Cultivating a Love of Reading in the Digital Age
Four tips for taking advantage of apps and other tools to encourage students to read.
By Monica Burns
November 30, 2017
Do your students turn the pages of a book or swipe the screen of a tablet as they read a new story? When children scroll through a blog post like the one you’re reading, how do they know when to pause, click, share, or talk about what they’ve read?
Today’s readers are diving into text in ways we simply couldn’t imagine a decade or two ago. They navigate a new world of print and digital reading material, and our work as educators is to prepare them to grow and shine as readers.
4 Tips for Using Technology in Reading Instruction
1. Learn about their interests to give them a choice in what they read: Students have interests big and small, and giving them a choice in the texts they read can help them explore current interests and learn about new things.
You can poll the class using a tool like Kahoot to gauge student interest as you build a classroom library, or use virtual exit slips to get a feel for topics students would like to learn more about. Using this information, you can help guide students toward high-quality books of interest or give them the time and space to explore your classroom or school library.
2. Provide access to a wide variety of texts: With a digital device in their hand, it’s easier than ever for students to search for an article, blog post, or ebook on a topic of interest. Helping them grow to be curators of high-quality reading material is important.
Students who have the world at their fingertips can benefit from guidance as they search for new reading materials. You might introduce them to the reading recommendations in a tool like MoxieReader as they search for a new book, or incorporate weekly book shares into your schedule utilizing a tool like Flipgrid.
3. Find mentor readers to inspire them: We often turn to mentor texts to help students grow as writers by learning from strong examples from different authors. Students need mentors as readers as well. They may have people in their lives who share their experience as readers and love for different genres, but you can try to provide them with mentors.
A Google Hangout or Skype call with a fellow book lover can help students value lifelong reading habits. If you have a friend who is a literature professor, or if there are alumni of your school with a passion for reading mystery books or another genre your students show an interest in, you can set up a video conference and have them come into your class virtually to share their love of reading.
4. Foster a community of supportive and encouraging fellow readers: Students who are surrounded with readers who are passionate about reading online news articles or listening to picture books being read aloud can view themselves as members of a reading community.
You might read a print book to your class and pause for a backchannel discussion using a tool like TodaysMeet. Set up a backchannel room and have students, working in pairs, join the room. You can give them a prompt before or during the reading and have them discuss it with their partners before typing in their single agreed-upon response. This way students can practice both talking to the person next to them face-to-face and participating in an online space to comment about a book.
Alternatively, your reading community might extend outside of the walls of your classroom, leveraging the power of social media to tweet and share reading experiences. Many authors can be found on Twitter, and you or your students can post tweets that tag those authors. If your students pose a question for an author, they’re not guaranteed a response, but they will be practicing a range of skills as they tweet.
As you work to combine both print and digital reading experiences, you are preparing students to navigate a new world as readers. This is powerful, important work that crosses grade levels and content areas.
Some Things Haven’t Changed
Even in a world with all this technology, it’s still important to allow time for reading in class. Although carving out time in our days is easier said than done, think about the moments in your day when your students are reading independently. Is it just the right amount of time, or not enough? Do students have time to peruse and choose what they read?
Setting aside time on the schedule shows students you value their reading lives and encourages them to spend time in new books and old favorites.
The tips above are adapted from Taming the Wild Text: Literacy Strategies for Today’s Reader, a book I co-authored with LitWorld founder Pam Allyn earlier this year. We wanted to explore how to make the most of the wide range of reading opportunities available for students.
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Technology Is Now As Much A Part Of Learning As Reading & Writing
by Terry Heick from Teachthought
iPads are the worst technology students will ever use.
This was a useful idea I saw hanging for a moment in my twitter feed from Jamie Casap–useful in that it helped me see education technology as a principle rather than a tactic.
Modern arguments around education technology tend towards binary positions–usually for or against; this “position taking” makes the design of education technology inaccessible because we’re not considering design, but rather positions. There are few compelling arguments against technology as learning tools, though even that depends on what students are learning and why. But if we’ll accept, if only for a moment, that:
A) “Technology” is a relative term, and
B) It allows previously impossible or unimaginable learning–in terms of process, product, pace, and content–to be possible
–then we’ve suitably altered the conversation from a matter of positions (check yes or no) to a matter of design (audience, purpose, and possibility).
We usually think of technology as a progressive thing, but any technology dates itself immediately through its form. Electricity, the wheel, paper, the printing press, metal working, mass transportation, masonry, and more are all forms of technology. Technology isn’t a leading edge, but a human practice.
And, as such, it can both extend our humanity or reduce it based on its application.
Design: Audience & Purpose
On a day to day basis, human processes are based on prevailing local technology. That is, we usually use what’s available to us to express our collective humanity (for better or for worse). To solve problems, reduce inefficiencies, or create opportunities, we turn to the technology that is accessible to us, usually in the form of tools and processes.
Philosophically, this is important because, by design technology is an artificial process or product intended to circumvent natural limits or defies natural processes. This creates spectacle that is addictive. Are Icarus and Prometheus and the Luddites heroes or cautionary tales?
Wikipedia defines technology as “the collection of tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures used by humans.” Oxford dictionary offers up a similar take, defining technology as “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry,” going on to tell us that the word technologycomes from the early 17th century from the Greek word tekhnologia–‘systematic treatment’, from tekhnē ‘art, craft’ + -logia.
Art. Craft. Design. Humanity. Somewhere between and across these ideas there are glimpses of where technology is taking us, specifically within the “fields” of teaching and learning. The iPad is the latest node in a constantly-expanding concept map of shared experience. New technology builds on old technology.
Properly paced and scaled, we’re in control of this hyper-cycle the whole time, but unfortunately the designers and producers of technology design produce in isolation from their applied use, which makes audience and purpose considerations–prime matters of design–impossible.
But if we zoom out some, this isn’t so much about how iPads can function in a classroom, but the iPad as a matter of sequence. Technology never peaks. As students in 2015 grow and read and write and learn, technology will continue forward at breakneck speed because it evolves in isolation by standards of its own.
The iPad sales have recently stagnated after a mercurial rise that began April 3, 2010–only four and a half years. Wearable technology is among the threats to iPads as successful consumer products, but in education, Google’s slick cloud-integration is making them a more streamlined choice for many classrooms.
Education Technology As A Principle
But more significantly, the life-cycle of the iPad in education emphasizes the incendiary, remorseless tone of technology.
Arguments for or against iPads in classrooms is a bit like arguing Romney/Obama. It’s over, and holding that argument dates the arguers. I get why some teachers are against technology in education. Powerful learning models can be designed without technology because knowledge is the ultimate technology.
But if we think in terms of learning design, the argument that technology is already there and we’re simply arguing for a certain technology level can be useful. It’s not binary edtech-yes-or-no, but do we want old tech or new?
If we think of technology as a matter of sequence, then technology isn’t so much a teaching strategy or educational tactic as it is a principle of learning.
When today’s elementary students are 40, they’ll remember iPads the way (many of us) remember cassette tapes. It will be funny that we used to hold large, heavy glass rectangles in their hands and had to open up apps separately.
And had to know which app did what. And had to ‘Google’ information.
And sometimes weren’t even connected to the internet because WiFi signals were unreliable.
And didn’t have the information that we might need pushed to us before we even knew we needed it.
And we had to type! We had to actually touch a screen or keyboard made of little plastic squares to make words—crazy times!
iPads and other existing mobile technology will be remembered like symbols–markers for a time and a place in their lives. This usefully decenters education technology as some kind of spectacular edge, and frames it as a fundamental principle of modern learning.
Reading and writing have generally been regarded modern formal education. The ability to do each underpins the ability to make sense of an article or report, write an essay, memorize facts, evaluate cause and effect, conduct scientific experimentation, perform complicated mathematical calculations, and create poems and plays. These are the activities that actuate modern K-20 education.
And increasingly, it is technology that actuates each of these activities.
It’s the LOVE, Y’all
Posted by Mark Taylor on November 9, 2017 at 2:19 PM
Oprah Winfrey cut to the chase in her opening remarks at the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) this past Friday in Atlanta, GA. She spoke to what makes this school so special in a way that only Oprah could. In a room filled with students, teachers, politicians, business leaders, and celebrities, she spoke about how the magic of RCA is rooted in a fundamental choice between “love and fear.”
I’ve visited RCA on a few occasions and can proudly claim slide certified status. I’ve also witnessed the incredible dedication, passion, and high standards upheld by Ron Clark and Kim Bearden, co-founders of RCA. Until this weekend, however, I’d missed the true secret -- the magic -- of RCA.
It’s not only the incredibly passionate and creative teachers, the high standards, or the Hogwarts-inspired campus that makes this place what it is... It’s the love, y’all.
My colleagues and I expected to be awed by stellar performances from the students, a hallmark of the RCA experience. What we didn’t expect was how moving the incredibly vulnerable and authentic stories shared by students and community members would be. These biographical sketches highlighted the school’s commitment to meet and nurture the hearts as well as the minds of RCA students.
While some educators debate how to rapidly prepare students for jobs in a future that will be transformed by AI, robotics, and other exponential technologies, RCA chooses to focus on helping students find their power and voice within a climate of love and respect for all. It is from this position of inner strength and acceptance that our future leaders will be capable of navigating the complicated ethical landscape that lies ahead.
This anniversary event was not a pep rally for RCA, but a battle cry for parents, teachers, administrators, and public officials to embrace a more expansive view of what schools and education can be for our students.
As a person who spends his days trying to uphold a worldview for education that extends beyond skill and knowledge development, I was left with a renewed sense of hope and commitment to putting love at the center of our work.
Reading Plus is proud to be partnered with RCA in making a difference in the lives of students. We are humbled by RCA’s bold, impassioned commitment to start with love and fully support the deeper human potentials of all students.
Oprah closed the event by deciding to donate $5 million to help RCA complete its latest initiative, the Ryan Marshall Performing Arts Center. This center will expand the capacity of RCA, providing the opportunity for tens of thousands of educators to partake in “the magic” and learn how to cultivate it in their own educational communities.
Oprah wasn’t alone in feeling the love.
Thank you, RCA.
Protecting Student Privacy on Social Media
A primer for ensuring that students’ personal information remains confidential on social media.
By Tanner Higgin
September 19, 2017
Social media is an increasingly important part of students’ lives. According to a recent study by Common Sense Media, the average teen spends over an hour a day using social media, and only 3 percent of the time tweens and teens spend online is focused on creation vs. consumption. To be true digital citizens, our students need teachers who model pro-social, creative, and responsible social media use.
So why is only one in 10 teachers using social media professionally? Working in a school environment and dealing with issues ranging from Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliance to headline-making incidents can be a scary and confusing prospect. It’s no wonder many teachers avoid these questions entirely. In fact, 81 percent of teachers surveyed in the study above expressed concerns about the possible pitfalls that arise from mixing professional work with social media.
But there’s a huge upside: Many teachers have used social media to share best practices, provide an authentic audience for student work, cultivate digital citizenship among their students, and build more connected school communities. Any risks to student privacy can be managed with informed, intentional use.
So, if you’re looking to take the plunge—or already have—review this non-exhaustive list of dos and don’ts for protecting privacy and setting a responsible example of safe sharing in your classroom.
Establish Transparent, FERPA-Compliant Policies
Do locate and review your school or district’s social media guidelines. Everything you might do hinges on the existing policies—including an acceptable-use policy. So check those first.
Do use parental consent/opt-out forms. If you’re planning on sharing activities in your classroom, acquire parental consent. You can also advocate to have your school use detailed opt-out forms for more explicit parental control.
Don’t start using social media in your classroom without guidelines or consent forms. Instead, contact the people who can help set them up, and get them in place.
Best Practices for Privacy
Do consider creating a separate account for professional use. It will save you a lot of headache later.
Do review the privacy settings on any personal social media accounts. For instance, set your personal Twitter account to “Protected” so only those who follow you can access your tweets. Dive into Facebook’s privacy controls. Note, however, that Facebook’s privacy settings are really about visibility of your information to other users. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms can still see everything, and, in some cases, third-party apps you connect to through social media get special access as well.
Do use photo-editing tools on your phone or tablet. These can help you quickly crop or obscure sensitive parts of an image before posting.
Do explain to students what they’ll be doing. Let them know the what, when, and how they’ll be using social media, and facilitate a discussion about the why—both the benefits and the risks. Get students’ feedback, and encourage them to talk to you privately if they have more sensitive concerns about their pictures or personal information making it out into the world. It goes without saying, but respect each student’s wishes.
Do walk around your classroom and look for any visible student or class information. If you’re a teacher, you probably have a lot of stuff on the walls and whiteboards of your room, which could include sensitive information, from logins and passwords to student names, class codes for apps, and grades. Take an inventory of everything in your room and either remove these postings or keep them out of any media you record.
Do take an inventory of your digital files and folders. How are you organizing students’ digital records on your computer and/or any shared computers you have? Make sure information is only accessible to the appropriate parties.
Protect Students’ Personally Identifiable Information and Confidentiality
Before we get into the dos and don’ts of students’ personally identifiable info, there are three important questions to ask yourself before you post:
Is there anything personally identifiable in this post?
Do I have explicit permission to post it?
Is what I’m posting furthering students’ learning?
Those questions will get you a long way.
Don’t share students’ faces or names without explicit, parental consent. Unless you’ve made some arrangement with parents and students, always make sure that students’ faces and names are obscured. Watch out for reflections.
Do be mindful of how your posts commercialize your classroom. Social media can be a great way to offer feedback to developers of educational products, but consider how posts about products that include your students can make them nonconsensual spokespeople.
Do look out for name tags and jerseys. It’s easy to overlook these disclosures of students’ names.
Don’t make any grades, assessments, or any other part of a student’s educational record public. This is a core part of FERPA and casts a wide net. If in doubt about something that might count, don’t share. Pay particular attention to how you reply to publicly posted student work.
Don’t forget that handwriting is personally identifiable information. A lot of what FERPA considers personally identifiable is pretty commonsense (names, addresses, student ID numbers), but you should know that FERPA protects biometric data as well, including handwriting.
Do closely review any picture you share before posting. Avoid instantly sharing any picture or video you take. Take some time to look closely at what you’ve recorded, ideally on a bigger screen than a phone or, at least, by zooming in and looking closely at everything that’s visible. You’ll be surprised at what you catch (for example, student names on worksheets, classroom passwords on Post-its, and profile information on a computer monitor).
Don’t use students’ names when naming files. It’s not just what’s inside the picture or artifact you share but how that file is titled or contextualized that could disclose students’ information (for example, “JasminePhillips_01.jpg”).
Do turn off location services for your phone when taking pictures. Many phone or tablet cameras, including those on iPhones and iPads, have a setting that can attach location data to pictures you take. On iOS devices, you can go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services to modify these settings for your camera as well as other apps. This provides another step of anonymity when you’re sharing media from your classroom.
Not Quite Ready to Go Public?
Do use a classroom-only tool such as a learning management system to share safely, and build your classroom’s digital citizenship skills. You and your students can practice sharing work, participating in conversations, and connecting with an audience using an LMS that allows for media-rich, private sharing and commenting between students and teachers.
Check out the Common Sense Education Protect Students’ Data and Privacy page for curated, classroom-ready resources for using tech critically and responsibly.
This article was written by Tanner Higgin from Common Sense Education in collaboration with Edutopia.
Noble Elementary School was one of two elementary schools in the Robbinsdale (MN) School District to pilot the Reading Plus program during the 2016-2017 academic year. See and hear about the results the school achieved.