Monthly Archives: May 2013

Teaching and Learning From Each Other

Image for Teaching and Learning entryWhen it comes to integrating technology into teaching and learning, I have come to realize that we have to teach each other.  Teachers must become learners, and students must become teachers. I was reminded of this simple but powerful concept during recent visits to Gennifer Birk’s fifth grade classroom in Olpe, Kansas. Gennifer and her students graciously let me be an observer during several writing sessions as they worked through a project in which students designed an invention intended to help people. The project entailed brainstorming ideas, organizing and planning, drawing, writing, and creating, all of which were done using technology.  Throughout the school year, these students have been part of a one-to-one iPad initiative. By the time I visited them in May, the students had much experience with using technology to facilitate the writing process; of course, however, there is always more to learn. And with the ever-changing nature of technology, it’s a challenge to keep up with all there is to know. In fact, it’s impossible!  We must rely on each other when it comes to figuring things out. Gennifer’s students had been taught to ask their shoulder partner first, when they encountered a technology stumbling block; then they would take the question to the other members of their table group. If they still needed assistance, they would call on their teacher, Gennifer. At times, it was Gennifer who needed help with a technology challenge, and she turned to her students first. During these exchanges, it was clear that the classroom atmosphere promoted the idea that all are learners and teachers. I was even in on the learning act when Gennifer and two students huddled around an iPad, helping me figure out how to convert a Keynote presentation into a PowerPoint and send it in an email.

A personal-learning network is a collection of resources, whether they be people or visual tools (such as a blog or video) that meet a person’s learning needs. Consider the people and resources who comprise your own personal-learning network. I have added Gennifer and her students to my personal-learning network.  Maybe this summer break is a good time to add to your own learning network.

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading

“Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap” edited by Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, published by the International Reading Association.

Unfortunately for many students, summer brings a significant achievement loss due to lack of summer reading. In a new book titled Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap, authors Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen (2013) state that summer reading loss accounts for roughly 80% of the rich/poor reading achievement gap.

Poor children do not read because they have much more restricted access to books at home and in their communities (Neuman & Celano, 2012). However, in a recent study we demonstrated that simply providing children from low income families with self-selected books for summer reading eliminated summer reading loss and spurred reading gains comparable to those experienced by middle class children (Allington, McGill-Franzen, Camilli, et al., 2010) (p. 10).

In the following video, Richard Allington talks about excellent teachers and summer reading loss.

Fortunately, teachers can take several steps to alleviate summer reading loss.

  • Distribute books to children from low-income families. There are many ways to find funding for purchasing books to give to children to read over the summer such as those listed here.
  • Let children choose the books they read over the summer. Self-selection is a powerful motivator. Read this blog post by fourth grade teacher Colby Sharp on how he used a “speed dating” approach to help students find books they wanted to read over the summer
  • Provide information to parents about summer reading opportunities at the local library and encourage students to participate. Scholastic also has a summer reading challenge.
  • Provide opportunities for students to discuss books with each other through online book discussions. Read this blog post about how one school used the social media site Edmoto for summer reading book discussions.




Allington, R., McGill-Franzen, A. (2013). Summer reading: Closing the rich/poor reading achievement gap. Newark: IRA.


Allington, R., McGill-Franzen, A., Camilli, G., Williams, L., Graff, J., Zeig, J., Zmach, C. & Nowak, R. (2010). Addressing summer reading setback among economically disadvantaged elementary students. Reading Psychology, 31(5), 411–427.


Neuman, S. B., & Celano, D. C. (2012). Giving our children a fighting chance: Poverty, illiteracy, and the development of information capital. New York: Teachers College Press.

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Teaching with Technology—When a Sticky Note Won’t Do

A colleague recently poked his head into my office and asked if we could chat for a quick minute. On his way to an administrative meeting, he was hoping to find out how our faculty integrates technology into their teaching, and could I please tell him about what I do. As I launched into my description, he soon stopped me, in search of a sticky note and pen so he could write things down. I struggled with the best way to describe the vivid, rich, and sometimes frustrating technology experiences from our class in a way that could be condensed to fit on a 3” x 3” sticky note. Instead, I said something like this:

Integrating technology into my college teaching isn’t just something that I do and it’s not a list of tools, activities, or websites. For me, it’s a way of thinking that emphasizes access to information through reading, listening and viewing, the creation of multimodal products individually and with others, and the sharing of ideas with those near and far. If you want something to share at your meeting that can fit on a sticky note, use the words consume, create, collaborate, and share. All of the ways we integrate technology center around these ideas.

Technology isn’t something we do in class—it’s a way of thinking that permeates our instruction. For each of us, the integration of technology happens at a different pace, and with various tools, depending on our own comfort level and teaching style, and the learning needs of our students. A sticky note or a five-minute presentation at a meeting cannot begin to explain the ways technology can be used in teaching, nor can it do justice to the many hours needed outside of class to learn about and try out technology tools—I  think it would take a novel!


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How-To Videos for Your Students

Ebooks and digital resources may still be new to your students and using them in the classroom and at home to study might seem a little daunting.

We have created  short How-To Videos for iPad and for PC (see the links below) to help your students familiarize themselves with the tools, technology, and navigation in Teaching the Language Arts. The videos will make the transition from a traditional textbook to this new multimedia digital book easy for you and your students.


PCs & Laptops

Share the links to these videos with your students and help them get the most out of this book! You can also direct them to these videos in the front matter of the book.

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