Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Technology Lifeline

In the television game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” contestants answer a series of multiple choice questions in an attempt to win $1,000,000. Contestants have the option to use a lifeline if stumped by a question. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a reliable lifeline when stumped by a question, especially one related to technology?

In this blog I have been chronicling our Elementary Education department’s move to require students to bring an iPad to class this fall. Our goal is to prepare our teacher candidates to learn and teach using technology. We are presently on our second week of the semester. As might be expected, students (and faculty) have experienced many emotions over the past few weeks, ranging from excitement, to curiosity, to frustration. Some students seem thrilled to be using the same technology they learned with in high school, or happy to be on the cutting edge in teacher preparation. On the other hand, some students show great hesitancy and even emotional stress at the thought of learning with technology. Many students are quickly realizing their vast knowledge of social networking, smartphones, and texting will be only minimally helpful in this new learning environment.

Our iPad initiative team was hard at work all summer preparing what we call “Connection Point,” a collection of resources that serve as a lifeline to novice iPad users. We want students to know we offer a variety of tools to help them learn about using their device. These resources include:

  • kick-off orientations.
  • online tutorials with self-assessment quizzes and badges for successful completion.
  • a face-to-face iPad help station in the Education building for the first two weeks of the semester.
  • a series of mini-workshops once a month presenting various apps.
  • the formation of informal iPad user groups that meet weekly.

Overall we are pleased with the ways students have utilized these resources, although we would like to have seen all students immediately take advantage of at least one of these lifelines.

As the semester is now underway, we have noticed that the students are beginning to use each other as lifelines, recognizing one of the more subtle goals of our initiative: the value of learning together.

Do you have a lifeline for technology issues that stump you? If not, cultivating a go-to resource, whether it’s phoning a friend or asking your own students, can be a technology lifesaver.

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Got A Minute for Nonfiction?

Many teachers around the country have ramped up their use of nonfiction in the classroom due to the Common Core State Standards. Even teachers who have always included nonfiction in their reading/language arts instruction have found the need to increase their students’ exposure to nonfiction.

Nonfiction is very different today than it was when many teachers were growing up. The use of archived materials and high resolution photographs has transformed the visual aspects that kids are so drawn to and the writing is no longer stuffy and boring. The new nonfiction is exciting, interesting, engaging, and makes kids wants to learn more. However, it can be difficult to stay

This is where Interesting Nonfiction for Kids (I.N.K.) comes in. I.N.K. is a blog started by several authors of children’s and young adult nonfiction (currently 27 authors contribute posts to the I.N.K. blog). The authors take turns posting about their writing – topics, research, the writing process – which gives readers insight into the very interesting world of creating nonfiction. Kids can connect to nonfiction authors just as passionately as they do with fiction authors! Reading and responding to nonfiction authors’ posts about their writing can encourage young readers to try writing their own nonfiction and to spark ideas for their own research.

Another helpful site, the i.N.K. Think Tank, houses a database of nonfiction books linked to the CCSS (free login required), video trailers of new nonfiction books, author interviews and profiles, podcasts of authors discussing specific topics, and information on how to videoconference with nonfiction authors.


Now, the authors at I.N.K. offer a new resource for teachers: The Nonfiction Minute. The premise is that a nonfiction author will create a podcast that is no longer that 2–3 minutes on a topic about which he or she has written. The text of the podcast is included on the post. Teachers can start the day with the Nonfiction Minute and invite kids to discuss the topic and think about their own inquires.

A really exciting activity would be for students to create their own Nonfiction Minute using free audio recording software already available on most computers or using programs such as SoundCloud or Vocaroo. After listening to several weeks or even months of Nonfiction Minutes created by nonfiction authors, students could discuss the important aspects of creating their own podcasts: engaging and interesting topics, what to say about the topic in 2– 3 minutes (a summary? a hook? leave them wanting more?), use of prosody to convey meaning and engage the listener.

The Nonfiction Minute site will not officially launch until the fall, but several examples are available now. Every day a new nonfiction minute will be posted to the site.

The authors at I.N.K have given teachers and students great resources for finding quality nonfiction books and for learning more about topics, the authors, and their writing process. If you use any of the I.N.K. resources in your classroom, please consider sharing the ways you and your students use them.

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