If you’ve attended a national conference like NCTE, you know how tricky it is to plan your daily schedule to maximize your conference experience and see all the speakers on your “must see” list. Especially at NCTE–many people I wanted to hear were scheduled for the same time slot and I had to make tough choices! Add to the mix Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Lights Festival where Michigan Avenue shuts down for half a day and my Saturday schedule of events suddenly became very difficult to plan. Luckily, I saw that Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisper, was presenting early Saturday evening and I decided to check out her session, We are Readers: Engaging Real Readers with Digital Texts and Tools.
I’ve been familiar with Donalyn and Franki Sibberson’s work for the past few years, but their copresenters, Sara Kajder and Teri Lesesne, were a treat to hear and people I’d love to get to know! This session was non-stop and I learned at least 40 new things that I was able to apply in my classroom the following week. Additionally, they helped me think deeply about how I engage my young readers with technology. A few of the session highlights:
Sara Kajder talked a lot about what real reading looks like right now. In her practice, it looks like a place where kids have choice in regards to the text they read and the type of device they prefer to use–book, iPad, kindle, etc. It’s a place where there’s lot of talk before and after reading. In this place, readers have access to materials that support reading and have space and time to make meaning. Additionally, readers share a path; they leave tracks of their thinking and make recommendations and plans for future reading.
When talking about technology and ways to enhance student learning, Kajder coined the word “school-ifying” meaning to create a multi-media project that is intended to replicate a task we do in school, but is not necessarily representative of the real world. For example, creating a Facebook profile for a book character on poster board. The intent of projects like that are good, but when we do that, we limit our students’ potential and fail to use technology to enhance learning. Instead, we must find ways to truly transform thinking, work products and resources with technology.
Franki Sibberson talked about the need for deep reading no matter what the format or tool. She suggested we need to continue to focus on comprehension and provide our students opportunities to see there is no one definitive place to obtain information. This hit home for me and I connected this idea to Stephanie Harvey’s work in comprehension–we really need to teach our kids how to THINK. Throughout the course of the week I heard speaker after speaker talk about creating a sense of agency, teaching curiosity, and providing students tools for finding answers to their questions. Hearing this reiterated by our leaders and instructional experts and then reflecting on the current state of education in our country, it seems clear to me that we know what we need to do to move forward and lay a path for the future; now we just need to do it system-wide.
Franki posed a brilliant question that still has me thinking, “Do our reading assignments give kids the wrong kind of message about the kinds of reading habits we value?” I think that I’m modeling reading habits that celebrate reading for enjoyment and for the joy of learning new information that I want to share with others. However, now I’m asking myself, what more can I do?
I can’t remember who shared these tips for choosing web tools, but I think they are very helpful. Tools should: 1. Provide authentic opportunity for student response. 2. Be preferably free–with the current state of school funding we should try to find things we know our students will have access to over time so they’re not learning a new system each year. 3. Provide student accessibility after the project ends. 4. Include teacher monitoring features.
Several great websites and apps were shared during this session. Here is a list of a few that I love:
Additionally, the presenters modeled their love for reading and made some fantastic book recommendations:
Now You See It, Cathy Davidson
Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Tools for the Classroom, Will Richardson
The Good, the Bad and the Barbie, Tanya Lee Stone
The Socially Networked Classroom, William Kist
P*Tag, Janet Wong
Readicide, Kelly Gallagher
Naked Reading: Uncovering What Tweens Need to Become Lifelong Readers, Teri Lesesne
Overall, this session was magnificent and if you ever have the chance to hear these ladies speak, don’t miss the opportunity! I took notes as fast as I could and I know there’s stuff that I missed or couldn’t absorb because there was great information being shared from start to finish. It was a remarkable experience. For more information, visit Franki Sibberson’s blog and view the NCTE slideshow here.
Overall, NCTE 2011 was a hit! I’m counting the days until next year in Las Vegas!