Monday, February 23, 2009

Literacy Cycle

The concept of a Literacy Cycle to describe what is happening when eLearning is being fully integrated with the teaching of English began in 2007 at Pt England School when we were researching the impact of Podcasting with KPE on student learning outcomes in English. I was observing what was happening in the classrooms and met with teachers involved and together we co-constructed the idea of a literacy cycle to visually describe the process occuring. This was very much a work in progress and evolved as the teachers, particularly Sandy Lagitupu, provided feedback on what worked and how the Literacy Cycle could be improved to reflect actual practice.
We were quite over explaining to people that 'this is NOT an ICT project, this is a literacy project - a 21st century way of doing literacy!" There is no way that we are talking about throwing out effective practice that teachers have developed for the teaching and learning of literacy. We are simply saying that by using 21st century tools we can extend the value of the teaching, continue the learning beyond the completion of an exercise AND hope to hook kids into enjoying 'traditional' literacies. So we began looking at a way of depicting graphically what was happening in the classroom.The Literacy Cycle for podcasting with KPE as it is currently being used in Sandy's classroom is shown above.
English as it has been taught for centuries in many schools has been a linear process. For example, teaching writing progressed something like the diagram to the left. The key point of difference with the linear approach is that when the outcomes of the lesson are published ( and this may be by rewriting a 'good' copy, typing it up and stapling it to display on the wall or even publishing it on the school television programme) the book is shut, the print out dangles on the wall or the TV is turned off. That piece of learning concludes and we move on.

The Literacy Cycle concept has emerged from the opportunities offered by Web 2. We still desperately need quality English/Literacy teaching occuring in our schools as the foundation. But 21st Century students need opportunities to do something with the learning outcomes in their own language ie turn them into a digital learning object that they have created; a movie, an animation, a podcast, a funky slideshow etc. And then this digital learning object (DLO) can be shared online in a Web 2 environment where it can live on and on and on.... And it is here that more opportunities for engaging students in literacy learning can occur, through the threaded conversations and reflections posted in the associated comments.

In 2008 twelve teachers across the seven schools in our EHSAS cluster developed Literacy Cycles around the projects they were embarking on for Manaiakalani. The students involved ranged from 5 year olds to teenagers at high school. The project range is equally diverse. Each teacher identified the 'hook' they would be using with their students to motivate them and this is placed in the centre of the cycle (as can be seen in the movie below). The Literacy Cycles have brought coherence to a number of teachers who have previously struggled to clarify the convergence of eLearning and English without creating a whole new programme, and certainly without any suggestion of dispensing with researched and proven methods for teaching the foundations.
The projects mentioned above are being researched over a three year period and the interim findings of 2008 have been shown to us this week. In short, the students have continued to make progress. In fact a number of the projects have seen progress beyond the expected national norms. But of at least equal importance, a large group of students have had genuine 21st century learning experiences for at least one year and have become excited about their learning! More about this in another post...
We are very happy for the Literacy Cycle concept to be used by others who find it helpful. We would appreciate acknowledgement where appropriate that it began with the KPE podcast and Pt England School and has been further developed by the teachers of the Manaiakalani schools.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Twitter and Feedjit - let our powers combine!

There has been a bit of discussion online in the last 12 months about how to use Twitter in the classroom (presuming it is seen as a worthwhile education tool) and none of the suggestions I have read about have triggered any 'aha' response with me yet. Which is not to say there is anything wrong with what some people are doing, just that none of them have meshed with our situation. In the first week back at school for the 2009 year I had the opportunity to facilitate a powerful learning moment with some young students and their teacher. This teacher is starting out in her first ever teaching position with a class of 6 and 7 year olds in a school that has not embedded eLearning in a major way. So the kids in this class were real newbies in the Web 2 environment. The teacher set up a class blog and on their first day of school they co-created the first post and published it. It can be very mystifying to adults, let alone young students, as to 'why you would do this' and 'is there any possiblity it will even be read', amidst the millions of pages of exciting content available online. I had advised her to incorporate a Feedjit gadget into the sidebar of her blog as she was setting it up, to demonstrate to the students and parents that publishing in this way meant that their work had a chance of being read by people around the world. The authentic audience factor again! Of course this can back-fire miserably if you open your blog page with the kids and see that the only red dot on the map of the whole world is languishing in the bottom right hand corner on Auckland, New Zealand - and that visitor was probably your Mum! The next day I had a brainwave! I have often seen people on Twitter ask their network for a shout-out so they can demonstrate to their mates/their conference attendees/their boss how many people love them and follow their 140 character pearls of wisdom. This must make these adults feel great when they get the responses flooding in and presumably supports their objectives. I wondered if my Twitter network would respond in a similar way to support these kids and their fledgling blogging project. From this evolved the idea of combining the powers of Twitter and Feedjit. At 10 am the next morning, while the students were in class with their blog open to "FeedjitLive - Arrivals as they happen", I tweeted asking my network to simply click on the blog URL I supplied so the kids could see where in the world they came from. It was a bit of a challenge explaining the request on Twitter in 140 characters, and in class the students weren't told anything specific about Twitter. Well, the Twitter network came up trumps! The kids were simply wowed by watching the visual demonstration of 50+ people from around the world landing on their blog in the space of an hour. And some of those visitors (without having been asked) took an extra couple of minutes to leave a comment for the kids as they passed through. How cool is that for newbie bloggers? I'll paste a few of the comments the students wrote on their blog after this experience....
Dear visitors, Thank you for the lovely comments on our blog. Please keep on doing it because I like seeing the comments from different countries. From A
Dear Mum and Dad, Thank you for doing comments, you are now a commenter! Have you seen all the red dots there are on the map? It's so cool because people from overseas have seen our blog. I love being in Room 10.
Love from S.
Dear commenters, Thank you for commenting on our blog, thats very nice of you. I feel proud of me and the class. I like my blog. It is awesome. From X.

Thank you to all of you who responded to my tweet and provided a fun learning opportunity for some Year 3 kids and their beginning teacher. Their map went from only having visitors from Auckland to what you see on the left in an hour
Kia ora.

Download the pdf of the Feedjitlive screen after one hour

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Summer highlights

This post is not going to be a recount of what I got up to in the Summer holidays! There has been enough of that going on in schools this week as it is. It has been great to see teachers around the Manaiakalani cluster taking a 21st century approach to the old faithful first week back at school topic and using Voice thread, blogs, animations, Flickr, podcasts and other Web 2 tools to recap the past 6 weeks with the students. Some of this has started coming online already and more will be uploaded in the next week.
I want to draw your attention to a great idea Sarah at St Pius X had with her class of Year 7-8 students before they left at the end of last year. They all made a short MTV clip out in the corridor using 2 chairs as their basic props and Sarah released them one at a time over the Summer holidays on their class blog so the kids (and us) could be entertained and have good memories revived. Each of the links in this paragraph takes you to a different one. They achieved some great literacy results during the year through their involvement with the Maniakalani project and if you are interested, take a moment to flick back through earlier posts.
We are all looking forward to the approach they take in 2009 now they are confident in the Web 2 environment.