Monday, July 30, 2012

Using Technology to Enhance Dialogue

Using Technology to Enhance Dialogue

by Jenny McFerin, OSU Literacy Collaborative Trainer

Just the other day, my children (Abby and Connor), along with my niece (Quinn), were playing. They started off playing school. During their play I noticed how they were effortlessly using their electronic devices to enhance the learning at ‘school’. For the announcements, the principal had her iPad which helped her give the weather report. The teacher used the iPod to create a list of assignments the class would have to complete. The student used the iPod to research ocean animals (the area of focus for the day). Then, something happened at ‘school’. Everyone scattered, each with an electronic device in hand…one upstairs, one downstairs, and one outside. The conversations were deep and engaging. From iPod to iPad they discussed via video chatting how exactly this problem at school would get solved. Once the issue was resolved, the electronics went by the wayside and they came together for lunch and finished their ‘day at school’.   Later that night, I read this exchange that took place between Quinn and Abby:

Quinn:   I miss u!

Abby: I miss you to

Abby: Can I fas tim you

When we think of opportunities for talk in the classroom we traditionally use talk in whole group, small group, triads, or partners. Nothing can replace looking eye to eye and speaking. Children need to learn how to engage and be social with peers and adults.   

Children also need to learn how to appropriately use technology. Consider the power of conversation and engagement when technology can be used. 

As you prepare to welcome a new class of students into your classroom, how might you use technology to enhance dialogue?

Monday, July 16, 2012

That's Why It's Called Teaching

That's Why It's Called Teaching
By Wendy Sheets, Intermediate Literacy Trainer 

The sun shone brightly on the waves and the shouts and laughter amid the fishermen could be heard as we walked onto the long concrete jetty that stretched into the ocean. My husband and I were visiting my parents in Florida and had crossed the hot sand to reach the pier at Sebastian Inlet Park. Among the many fishermen, there was a boy around age 14, who was busy with the work of fishing. As we stood there enjoying the sunshine, the breeze, and the contented manatees far below us, I couldn't help but keep an eye on the assiduous young fisherman. Wearing just shorts, his bronze back was evidence of his frequent trips to the salty waters to pursue this love of his. He skillfully maneuvered his pole, carefully baiting and casting into the swells of lapping waters. When he spotted three large stingrays swimming in the distance, he quickly changed his bait to begin a judicious mission. We watched with wonder as he pursued his catch, much like an adrenaline-filled predator seeking his prey. Through his determination, he managed to hook one of those stingrays, and thus began the process of working him in. Tenacity took the lead and inexperience fled as the young man patiently pulled just a bit at a time, slowly fatiguing the thrashing stingray. I watched with interest as he worked and waited with tired muscles, determined to win the battle as time slipped away. Rubbing his arms, he asked another man to briefly take the pole before returning to his task. The weary stingray, after a lengthy time, pulled under the jetty with a final burst of zeal, and the line snapped, leaving the boy's pole disappointingly empty. I felt a sense of loss, sorry for the young man who had endured so long. Upon turning to look at me, he smiled and shrugged, proclaiming, "That's why it's called fishing. It's not called catching."

As I reflected upon that experience, I thought about how much it was like our work with those we teach, children or adults. Like that boy, we must be determined and dedicated, committed to our work. We are excited and filled with anticipation and fortitude as we observe progress, moving slowly, but always maintaining a sense of urgency. Basking in the sun is always a pleasure, but when the work needs done, we roll up our sleeves, knowing we have an important mission.  When dealing with "a struggler," we must be willing to have patience, coming alongside and lifting for as long as it takes, expending great amounts of energy, sometimes even pausing to reflect and massage our sore muscles. When progress comes slowly, we may have to reach out for help from a more expert other, someone who can bear the weight better than us at that moment. We give it our all, never retreating to throw in the towel, not willing to lose our fight. We remember that learning is a journey, and we have an ever-important job to do. That's why it's called teaching.