Friday, January 21, 2011

New Literacies Tools

Some of you may be interested as I am in the "new literacies". Our new Curriculum Framework places a greater emphasis than ever before on student and teacher use of media and educational technologies. I have explored the use of "cool tools" with some of my colleagues. At first I was intrigued by all the possibilities. Then I began asking, so what? How do these tools lead to better instruction and more powerful learning? I have found some intriguing answers.

This week I was following up with a school district on a workshop that had been presented several months ago. I wanted to connect the learning from the first workshop to mine. I took all of the text from the Power Point slides from October and copied it into Wordle . Some of you may know and use Wordle. If not, Wordle takes a text, jumbles all the individual words, and makes those that have been used the most, large, bold, and colorful. I displayed the wordle from the first workshop and asked the participants to use the 5 - 6 largest words to write a 1 - 2 sentence summary of the content of the first workshop. It was amazing! The summaries instantly crystallized the essence of the work that had been done, setting the context for continuing the work. This was much more interesting than having me go over the highlights again. Try it with students as a way of accessing background on a new subject or as a way of summarizing a lesson or a unit. I am sure that you will invent even more ways to use Wordle and if you do, please share them.

Another tool that I have shared with teachers recently is e-Pals Global Community . Again, some of you may already be members, however, I especially like the idea of having classes with a particular population of English Learners correspond with a class whose students speak the same 2-3 languages. So, for instance a class with a population that speaks Portuguese and English can pair with a class in Portugal or Brazil where students are practicing the same languages. At the site, teachers put up a short description of their classes and which languages the students speak. No correspondence is sent until it is approved by the teacher. This project can be a class correspondence or teachers can set up individual secure accounts for their students. Any of us who have set up pen pals for our classes over the years know how motivating the experience can be, even for reluctant readers and writers.

Since we have been talking a lot about the new Curriculum Framework, I have created a wall at Wallwisher . This is a site where colleagues can post comments and questions on a particular subject. I invite you to visit and post a message. Please reply to the question posted on that wall.

So far, all of the tools that I have used have been free. They are resources for teachers and students and there are many more. In addition, WGBH provides lots of resources for teaching and learning. I hope you are taking full advantage of Teachers Domain and Annenberg Learning.

We have been told that our students are digital natives but I don't think any of us are complete strangers to the exciting and inviting world that the Internet and New Literacies present with every passing day.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Literacy Framework

In December the Boards of Education voted to accept the revised recommendations for additions to the Common Core Standards that were adopted in July. Once all of the recommendations were approved and voted on, the new document became our Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy.

While we now have all the pieces in place, those pieces must be integrated and the final form sent off to the copy editor for printing. Once the final version has been assembled, it will be available electronically at our ESE website. In his memo of December 10, 2010, Commissioner Chester outlines the history of the process, provides a summary of the public comment on the proposed additions, indicates other relevant additions such as a glossary, updated guiding principles, and updated author lists, and explains a process for moving from the current MCAS to an assessment using the new standards. At the end of the memo, he enclosed the then draft of the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy. You may access these documents at .

I have heard from several districts that they want to begin working on or planning for the implementation of the new Framework. In the Office of Literacy and Humanities we have begun working on tools to support Massachusetts' educators in learning about and implementing the new Framework. Our colleagues in the Math Office are doing similar work. We hope to have some tools ready by the end of January. Sometime in the summer we plan to bring groups of teachers and others together to work on models of curriclum guides and maps. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, I suggest you read Appendix A available at . In it you will find explanations of the research that informed development of the Common Core Standards, information on text complexity, and the ways that Lexile levels will be increased to meet the increasing demands of reading and writing in the 21st Century. I found much of it very interesting and enlightening and I think that eventually districts may want all teachers to have the background knowledge that Appendix A provides. I believe that it will be helpful in understanding how instruction will need to change in order to meet the expectations for student independence and proficiency that the new standards require.

This is truly an opportunity for all of us to work together on behalf of all of the students in the Commonwealth.