Educators today are facing two major shifts in education: a move to Common Core Standards and increasing pressure to teach with technology. In my new book, Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology, I provide educators with concrete strategies, creative lesson ideas and a wide range of technology tools to help them transition to the new set of standards.
Actively Reading Digital Texts
In Chapter 3, “The Reading Standards,” I highlight the importance of teaching students to actively read on paper and online. For years, I heard students lament, “Tucker, I never remember what I read” or “I just don’t understand what is happening in this book.” In response, I began to teach students how to annotate.
I provide students with strategies they can use to annotate the texts we read — literary and informational. I encourage them to identify and define unfamiliar vocabulary, underline words and phrases that reveal a central idea or theme, ask questions, make connections and underline poignant passages.
21st-century students who regularly read both paper and digital texts must transfer those classic pen-and-paper annotation strategies online. Students tend to skim online articles and texts without thinking deeply about what they are reading. However, as more information becomes available online, it’s critical that students know how to actively read digital texts.
In addition, students will be tackling the Smarter Balance Assessment and PARCC exams this year. To do well on these exams, they must have practice annotating digitally. If they have not been given the opportunity to regularly read and annotate complex texts online, they will not have the digital reading stamina or active reading skills necessary to do well on these Common Core-aligned exams. The more we ask students to read and annotate online, the more likely they are to feel confident and prepared for these new digital exams. Annotating also teaches students how to process and organize all of the information they read online, which is an increasingly important life skill.
Replacing Pen and Paper Notes with a Digital Multimedia Notebook
A growing number of students are walking around with little computers in their pockets. These devices take pictures, record video, capture audio clips and connect to the Internet, so why aren’t we using them in the classroom to document the work students do?
In Chapter 5, “Informative Writing,” I describe the benefits of replacing paper notebooks with digital multimedia notebooks using Blogger. I explain that “Paper notebooks are no longer the most efficient or practical way to capture, organize and save information. In a science class, a great deal of learning takes place in the lab. Students conduct experiments, document findings and analyze their results to draw conclusions. Using pen and paper to capture this complex information takes longer and fails to use the tools that many students have in their pockets.
“Imagine if students worked in lab groups with mobile devices to take pictures and videos of labs and experiments in progress. They could capture the steps of the procedure in pictures to better remember the colors, changes, and reactions. Short video clips of their work in the lab would be a more effective point of reference than a page of scribbled notes and figures. Mobile devices make it easy to write quick notes or capture voice memos to supplement the photos and video captured during a lab or experiment. Since most students do not write up reports in the classroom due to time constraints, documentation using various forms of media — pictures, video, and audio capture — would allow for a more detailed reflection of the process and results.”
This explanation of the benefits of using a digital notebook is followed soon after by a step-by-step explanation complete with screenshots of how to use Blogger to create a multimedia notebook that allows students to email or text media and notes directly to their digital notebooks.
Seeing the Beauty of Common Core
For me, the real beauty of Common Core is the common language it provides educators all over the nation. When combined with social media’s ability to connect teachers all over the country, this common language can be a catalyst for exciting changes in education. It creates wonderful opportunities to connect with, learn from and collaborate with educators nationwide to ensure that our students get the best education possible.