‘A Child’s Relationships with Technology’

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Students Visit Other Countries – Without Leaving NZ from RNZ, 23 June 2017

High school students in New Zealand are piloting a virtual reality foreign language app. They can visit other countries and learn languages without leaving New Zealand.

When ELA Tools Can’t Adapt to Students’ Native Language by Jen Curtis, EdSurge, 29 June 2017

Curtis looks at some of the issues involved in creating translated online materials for English language learners. She focuses on Spanish/English and the difficulties of translation between these two linguistically different languages. Edtech companies are trying a variety of solutions, but even with good translations, there can be problems. Sometimes the level in the translated version may be beyond that of the original English text. Another issue is that some learners may not be literate in Spanish despite being Spanish speakers. Some online platforms have decided that good support in English is more useful than translations that may not be accessible to learners.

Navigation of Computer-Based Tests Matters for Young Students, Study Finds by Benjamin Herold, Education Week, 30 Apr. 2017

Herold reports on a research study conducted by American Association for the Advancement of Science, which found that while high school and college students showed no significant difference, elementary and middle school learners did not perform as well on computer-based tests that did not allow them to “skip, review and change previous responses” as they did on computer-based tests that do allow this and on paper-pencil tests.

The Role of Relationships in Children’s Use of Technology by Jeremy Boyle, The Fred Rogers Center, 23 Feb. 2017

Boyle looks at how the conversation about children and technology has shifted from whether children should use it to how they use it. Since the Fred Rogers Center focuses on relationships, Boyle makes the connection to a child’s relationships with technology and with other people.

English on the Internet, Game-based Learning, Kids’ Coding

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English is losing its status as the universal language of the Internet by Leanna Garfield at Tech Insider 1/3/16

Leanna Garfield makes the point that the presence of the English language on the Internet is dropping from about 80% in the mid-1990s to about 45% today. She proposes that translation tools and a greater web presence by other languages “could create a more democratic web in the future.”

Other interesting stats: “Chinese, the most widely spoken language, makes up just 2.1% of the internet. The world’s second most widely spoken language, Spanish, encompasses 4.8% of the web. Hindi, spoken by 260 million people, makes up less than 0.1% of the internet.”

Game-Based Learning Has Practical Applications for Nontraditional Students by Marguerite McNeal at EdSurge 1/20/16

McNeal reports on a study, “The Potential for Game-based Learning to Improve Outcomes for Nontraditional Students,” which focused on whether game-based learning helped nontraditional students improve outcomes. One finding of the study is that game-based learning is more effective when it is part of an integrated curriculum, not just as a stand-alone strategy.

A Kids’ Coding Expert Says We’re Making Computer Class Way Too Boring by Anya Kamenetz at nprED 12/11/15

Schools in the UK and Australia want to expand kids’ use of computers to go beyond fun and games in the classroom. Michael Resnick, head of Lifelong Kindergarten Group, associated with MIT’s Media Lab, says that “Coding is not just a set of technical skills. It’s a new way of expressing yourself. It’s similar to learning to write — a way for kids to organize, express and share ideas. But instead of putting words into sentences, now they can create animated stories.” He cautions, however, that what schools are doing is too simplistic to the point of being boring. “Many popular apps for teaching programming are structured more like games, with a simple set of instructions to reach a predefined outcome.”

Making Literacy More Personal for Kids

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

Research has shown that a key to developing language skills, for the native speaker and for the English language learner, is reading. A home filled with books is a home filled with readers. That was certainly the case in my experience. My first “literacy” memories are the favorite stories that my father, very patiently, told me over and over and over. One of my earliest “reading” memories is going to the library with him and selecting my own book to read, Horton Hears a Who. Of course, I couldn’t read it myself, but it was “my” book. As I became a reader, I started acquiring books, some of them through a children’s book club. I remember how excited I was when “my” book arrived in the mail.

Susan Frey, in “Study Says Reading Aloud to Children, More Than Talking, Builds Literacy” (EdSource, 8 July 2015), focuses on a research project by Dominic Massaro at the University of California. Massaro says that “[r]eading aloud is the best way to help children develop word mastery and grammatical understanding” because the written word tends to follow these conventions more closely than speech. He goes on to say that we tend to be lazy when we speak using simplified forms and vocabulary.

Then, in “Making Reading Your Own” (Language Magazine, Sep. 2015), Todd Brekhus makes the point about the importance of “making literacy more personal to kids.” For the 21st century reader, he encourages the development of a digital library. He points out that one advantage of a digital library is the technological tools that are not available with hard-copy books, including opportunities for collaboration. He supports the use of interactive digital texts with English Language Learners, which can build literacy skills and reader confidence.

How do you use books and digital texts with your students, or even your children?

Literacy, Bullying, North Korea

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Literacy Through Photography for English-Language Learners by Tabitha Dell’Angelo in Edutopia (12/1/14)
The author explores the link between imagery and language and promotes a broader definition of literacy.

Digital literacy an elementary skill by Ellen Ciurczak in The Clarion-Ledger (11/30/14)
The teachers at Petal Upper Elementary School believe that you can’t start too early teaching students how to acquire a variety of skills using computers, from Internet safety to keyboarding skills.

A valuable lesson on bullying in observer-reporter.com (11/30/14)
Bullying and cyber-bullying are serious problems that many young people have to deal with.  Elissa McCracken, Miss Ohio 2012, chose cyberbullying as the issue she would focus on during her term because she was a victim of bullying herself.

North Korea’s Cyber Skills Get Attention Amid Sony Hacking Mystery by Elise Hu at NPR All Tech Considered (12/4/14)
A rather bizarre hacking story related to Sony, North Korea, and the soon-to-be released movie, The Interview.

Video Games, Smartphones, Language Learning, Technology and Learning

lynnz_col2Playing High-Action Video Games May Speed Up Learning, Studies Say by Sarah D. Sparks in Education Week 11/13/14
Sparks reports on a study in the December issue of Human Movement Science that contradicts earlier research which connects extensive video game play to attention-deficit disorders and other impulsiveness disorders. The authors contend that “game playing can improve students’ attention control” and create better learners.

Smartphone addicts: A project-based learning activity by Alexandra Lowe in TESOL blog 11/5/14
Lowe describes how she used the idea of a Smartphone survey to move English language use outside the classroom. In groups students developed and conducted surveys about Smartphone use.

Learning languages is a workout for brains, both young, old by Victoria M. Infivero from Science Daily 11/12/14
Using MRI scans, researchers at Penn State have demonstrated that even the adult brain grows and changes when learning a new language. They are also using “virtual 3-D-like environments with situation-based learning to help the brain make some of those new connections more effectively.”

Report Urges Caution on Approaches Equating Technology in Schools with Personalized Learning by William J. Mathis and Noel Enyedy,  from NEPC 11/24/14
This policy brief addresses the increased use of technology in schools and questions its effectiveness. The authors point to a number of factors, including the fact that teaching practices and learning outcomes often have not changed.

Global Literacy XPRIZE Invites Comments

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

On Monday, September 22, the XPRIZE Foundation announced the Global Literacy XPRIZE in New York City. This newest XPRIZE may, in some ways, be more ambitious than the previously announced $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. It seeks to bring literacy to more than 300 million children who cannot read, write, or do arithmetic.

The XPRIZE Foundation, in the last part of its proposed rules, says, “At XPRIZE, we don’t believe that we have all the answers, but we believe passionately in inspiring and incentivizing people to find solutions to our Grand Challenges… But we want to hear from you… You can email us your feedback at global.learning@xprize.org…” This article summarizes my comments and should stimulate readers to provide theirs. If you have comments for the XPRIZE Foundation, please leave a reply here, in the discussion at the end of this article, for all of our readers to see. Likewise, should you have remarks about my comments, I would love to hear from you. The following comments are my own opinions informed by my own experiences. A good argument may well persuade me to change them. In any event, I look forward to an excellent discussion.

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Quickly summarizing the competition: Teams will compete to develop software solutions to learning literacy that can be applied worldwide using Android tablets with nearby servers. Literacy includes reading, writing, and numeracy. The language to be learned will be English. The software will be open source. The software and content, ready for trial in the real world, must be completed within 18 months of selection of the finalists. The overall time frame from announcement to final award is 4-1/2 years. Read the official guidelines for all details.

I’ll begin by praising the XPRIZE Foundation for this bold effort to eliminate illiteracy across the entire globe. Education may well be our most serious problem today because a well educated world (really educated and not just schooled) will address all of our other problems such as clean water, climate change, terrorism, poor nutrition, preventable disease, ocean health, renewable resources, and so on. The Foundation is approaching problems that others ignore or give up on but that must be solved. Their competitions to date have energized entrepreneurs and those with entrepreneurial spirit to attack serious, nearly intractable problems. The technologies being developed are likely to have an impact far removed from the competition in which they are created.

I think that the “Proposed Guidelines, V.1” for this Global Literacy XPRIZE competition, have a number of controversial parts and am highlighting the ones that I believe should be altered. While the comments below are intended to be constructive, they are also definite, blunt, and tough. I feel that they should be if they are to get any attention. The controversial parts I see are: open source, teaching English, writing, and the Android platform. I wrap up with two comments: a contrarian view and literacy as fire.

1. OPEN SOURCE

The rules require that the five finalists, each of whom receives $1 million dollars and a chance at the $10 million grand prize, place their software source code in open source. This requirement is unusual in XPRIZE competitions. I think that it creates problems. Here is what the guidelines say:

An essential component of the Competition design is a commitment not only to open source software solutions, but also to an open source development process. In order to maximize the potential for the growth of this solution beyond XPRIZE, the Finalist Entries will be released under permissive licenses allowing both commercial and non-commercial use.

Software must be released on the Apache License, 2.0. Content and assets must be licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY (4.0) license. In essence, all work must be made available to anyone anywhere for free. Anyone can use the sources to build a copy and load it onto tablets without paying any fee at all.  Continue reading

Free Reading and eReaders Can Raise Achievement

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

In Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post blog, Answer Sheet, guest writer Joanne Yatvin, in “Why Kids Should Choose Their Own Books to Read in School” (8 Sep. 2014), makes an impassioned defense of reading for pleasure. Yatvin is “a one time Principal of the Year in Wisconsin and a past president of the National Council of Teachers of English.” In today’s test-driven school climate, free reading has been replaced with reading that focuses on developing test-taking skills. Yatvin says, “Consumed by the urgency to raise students’ reading scores, policy makers and school officials have forgotten that children learn to read by reading.” She goes on to talk about balanced literacy and the benefits of independent reading.

Reading such as that needed for academic work and test taking definitely has a place in schools. Students develop analytical skills by reading for details. However, reading for pleasure and being able to choose your own reading materials also has a place in the classroom. Pleasure reading, also called extensive reading, promotes learner autonomy; improves general language competence, not just reading skills; helps students develop general knowledge; promotes vocabulary growth; helps improve writing; and motivates students to read more.

These claims are supported by research in literacy and in second language acquisition. One of the strongest proponents of free voluntary reading is Dr. Stephen Krashen who sees the importance of light reading as a bridge to more challenging reading. He also contends that not only does reading improve reading skills, it is also necessary for developing good writing skills.  Continue reading