Further questioning of our students revealed a limited understanding of the literary devices used by the author. By and large, many students were not able to deconstruct these general literary devices. Formidably we launched an initiative called ‘Into the Text. Our goal was to have students recreate the text in their minds, as if they were watching a movie. To be immersed in the scene to a point where they almost hear the sounds, and see the imagery surrounding them, to hear the narrative out loud in their heads.
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No one loves being laughed at for sure but I love being a sesquipedalian. Laughable right, I love big words. I once had a friend, emphasis on the word had, he’d laugh and poke fun at me mainly because of my clumsy attempts at pronunciation. Simply put, saying more with less appeals to my nature. Often when reading I’ll have a dictionary handy, depending on the type of book, in order to quickly flick up a meaning or two. I see my students struggling with the concept, understanding words in context and so it was with delight when I found this sweet web app from one of my favorite educational blogger, Larry Farlazzo. It is one of the few web apps that I see students using even when they are not required to, reinforcing its value. LINGRO, is a superb interactive web app that works within the web page itself. Open the website Lingro, take the url of the page that you are reading and simply plug it in. Your webpage then opens perfectly embedded in Lingro. There is no discernable difference, aside from the Lingro banner at the top of the page. The added dimension occurs when you click on a word that you may not understand. A definition of the word pops up on the page. Should a word within the definition be unknown you can also click on the word for a definition within the definition. Try it out it works a like a gem.
Lingro Start Screen
Okay, I love digital tools, messing around and creating junk. In fact I almost believe that I have a few shades of creativity after a messing around with graphic design projects over the last few years. Manipulating and enhancing images has become a little pass time for me. Occasionally, I delve into making little movie clips, usually reflecting sporting passions or my kids, although this is less frequent than it used to be, just because moving making is the one of the Venus fly traps of the digital world in which time is warped to a distorted ratio of 60:1; sixty minutes to create and produce one quality minutes worth of viewing.
Because of this natural bent, digital tools have always been part of my class room learning and teaching repertoire, enhancing and enabling learning experiences for my students. Obviously, over the years the complexity of these learning experiences, that simply use digital tools, has increased. One of the latest changes that I have begun to use again this year is a chat feature.
Lately, we have been working through a class novel, with learning experiences designed to take students in to a deeper engagement within the text, identifying and discussing the authors’ message. Students are required to substantiate their claims with references to actual text. As you can imagine, this type of reading scenario does not compare well with the ‘read for enjoyment’ mentality that these guys have. So I opened up a chat session the other day. Wham bammed the students in to small reading level groups and had them create a quick presentation on some themes and focus questions. They could chat with their group and formulate a presentation of ideas. At the same time I projected the entire chat transcript in real time for all the class to see. It was interesting to see that massive shift in whole class participation. Everyone was discussing themes and focus question answers within their group while at the same time keeping an eye and orally responding to comments and answers of other groups as they were noticed popping up on the screen. Finally, each group presented and conducted a class discussion on their area of focus. Overall, I thought that the level of active engagement was pretty high and the students seemed to be a little more energized by the process. I am going to do it again and see how it compares to the first time. Maybe it was just the novelty factor who knows.
Next time, however, I am thinking that I will tweak the requirement ever so slightly. Once students begin presenting I will open the whole class chat option, so that people can fire off questions as they strike them. The danger I see in doing this though is that they will be absorbed in creating the question instead of tuning in to the next part of the presentation to see if their question is actually answered. Still, I guess that doesn’t matter too much.
Here is a collection of sites that we used with 5th grade students last year to help them develop their web saavy. The megawhoosh is way cool, I am sure that it is true .
Here is a great site for developing your web search skills. Check it out. The course costs 25 bucks but I thought it was worth it.
Hearing, “I think I might skype Ellie when I get home Mommy”, created one of those moments. You know the ones when we hear, feel or see something that momentarily pauses our world. Pausing worlds occur when we personally encounter something of magnitude, personal magnitude. It occurred when my daughter, bless her beautiful heart, figured that she would simply skype a friend that she was missing, who had moved to Shanghai during the vacation. Not worthy of a world stopper you think? The thing is that at three she has just entered pre-kindergarten. It didn’t stop her brother’s world, without missing a beat he popped off, ‘Cool idea, I’ll help you when we get home’. Her grandmother was relegated to peels of laughter at the absurdity of the conversation, so why the difference in impact you’re thinking? Truthfully, I didn’t get it at the time. After hearing the comment and brief ‘moment’ I joined my mother’s laughter. You see for me, though I frequently skype, being able to see someone when I phone them is still innately part of that pseudo science fiction world encountered in entertainment. For my daughter and her brother, being able to see someone when you talk to them on the phone is part of her real world, and a natural and fair assumption.
Prensky’s concept of digital natives and immigrants has always bothered me. C’mon being born in an ‘era’ doesn’t automatically grant you additional intuition and extend your facets in a particular field does it? Let me back up for a moment. Back in 2001, based on his observations, Mark Prensky coined the phrase ‘Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants’, people born before and after the advent of the computer, those born after the computer age, growing up with computing technology, view things differently. In comparison digital immigrants are those born before the computing age and adopt new behaviors that incorporate the ‘new’ common technologies. Importantly, the defining point between the two groups occurs in comparison. Immigrants, like me, have comparisons. Can you remember what it was like before? You get the picture. Let’s go back to the moment though and wonder, what if I had popped out the response ‘Well, why don’t we call her?’ or, ‘Shall we send her a letter?’ I bet the answer would have been ‘But I won’t be able to see her, Daddy’, bringing us to a further defining point their expectations and assumptions and possibly a turning point in my thinking.
Sitting in class today, I heard a further drilling down of Prenskys concept by Jeff Utecht to ‘internet native’ not a quantum leap for sure but it joins some dots. Personally, I don’t see this innate ability difference between those born before the advent of computing technology and those after. In fact, I usually find that immigrants are much more likely to problem solve and explain a process, and complete a tech related task than those termed ‘native’. Give them a wireless modem and ask them to create a network they are just as stupefied as the rest of us. Bring on the net; put this in to the equation and bam, a staggering generational difference.
Internet natives may be defined as those born after 1991; however the ‘true’ internet only began with Napster and MySpace. Truly, the first mass social networking site and file sharing monoliths define the internet generation. This really took off around 2003 making those kids who have grown up with these things around 7 or so. That happens to be my kids. They’re used to having grandma or grandpa comment on a snap of them taken and uploaded a few seconds ago; to vicariously living captured moments through youtube; to meeting Mum & Dad’s friends in real life having first interacted via their parent’s Facebook. Kids, who have never entered a ‘music store’, but ‘have’ a personal music library. This is the net generation the true ‘digital natives’ and those of us who ‘remember’ the way we used to interact, when conversations revolved around recounting catch ups, marvel at the ability to propagate our moments and explode them to friends worldwide, are the immigrants. That’s me, dang it all and now it bothers me for a different reason. It defines and clearly puts me in the previous generation, making it time to wake up and smells the coffee, those lines are no longer sleep lines made by my pillow.