One of my goals for this 2018-2019 school year is to get back to blogging! I enjoyed blogging regularly when I started back in 2009 but my posts have been more sporadic for the past few years. I miss the sharing and reflection! So, jumping off the heels of my very first ISTE conference this summer, I’m motivated to provide my students with as many authentic opportunities to be as positive, participatory and impactful online as possible – blogging will be a significant way I can model that practice. And what better way to blog in the summer than to reflect on a bit of summer reading . . . I read LOTS this summer, as I always do to continually renew and grow as an educator. Here are just a few books I’ve had the chance to finish so far:
Social LEADia – Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd
After finishing Dr. Kristen Mattson’s inspiring book Digital Citizenship in Action ,I gained loads of ideas to weave digital community building activities into students’ daily lives. Building on that excitement, along with inspiration from the entire ISTE Digital Citizenship Network I’m proud and excited to now be a part of, I’m getting my hands on as many resources as I can to help students thrive as participatory, positively impactful citizens. In doing so, I most happily discovered Jennifer Casa-Todd’s book, Social LEADia – Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership!!
More #digcit!!! Casa-Todd frames her book around these important central questions:
- How do we change our position on social media use in school when there seem to be so many barriers to use?
- What opportunities exist for using social media? How can we provide the appropriate level of guidance? And at what point do we let students navigate these spaces independently?
- What kinds of conversations should we be having about how social media can influence a child’s positive online presence? At the district level? At the school level? With parents?
- Is there a new moral imperative to include social media in curriculum, lesson design and professional learning?
- Is teaching “digital citizenship” even possible without using social media spaces, and should we, at this point move beyond digital citizenship? [Foreword xiv-xv]
This book explores possibilities for each of these great questions, opening up interesting conversations that I look forward to having with colleagues and students. While exploring these topics, Jennifer intersperses ideas with real-life students currently exemplifying digital leadership, which she defines as “using technology and social media to learn and share, to promote important causes, and to positively influence others (Todd 1). Like Dr. Mattson, Jennifer Casa-Todd really emphasizes the community, participatory portion of citizenship. Both books hold a true emphasis on student voice and giving our students more opportunity to utilize their voices not just to create their digital footprints, but to make an impact. It makes sense – in real and digital life, it’s important to not only be static members of a group, but to positively conduct ourselves so that we impact real change for the good of our community. That’s why we’re here!! While reading, I found myself nodding, annotating and doggy-earring pages. I agree whole-heartedly that our students can be strong, powerful digital leaders – and this book is filled with resources for helping them do just that. Many of these ideas can complement our already existing practices while others provide new solutions. Some of my favorite takeaways: cell phone logs to help students be more cognizant of when and why they refer to their phones, an ed tech day during which students demo their knowledge of tech tools, activism vs. slacktivism and how to encourage students to lean more on the active vs. slacking side and so much more!! I’ve got great ideas both for my digital democracy team’s work with students in my school and for students in my own classroom!
180 Days – Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle
As I have read and own all previous books published by both of these master English teachers, I waited excitedly for this one to be published – it exceeded my anticipation! The premise of this book centers around Gallagher’s and Kittle’s collaborative planning of one glorious school year. Gallagher teaches in California; Kittle teachers in New Hampshire. Despite the distance, they collaborated together to reflect on best practices in teaching both reading and writing. Long distance co-teaching . . . fascinating!! Inspired by the simple, always asked question of and by teachers, “How do you fit it all in?, together they decided what daily, unit and annual practices matter most to empower students to become the most creative, critically-thinking learners they can be. Their decisions are based on what they wonderfully call belief-based instruction – instruction steered by core beliefs stemming from insights of their experiences, observations and discussions. Reading the book felt like a fascinating peek into the heartfelt conversations they had in planning out the year. And having access to the supplementary video clips of these conversations – and live-from-the-classroom lessons – is an amazing resource and fascinating to watch.
There is no question that the teaching of reading and writing goes hand-in-hand as the two communicative skills are naturally intertwined. We become better writers by reading more; we become better readers by writing more – and Gallagher and Kittle solidify that core belief. There are honestly countless take-aways from this book for me: the approaches to peer editing and revisions, the ways to encourage students with notebook writing, the narratives for students as readers and narratives as writers . . . and the list goes on. I will be referring to this book all year long!
A Novel Approach by Kate Roberts
I am a believer in some form of independent reading in the classroom. Just as I choose these very professional development books that I read on my own, I wish to honor that same privilege for my students. My AP Language and Composition course includes an independent reading component each semester, and my entire Advanced Reading course is focused on students reading as many varied independent books as they can throughout the semester. I see the benefits in my own classrooms but studies consistently reflect these benefits of student choice, and how students become more engaged learners and read more when offered opportunity to choose what interests them. That said, as an English teacher, I am also a believer in the power of a whole-class novel and the collective, collaborative learning, activities and discussion that stem from reading the same anchor text in our core curriculum. In A Novel Approach, Kate Roberts offers new insightful approaches to traditional learning in ways that compliment both whole class and independent learning.
As in 180 Days, Roberts practical plans and strategies can be implemented in my classrooms immediately, this year. Roberts offers simple, practical ways to map out units without causing extra work, to design mini-lessons along the way and to differentiate learning to pinpoint students’ individual struggles. She offers methods for annotation, grouping, discussions and assessments to emphasize students’ thinking. I love the bookmarks for students to track their reading and the teacher bookmarks to target quick strategies. I also appreciate Roberts extension of her whole-novel discussion with the idea of launching book clubs and more student choice to foster the independent, empowered learners we want each of our students to be. A Novel Approach, in other words, was a perfect compliment to my PD collection this summer.
EdTech for the K-12 Classroom – ISTE Readings on How, When and Why to Use Technology
I snatched this book at #ISTE18, and I gotta feelin’ I’ll be referring to it LOTS this year as an ed tech coach and as a teacher! It’s a compilation of readings, video links and other resources from ISTE to help educators foster learning in their classrooms and schools. First, the ISTE standards are discussed along with ways to empower teachers while reflecting those standards. Next, the book offers methods to support community and help teachers leverage technology to collaborate together most effectively. I appreciate the important differences between differentiated, individualized and personalized learning that are outlined well in the book. And, finally, this serves as a wonderful reference to tools, apps and platforms that teachers and administrators can utilize to support that learning. The key message I truly gain after reading this is that technology is not meant to be used simply to replace manual practices and make life easier BUT to help make learning better . . . to help facilitate creation, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration (school, community and global) among peers, colleagues, schools, districts and beyond. In other words, just as the sub-title identifies, it’s not just a how-to manual, it’s a how/when/why reference!
This week, my school district officially opens up the new school year with institute days and students gracing our halls the following Monday – I couldn’t be more excited!! Each new school year feels like a wonderful fresh start, and reading books like these throughout the summer is always a perfectly enjoyable way to grow. I can’t wait to converse with colleagues, greet the students and put some of these ideas into practice!! It’s going to be the best year yet, I can feel it!!☺️
p.s. My pd reading is not done, by any means – stay tuned for more book synopses coming soon!