Action Learning Project #bookhenge

Here is my Action Learning Project for ECI 521.  This was a huge learning experience!

http://www.onetruemedia.com/shared?p=e69f6969c27f85e85c392c&skin_id=701&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=text_url

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On Stitches #Bookhenge

I was so proud (but surprised) at the bookclub’s revelations when doing our bookcast on “Stitches” by David Small.  Everyone opened up and shared very personal and life-changing moments.  It was a moving experience.  I definitely don’t think the word for this literature is “comics” anymore.  It brought out something in me that I have never expressed before.  I hope this genre of literature is taken seriously for the quality literature it really is.

Post-FOKI #Bookhenge

Professional Self

I am approaching this class a bit differently than my classmates.  I am not an educator.  I work for an educational testing company in Administration/Marketing.  I am pursing my M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction to learn more about the field in which I work – educational assessment and the crazy world of standardized testing.  I want my knowledge base to expand to include what students need to learn to be successful, how students learn, and what products/strategies are most beneficial in creating successful learning environments.

In addition, even though I am not in the classroom, I have a 13-year-old son who I love to see engaged and excited about literature.  I want to help him explore and choose new young adult literature.  Isn’t that the goal/dream of every teacher (parent) – to make her student excited about the aspect of the world she loves?

My personal goal:  To learn more about young adult literature and literacy theories so I can recommend and guide the development of educational assessment and learning products for young adults through the use of relevant literature. 

Wow, what a journey!  It went by so fast.  Yet, my “professional self” still managed to learn and to grow in spite of the lightning speed.  My goal was to learn more about how students learn and what product/strategies are most beneficial in increasing successful learning environments.  The answer lies in creativity in our classrooms and with educational products. With our increasingly digital society, those that give the tests and those that make the tests cannot ignore this new world in which our students are engaged.  So, with or without us, they will go into the future with touch-phones and touch-everything, and we will have missed a great opportunity to teach.  Recently, the company that I work for started investigating the use of iphones for things such as preparing kids for the SAT through a “daily word” on their phones and other electronic media.  That’s creative.  That’s where we’re headed.  That’s where our students already are.

 Literate Self

Reading and learning has never been a problem for me.  I love what reading does to me – how you’re allowed to escape, to dream, to be somebody else.  I’ve read a lot of different literature, but as an adult, not a lot of young adult literature.  So, this will be an adventure as I get back into reading this genre again.  I feel a bit intimidated, though, because a lot of what I’ve seen seems to be dark and sometimes examines some strong subjects.  I usually gravitate toward more light reading.  Even the mystery novels I read are those that are not too graphic.  Still, I’m looking forward to exploring and rediscovering.

 My personal goal: I want to develop a greater knowledge of young adult literature and be able to recommend and guide my children in the choice of literature and just to enjoy reading young adult literature again.

Especially loved this part of the journey! The reading choices were thoughtful and representative of young adult literature.  Honestly, there was one genre of literature that I had never hard, so of course, never read: graphic novels.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a picture book can still get across a strong message and evoke strong images; that a zombie book can have a strong plot; and that a book about child abuse can portray a message of hope.  I was very hesitant about reading young adult literature again.  I’m so glad I did.  I even read one of the books with my son and we discussed the strong subjects in it such as homosexuality and child abuse.  I gained a strong knowledge about the books that he will continue to read as he enters high school next year.  I found out about more places to find good reading lists. I am happy to be able to recommend some good choices for him and my nieces and nephews. 

Virtual Self

Virtual Self….hmmm…now comes the scary part.  I love the internet.  Has there been a better technical invention than Google?!  Oh my goodness!  And email?  Hello?  Love it, too!  But, basically, that’s it.  Recently, my daughter has been trying to make me more Facebook-savvy.  Boy, does she have a task on her hands.  I have an account.  Period.  I’ve changed my profile picture once and I check my messages only a few times a month.  I’m just not that into it.  I don’t feel like I have time for another “thing” in my life.  So, when my instructor dared mention the word, “blog” – Oh my!  And “Twitter.”  Huh?!  And gracious me, but I know she didn’t just say, “tag and tweet.”  Is that even legal?!  To tell the truth, I’m really unsure about this aspect of my journey.  So far, VoiceThread has been the least intimidating.  And that may have been because my son said, “Ooh mom, it’s so cool!”  It was.   Still, I just don’t know how I’m going to navigate anymore of these murky, strange, yet somehow intriguing technological waters.

Yet, I have decided to fully embrace my professor’s mantra and make it my own. 

“If you want to feel secure, do what you already know how to do. If you want to be a true professional & continue to grow…go to the cutting edge of your competence, which means a temporary loss of security. So whenever you don’t quite know what you’re doing, know that you are growing.” Madeline Hunter

My personal goal:  To approach and embrace new technology with resolve and determination and to grow with it – not just enough to get through the class, but to use it in my everyday life having the ability to teach others and enjoy it. 

“If you want to feel secure, do what you already know how to do. If you want to be a true professional & continue to grow…go to the cutting edge of your competence, which means a temporary loss of security. So whenever you don’t quite know what you’re doing, know that you are growing.” Madeline Hunter

Boy, did I grow!  And I made it through it!  Well, almost I need to turn in my ALP project real quick… This was the most frustrating part of this course.  If it could go wrong, it most often did.  I enjoyed VoiceThread and bookcasting was a blast. I’m still not sure I will continue to blog or tweet, but I’m so grateful I’m not scared of it anymore and at least have some knowledge about it.  As I’ve learned more about social media, I’ve been able to engage in some meaningful conversations with my colleagues about whether a testing company needs social media.  Not an issue we have come to a conclusion with as a company, but I’m glad the conversations are happening and I’m glad to be a knowledgeable part of them.

Though slowly and, at times, painfully, I navigated the murky, strange, yet somewhat intriguing technological waters.  And I’m so proud of myself!  🙂

Synthesis

As I thought and put together this “inventory” of the knowledge that I have and the knowledge that I want to attain, it was almost as if I was writing a job description.  Whether for myself or someone else, I don’t know.  However, I do recognize the importance of learning about new technology especially as it relates to education, and it’s definitely something I want to explore more fully. 

 I also found myself being fully honest with my lack of abilities and how sometimes I take the easy “road most traveled.”  I don’t want that to be what I fall back on.  I want to reach forward to new and different things.  I think this course will be what will help push me to that.

 This course whetted my appetite for exploring more technology as it relates to education. And there’s so much to be explored!  Recently, I was at an educational conference, and most every topic directly involved the wave of digital technology and how educators should approach the change to Common Core Standards.  To make our students college- and career-ready, we will new bold, new, and creative technology.  Though hesitant at first, I am now happy to be a part of this new era.

 

The Value of Multicultural Book Awards #Bookhenge

 As I consider the value of awards like the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Award for African-American Literature and the Pura Belpre Award for Hispanic Literature, I am somewhat torn.  On the one hand, I think, “Here we go again – separating ourselves.”  On the other hand, I feel, “Here we go again because it’s the only choice we have.”  However, I believe that without awards that specifically highlight the accomplishments of specific minorities, these writers, illustrators, etc. would not be recognized.  At least, that has been the pattern over the years – they simply have been overlooked by the mainstream literary groups such Caldecott, Newbery, and the like.  Although more separation is not a good commentary on our society, it appears to be necessary because of the racial division that still exists.  These awards were created because of the problem that exists in a society that does not recognize all ethnic groups and these awards shouldn’t be done away with until there’s no reason to have them. 

 Marc Aronson raises some good points in his article, “Slippery Slopes and Proliferating Prizes,” but some of his arguments lack merit.  I was not familiar with the criteria for CSK Awards, but after looking them up, I realized that Aronson failed to highlight seven out of the eight criteria.  This omission leads the reader to believe that in order for an author to receive this award, he had to be black.  Aronson fails to point out the other criteria that distinguish the high literary quality of the literature.                                                                                    

Aronson seems to want other authors to be able to receive honors for African American literature if they choose to write it.  Interesting.  But, does anybody really think that I, a Black American, could most effectively speak to the issues faced by Jewish Americans (or any other race for that matter)?  I don’t think so. There’s just an obvious and understandable difference between how a person on the outside of a community writes about his cultural experiences as opposed to someone who’s living in it.  And those that are closest to it deserve recognition for their writing about it.

 I wish that Aronson was correct about existing literary honors being enough.  Unfortunately, it’s just not the case.  Take for example that there are no Best Books for Teens on theALAsite for Multicultural Literature.  Whether this is a thoughtful or accidental oversight, I don’t know.  But it is a gross injustice.  Young adults need the benefit of reading literature from all cultures.  And the change can begin in the classrooms – with empathic teachers who through multicultural literature seek to transform their students’ understanding of the experiences of people from other cultures.

Graphica Book Club #bookhenge

http://voicethread.com/#q.b2122372.i0.k0

Radical Change Theory #bookhenge

The Radical Change Theory, as described by Eliza Dresang in her book Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age, is based on the premise that “authors and illustrators are influenced by the time and place within which they write.”  Literary works identified under this theory are characterized by changed in forms and formats, perspectives, and boundaries in literature.

I am very open to the Radical Change in poetry.  However, I did not enjoy the poem Skeleton Sky.  I was impressed with the fact that even with its lack of traditional reading style, it produces a central theme in the end.  Still, I found myself working too hard to come up with that theme and found it to be confusing and disjointed.  So, although I wouldn’t seek out this style of poetry, I can see how it would be a choice that young adults in our digital age might enjoy.

Stitches was my first graphic novel and I was pleasantly surprised and quite impressed. I tend to go for the more traditional book style and wondered how a plot would be effectively projected using mostly pictures.  This book accomplished that.  In fact, the pictures told the story as well as most any other book I’ve read. 

Angela Trythall’s article made a good point that I also addressed in my ALP.  “In the climate of high stakes testing, it is paramount that any materials and texts we bring into the classroom are viable educational tools.”  Dresang seems to agree with the idea as she states that radical change books with digital age features might serve as an “alternative lure for young learners.”

I can see why this “radical change” has occurred in young adult literature and why it should be viewed as a serious literary style.  The books deal with some of the same issues addressed in traditional literature and use the same literary devices and themes.  In addition, I think books viewed as part of the “radical change” would be effective for reluctant readers.

 

 

ALP Literature Review #Bookhenge

Creativity in the Classroom in an Era of Accountability

“Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”  Theodor Seuss Geisel

A few years ago, my son,Zion, walked into the family where I was reading on the couch.  He sat down beside me. 

“You really like to read, don’t you?”

“Well, yeah.” I responded.  “I would say it’s my most favorite thing to do.”

He sighed.  “I remember when I used to read for fun.”

“Well, what do you read for now?”

“To pass my AR (Accelerated Reading) tests.”

I couldn’t believe my ears.  It was a profound moment for me – a moment that I really realized that, if my son is not the only one who thinks like this (and I believe he wasn’t), we have some serious problems in our schools.

 This is what was on my mind as I began formulating an idea for my Action Learning Project (ALP) for ECI 521.  What happened to reading for fun?  Can we bring it back?  From these ideas, I formed the formal inquiry question: How can teachers encourage reading in an era of accountability?  Specifically, what learning techniques can be utilized that 1) encourage reading; 2) are interesting to students; and, 3) are feasible for busy teachers. 

Through my ALP, I will investigate, along withZion(now 14-years-old) and some other students, whether incorporating more creative approaches to the way knowledge of literature is assessed will make a difference in how students view reading.

The Importance of Creativity in the Classroom

A study by Fleith (2009) suggests that both teachers and students believe that a classroom environment which enhances creativity provides students with choices, accepts different ideas, boosts self-confidence, and focuses on student strengths and interests (Fleith, 2000).  Another study published by Partners in Learning (2011) stated that students who are creative will be prepared for a rapidly changing world, where they may have to adapt to several careers in a lifetime. In addition, classrooms are supposed to be fun learning centers, where the most important quality required is freedom of expression. By encouraging creativity in the classroom, a teacher is ensuring that the student has the ability to analyze a problem and think for herself, and is not swayed by orthodox and conventional rules (Thadani, 2010).

The Problem with Creativity in the Classroom

So, what is the problem?  Since there is general agreement that creativity is not a bad thing, why isn’t it a number one priority in our classrooms? 

Today’s teachers are faced with unique challenges in their classrooms – knowing content matter and state standards; being accountable to multiple constituents (students, parents, administrators, community members); and demonstrating their ability to achieve adequate yearly progress.  It is no small wonder that they often feel too drained and uncreative themselves to promote that aspect of learning in their students.  In addition, global competition causes countries to stress the academic subjects more, using the results of standardized tests as the measure of student accomplishment and talent (Lewis, 2009).  Subsequently, students have become overwhelmed with the amount of testing that is required to pass the course, pass the grade, graduate.  And, apparently, at least for some students, these tests (like AR), do not encourage students to read for fun.  Instead, they often encourage surface knowledge of the subject matter – again, just enough to pass the test.

So, that’s leaves our society with two dilemmas: overworked teachers with no time left for creativity.  And bored, reluctant learners with no outlet for creativity.  I think that this problem can be answered with simple, easy to implement projects that, are not only enjoyable to students, but are easy for teachers to implement and evaluate. 

We will look at a theoretical description of creative thinking and then explore how it relates to my ALP.

First, let me describe the ALP. The project will be done with a group of 5 young adults.  I will lead a discussion with the students about creativity and its varied meanings.  Students will be asked to read a short story.  Afterwards, they will assess the writing sample according to their knowledge of creativity and using a rubric which will be provided.  Students will then collaborate to produce a bookcast about their reading.  Using VoiceThread, students will post their responses and reactions to what they learned about creativity and whether, in their opinion, the assessment exercise and bookcast project would influence their and other students’ attitudes about reading. 

Dan Pink’s Theory of Creativity

Dan Pink’s Theory of Creativity contends that humans need to decrease their logical, systematic ways of being and develop more of a “conceptual” side of themselves (A Whole New Mind, 2005).  He outlines what he believes to be six critical senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.  These six elements can be applied to many aspects of life, including education. 

Design is the element that should engage the senses. My ALP students will be encouraged to incorporate innovative design and work together to produce their bookcast. 

Story is about listening and being a part of the stories (Reynolds, 2006).  It’s not just about reeling out a bunch of facts; it’s being able “place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.  The ALP students will listen to a short story.  The bookcast will allow them, in a sense to “retell the story” as seen through the emotions that the story evoked in them.

Symphony is looking at the single details and being able to see the big picture and how it all works together.  For the AYP, students will hear a short story and evaluate it based on a rubric designed to assess creativity. This exercise will allow them to have a better understanding of creativity and how they can increase that element in their writing and be able to pick it out in other things they read.  Also, in the collaboration process, students will each add an element and be able to bring the whole project together as one cohesive piece.

Empathy engages the emotions and allows you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Garr (2006) suggests that empathy is more of a talent than a skill.  However, everyone can get better at it.  I believe this will definitely be possible for the students as they analyze their feelings about the story they have read and put their feelings together in the form of a bookcast. 

Play is simply bringing humor into the situation.  Classroom projects that involve collaboration can include this element as students are allowed to share their background experiences and laugh together.  Maybe we’ll come to the conclusion that it’s not such a far-fetched idea for students to learn and have fun at the same time. 

Meaning is about sharing your experiences with others.  Bookcasts and VoiceThreads are ways for students to share their experiences and learn from each other.  It is a way to connect, teach, and share.

What can teachers do to encourage creativity?

I believe that in order to encourage a student’s best creative performances, educators must help find what excites the student.  As an educator, it may not necessarily be what really excites you.  Teachers that want to encourage creativity in the classroom should make sure they are giving their students a lot of choice and different options when it comes to assignments and projects (NDTResourceCenter, 2011).  Teachers can do a number of things to make sure students have the chance to show their creativeness. One example would be when students are given a research assignment, teachers could encourage students to write a paper, do a presentation, perform an experiment, or use technology to present information. In fact, I believe one of the best ways to encourage creativity, at least in young adult students, is through the use of technology – something they understand, enjoy, and already use.  That’s why I chose VoiceThread and bookcasting for my AYP.  I think students will find these two tools to be interesting and engaging.

Conclusions

Some predict that as the internet revolution continues to build and increasingly influence our world, it will have a massive impact on teaching and learning in the schools (Martin, 2010). Educators would do well to prepare for this wave of change.  If we only utilize standardized tests for assessments, students quickly learn the type of thinking that we value. To encourage creativity, we need to include at least some opportunities for creative thought in assignments and tests.

I think that my AYP will allow teachers to see a couple of different classroom options that are do-able and effective.  Of course, it will take a bit more effort on the part of teachers, but it will be well worth it.

Because those of us who are lovers of literature haven’t forgotten what it feels like to read for fun.

References

Pink, Dan. A Whole New Mind.New York City: Riverhead Books, 2005.

Fleith, Denise de Souza. (2000). Teacher and Student Perceptions of Creativity in the

Classroom Environment. Roeper Review, 22(3).  

Lewis, T. (2009).  Creativity in technology education: providing children with glimpses of their inventive potential.  19(1), 255–268.  Retrieved from

http://www.springerlink.com.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/content/r341656773392v32/fulltext.pdf

Reynolds, G. (2006). Presentation Zen Blog: From design to meaning: a whole new way of presenting.

 Partners in Learning. 2011.  Retrieved from http://performancepyramid.muohio.edu/Creativity-in-the-Classroom.html

 Khadani, R. (2010).  Creativity in the Classroom.  Retrieved from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/creativity-in-the-classroom.html 

 Martin, J. (2010).  Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip.”  Retrieved from http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/1534