Integrating Language Arts into Your Curriculum

March 21, 2010 at 1:55 am (ED TECH 541) (, , , , , , , )

I have spent all eleven years of my professional career working on reading and language arts programs for the K-8 classroom, so you can guess how important I think it is to incorporate language arts into the curriculum. My thoughts are summed up very well, if in a little more of a touchy-feely way than I would probably say it, in the following quote.
“Language is key to students’ intellectual, social, and emotional growth; and, is a necessary means to learning in all disciplines.” (Rend & Paquette, 2006) I absolutely believe this to be the case, and I have seen this first hand. As I have visited classrooms and participated in field testing for our programs, I have witnessed struggling learners from the worst of possible backgrounds suddenly blossom into confident, successful students by growing their reading and language strengths.

Mildred Donoghue in Chapter 4 of Language Arts: Integrating Skills for Classroom Teaching describes language arts as the gateway to the listening, speaking, reading, writing, and viewing skills and strategies needed to succeed across the curriculum. (Donoghue, 2008) In order to truly access content-area learning, students must have a solid foundation in language arts, or they will struggle with the text and information they are being presented. Science and social studies textbooks, math story problems, music lyrics, all become a challenge without strong language arts skills. Communicating what you have learned or believe is an essential task in schools and in the workplace; again incredibly challenging without language arts skills. The same can be said for listening to lectures in high school and college. The list goes on.

Of course, this class is focusing on the importance of incorporating technology across different teaching experiences. Language arts instruction most definitely can benefit from the use of technology in the learning experience. I often go back to something I read many years ago about the value of technology in the classroom, but specifically tied to language arts in the classroom. “Technology has everything to do with literacy. And being able to use the latest electronic technologies has everything to do with being literate.” (Bolter, 1991) There is truth in that. As the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has worked to demonstrate, using literacy without technology in this day and age is not truly literacy. I agree to some extent, but would not quite go that far. In my opinion, language arts skills and technological literacy SHOULD go hand in hand, but you can build language arts skills and then apply them to technology literacy.

In thinking how language arts can be, there are myriad opportunities to do so. For one of the assignments I completed for my thematic unit, I had the kids searching the Internet, then presenting content to the class. Both the act of searching and presenting information represent the incorporation of language arts. On the schedule of assignments, there is a week where we will be creating a Glogster online poster; using this presentation medium is another way to incorporate language arts into the curriculum. During the week 8 assignment, I had the students in my class working in teams to respond to a series of questions in writing, a great opportunity to use language using technology tools. Other opportunities for incorporating language arts I am sure will present themselves over the semester. At the same time, I can see incorporating journal-writing assignments, paired reading and discussion practice, report writing activities, responding to youtube/classroom lectures, and other examples of language arts in the assignments.

REFERNCES

Bolter, J. D. (1991). Writing space: The computer, hypertext, and the history of writing. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Donoghue, Mildred. (2008). Language arts. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Martin Rend, J. & Paquette, D.K.R. (2006). “Using Technology to Integrate Language Arts Across the Curriculum”. In C. Crawford et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2006 (pp. 3276-3277). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved March 20, 2010 from http://www.editlib.org/p/22596.

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Opening Up Social Networks

March 7, 2010 at 12:35 am (ED TECH 541) (, , , , , , , , , )

Protecting students is an essential responsibility for schools around the world. Addressing student safety has taken on a whole new debate around what level of access schools should provide to students in terms of Internet usage. For the most part, schools have tended to err on the side of caution by completely blocking access to the Internet at school (or at least during school hours) or opting for walled gardens, which limit students’ ability to search outside protected areas. (Walled Garden, 2010) But is this the right approach to prepare today’s students for the future?

In order to answer this question, I would first want to better understand if there is a need to allow students access to social networks in education. Is it even worth the significant discussion and commitment to plan how this can be done effectively? According to the Pew Research Center, the answer to this question is “Yes.” Two recent surveys for the Pew Internet Project indicate that nearly 75% of all teens and young adults use online social networks. (Lehart, et al, 2010) This statistic demonstrates that students of the millennial generation do have an interest in accessing social networks, but isn’t the Internet full of too many bad things to let our kids loose on the Web? Can’t the same thing be said about books? When Gutenberg invented the printing press, there wasn’t universal acceptance that more books in the hands of more people was actually a good thing. Eventually, people saw the benefit to having books as part of the general education process. Should we now ban the majority of books from schools because there are many bad books out there? (Magid, 2010) That is basically what we are saying if we just outlaw all social networking in our schools. And that, of course is the safe and simplest answer. Just wall off almost everything.

But, thankfully, that is not how it should or has to be. There is a growing understanding that the digital divide is not disappearing; in fact, discouragingly, it is actually shifting from those without access to technology to those without access or knowledge of social networks. (Zhao & Elsh, 2006) Gone are the local neighborhoods, local jobs, and large, localized families. Online social networks have replaced these time-honored support networks. A program like ePals (http://www.epals.com/) provides safe, controlled access to social, connected classroom networks around the world. This gives students an easy way to begin understanding safe a controlled social networking. Another option for schools is to install a contained social networking platform such as School Centers SC Webtools package (www.schoolcenter.com) or McGraw-Hill Education’s CINCH Project (http://www.mhcdi.com/cp_about.html). These pre-built environments make it easy to incorporate social networks without the fear!

Times have changed, and schools, as always, have to evaluate the best and essential ways to change with them. While there are clear risks involved, there is also a compelling impetus for schools to become a guiding light in introducing students to safe use of social networks by teaching them the basics of digital citizenship (http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html). Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook can be great tools to bring reluctant readers, writers, and communicators out of their shells, and a program like the Skype an Author Network (http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/ ) can open up a whole new world to kids. As long as schools are willing to take chances on the right social networking opportunities, and teachers work with students to prepare them to be responsible users of these engaging learning options.

REFERENCES

Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., Zickuhr, K. (Feb. 3, 2010) Social media and young adults. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Social-Media-and-Young-Adults.aspx.

Magid, Larry. (Feb. 25, 2010) Social networking belongs in schools. Retrieved from http://news.cnet.com/8301-19518_3-10459983-238.html

Walled garden. (2010, March 4). Retrieved from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/walled_garden.html

Zhao, S., & Elesh, D. (2006). The second digital divide: Unequal access to social capital in the online world. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association . Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Retrieved March 5, 2010, from: http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p96480_index.html

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The Case for Multimedia in the Classroom

March 2, 2010 at 4:20 am (ED TECH 541) (, , , )

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