Using Tech in Instruction

Sunday, September 6, 2015

     I am a literacy coach, so it comes as no surprise that I love books.  To be honest, I love paper books best.  I like holding a book and reading it, and going to the book store and buying them and carrying my new bag of books like a prized possession.  I love reading with my own kids all snuggled up at night before bed, with real books.  

     But, to be honest, the kids today are not me.  They have a whole different set of experiences than the ones I had as a kid.  They like digital reading, too.  They may like it even more than paper books.  So, I suppose we need to keep an open mind when it comes to book sources and our students.  
***I do hope, however, that we never walk into a classroom that doesn't have a paper book library.  That would make me very sad. 

     This starts a conversation about technology, and the benefits and disadvantages of using it in our classrooms.  So, while I am going to focus on myON in this post, I really think the thoughts in this blog post center around 3 questions I think we should ask ourselves before we introduce ANY tech app in our classrooms.  

Graphic of tablet courtesy of Ashley Hughes.

myON Tools

     This week, I spent a day learning how to use the new tools in myON, a digital library that our district has used for the past few years.  The company has been very responsive to our feedback, and since our partnership with them has added many tools and features that make myON a useful literacy tool in our classrooms.  Below are some of my favorite changes since we started using the tool.


     A quick and easy dashboard for teachers to analyze the work students are doing when they are logged in!  If we have book logs and reading conferences about paper books and reading engagement, then we should also have them about their digital reading (especially if you are using myON within the workshop block).  If we have lessons to help teach students how to monitor their reading with books, then we should do it with digital books, too.  This menu helps us do that.



     Previously, we could not search for books based on guided reading level in myON.  Now we can!!!  Because our district uses the Fountas and Pinnell testing system, this can be a huge benefit for us.  We can now search for books that would be appropriate for our guided reading levels.  This is perfect for those primary students who use myON during a digital reading choice.  They can now reasonably be expected to turn off the narration feature and read it themselves, because it is written at their level!  This was always a benefit of RAZ Kids.  Now, they can do it in both programs.   
***WARNING: Children are NOT a letter.  If they use this feature, remember that they should not be given a single letter as their reading identity.  IF they are told their letter, make it a range.  Or, you do the searching and make book sets for your guided reading groups.  


     When I looked at my own dashboard, I found a reading log right at my fingertips.  And, taking a few minutes to look at this report like a reading log, I realized that I am not an engaged reader. I can, with 100% certainty, tell you that I did not read ANY of those 17 pages.  But, I did do a book preview.  If someone conferred with me, they would discover that.  


     There are a few features I would definitely model before having my students just log in and go off independently in myON. If they used the following features well, myON could be a useful tool to continue the work done in reading workshop.

     The little head with the "shh" is the way to mute the reading.  Students are the ones in control of whether they turn the mute on or off, so it is really important to talk about PURPOSE when they start a book.  If they are in primary and using the book for Listen to Reading, then leave the narration on.  If they are in 3rd grade and are listening to the story but armed with their Thinking Journal and pencil in hand, then they might be able to leave the narration on because they focus is on the thoughts like in a read aloud.  BUT... if they are using the books in 3-5 as part of the Reading Workshop block and they are able to search and read for books at their level, then the expectation should be to mute it.  These are conversations you need to have with your students about their purpose for reading.  


     Many classrooms use Stop and Jots, or post it notes, while the kids read independently.  If they are spending time in myON, the same thing can be done digitally.  If they click on the icon of the notebook (next to the house) then a menu of tools opens up.  The fourth one in is a marker with a thumbtack in it.  When you click on it, it opens up a digital sticky note.  When they finish doing their Stop and Jot, they just click on the thumbtack and it closes it but saves it in the text.


     Another tool that I find useful is the journal.  If you click on the first icon of a notebook with a pencil, it opens a journal that you can see in all the books that you read.  So, say you are working on building character trait vocabulary in Reading Workshop.  If you start an entry that says "Character Trait List", and you open the journal and add words about the traits you find in the books you read, then children will be using myON to enhance their mini lesson work.  This feature would also be useful when using books to research a topic across more than one book.

myON Relfections

     These are a few features in myON that I would love to see teachers share with their classes before they release them to using the program independently IF the goal for using the program is to practice the skills we are teaching in Reading Workshop.  For the primary kids, if they are using it more for just a Listen to Reading option, I would still love to see some of those things evolve as the year continues.  

     My personal favorite purpose for myON is the nonfiction texts and the ability to use it with thematic unit planning.  At Hiawatha, most of our 3-5 classrooms don't use myON in the workshop time, but rather in ENCORE block or during unit time.  But, that is a post for another time.  Creating book sets around a topic and a big idea is a post that will hopefully happen later in the year.

Bottom Line:


     Teachers are thoughtful about universal instruction in their classroom (i.e. mini lessons, guided reading planning, unit planning, etc.).  We can also be thoughtful about the use of technology we choose to use with our students.  That thoughtfulness about PURPOSE, MODELING, and EFFECTIVENESS can make the tech use soar our students' learning above the line!







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