Literacy in the 21st Century

Engaging students in literacy through technology

iPads and language

   In anticipation of our school's purchase of iPads (hopefully by next fall) and in preparation for our upcoming workshop I have been looking into the many educational Apps available. There are sooooo many that it can be a bit overwhelming at times; however, I wanted to share one app in particular that peaked my interest since I teach at a First Nations School.

I searched the word "Ojibway" and found a new app for the iPad specifically (a real bummer it's not available for the iPod touch since I haven't got an iPad!). The App is simply called "Ojibway"; what it offers is a dictionary of Ojibway words and historical accounts of the Ojibway people.  I haven't been able to actually play with the app myself; however, I spoke to a teacher who has used it briefly.  The dictionary is still developing and they are working on expanding the vocabulary to include more complex words.  So while there are kinks to be worked out I think it's well worth trying since the kids are so engaged when we bring technology into the classroom.  I can't wait to test it out myself!

If you have an iPad and want to try it out it is a free app. Just search "Ojibway" in the app store and you will find it :)

-Darby

Fetch News for your e-readers!

Today was the first day using the Kobo readers in class and my kids were extremely engaged.  They kept commenting on how "cool" it was to read on the devices.  We read a biography of author Beatrice Culleton, and then I allowed the students to explore the different features on their own.

I mentioned in my earlier posts that I had downloaded the program Calibre in order to convert my pdf files to EPUB books.  I'm still playing around with the program, but one extremely useful feature I wanted to post about is "Fetch News". At the top of the page you'll see a "Fetch News" icon. Once you click on it you can access a variety of news sources from all over the world.  If you select "English (Canada)" you will have access to titles like The Hockey News, TSN, Winnipeg Free Press, Maclean's, CBC news and tons more.  The best part is you can set up your account to download any selected news sources on a regular basis.  All I have to do now is plug in my e-readers on any given day, select the titles I want to put on my device and PRESTO I have updated news articles to share with my class FOR FREE!.

Again the link for the Calibre program is: http://calibre-ebook.com/ 

-Darby

Kobo e-readers and PDF files

   Last year our school purchased a number of Kobo e-readers. A couple teachers tinkered with them a bit and allowed the students to do so as well; however, no one had taken the time to figure out just how we could incorporate these into our lessons on a regular basis.  I began looking into the e-readers myself when our FNSSP co-ordinator purchased 5 of the new "touch" Kobo readers. 

   As soon as the kids saw me using one in class they were intrigued and I promised that someday soon we would be using them as a class....well it's taken me a couple months to find the time to truly look into the Kobo e-reader's capabilities and tomorrow I will be piloting them in my ENG4C class for the first time. For those of you who don't know what a Kobo is, it is an e-reader that was designed for a Canadian market.  They are one of the leading e-readers and are particularly useful in Canada because they allow you to access free books from the Ontario Library Services site and they offer far more Canadian content than the American counterparts (Kindle and Nook). 

   Today I learned specifically how to take any word document and get it to load onto the kobos.  Here is the process outlined let me know if you have any questions.

1) The first step is to convert your word file to a pdf. There may be a simplier way of doing this but the way I found most convenient was to use google documents (you need a gmail account for this but google+ has so many features it's well worth signing up).

2) once you have copied and pasted your document into a google document click on "file" and "download as" and select "pdf". You can now save your document in pdf form.

3)You can add pdfs directly to Kobos BUT, as I learned the hard way, the will only show up as a snapshot of the whole page. This makes the writing too tiny to read.  Therefore, you need to convert the pdf into what is called an EPUB file.  In order to do this you download the program Calibre (this is an awesome program that allows you to do many things with the e-readers, I will post more about Calibre in the future). http://calibre-ebook.com/ is where you download the program.

4) Once you have downloaded Calibre the process is quite easy.  The Calibre program is very user friendly.  Simply click on the "add book" icon, select your pdf file and it will appear in your library.

5) Right click on your pdf fileJanuary-23-12 in your Calibre library and select "convert books" and "convert books individually".

6)At the top left it should say "output form: EPUB" click ok and your document will quickly be coverted.

7) Now all you have to do is connect your e-reader. Once it has connected, right click on the EPUB file and select "send to device".  You will now be able to read your file on your Kobo.

If the writing is too small once you open it up on your Kobo simply select "menu"---> "display" and select a font size.

 

Smartboards

A little over three months ago, my teaching tools consisted of a chalkboard, overhead projector, and chart paper. One day, one of our tech people came to my classroom with a box clearly maked "smartboard" and since then, my world has changed. At the time that the smartboard was installed, I had a student teacher working with me, who embraced the new technology. I'd watch her in awe, and ask her to show me how she created her lessons. Now it's a new semester and I am looking forward to making the smartboard a part of my classroom, but I have to admit, it's a daunting task to re-think all of my lessons to incorporate the smartboard. So far, I've used it as a projector and a whiteboard, and I know that I've barely scratched the surface. One fun thing has been trying out some of the interactive games that can be played on the screen. I teach Engligh, so anything to make grammar and language arts fun is gold in my eyes! We've played some different word games like "hangman" and "word whomp," which engages and energizes the students in a way that I could never achieve with a piece of chalk. Sometimes the Smartboard can be a distraction too... students are drawn to it, and play around with the icons on the screen, playing music videos on YouTube, or displaying their Facebook page for all to see. It has definitely changed many aspects of my teaching.

If anyone has any suggestions for good sites to check out for Smartboard materials or games, I'd be really appreciative! I'll continue to blog as I work on my Smartboard prowess and keep you posted!

-Katie

Welcome to our Blog!

As two high school teachers, preparing to present a workshop on "Literacy in the 21st Century," we thought about all of the classroom technologies that can help teachers to engage their students and prepare them for our digital world. Neither one of us claims to be "tech-savvy" and the thought of using new technologies in our classroom routines definitely pushes us out of our comfort zones. One of the things we wanted to try was blogging. This blog serves two purposes; to learn about the blogging process, and to chronicle our adventures and misadventures in incorporating technologies to support literacy in our classrooms. We hope you enjoy reading our blog, and we encourage feedback and sharing of similar experiences! Big Smile