Written by Dr. Diana Neebe
I just returned from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) national conference in Chicago [with Dr. Colette Roche & Gavin Maeda] where I learned about some exciting new tools for the English classroom and saw a few tools that have been around for a couple years being used in innovative ways in ELA. I thought I’d pass these tools along to you all in case they are of interest. Though this did not come as much of a surprise, the main function of most of the tools I’m sharing is curation.
“When a museum director curates, she collects artifacts, organizes them into groups, sifts out everything but the most interesting or highest-quality items, and shares those collections with the world. When an editor curates poems for an anthology, he does the same thing…
…In an educational setting, curation has a ton of potential as an academic task. Sure, we’re used to assigning research projects, where students have to gather resources, pull out information, and synthesize that information into a cohesive piece of informational or argumentative writing. This kind of work is challenging and important, and it should remain as a core assignment throughout school, but how often do we make the collection of resources itself a stand-alone assignment?” (To Boost Higher Order Thinking, Try Curation. By Jennifer Gonzalez, 2017)
We know the Internet is vast; combing through all the resources available to support the work we are doing in the classroom is a daunting task. The tools that impress me the most right now are the ones that curate high-quality content, are carefully organized, minimize distraction for students, increase support for literacy learning, and have an excellent interface for teachers and students.
Here’s my greatest hits list…
This easy-to-search site pairs audio content from NPR with teaching materials, like links to related resources, audio transcripts, vocabulary lists, graphic organizers, discussion questions, and listening quizzes. I appreciate that when the audio content is pulled from NPR, all the distractions (of searching for the audio player, avoiding ads, etc.) are eliminated for students. ListenWise runs on a freemium platform, so you can join for free, but we’d have to purchase accounts to unlock added features. That said, the free account is pretty robust. Here’s a sample listening lesson that could supplement one of Freshman team’s summer reading choices, The Hate U Give.
The good people of CommonLit have gathered over 1300 short stories, poems, speeches, news articles, etc. as central texts for a lesson and are adding about ten lessons per week. Each text has its own internal webpage with a brief author bio, the option to have the text read aloud, links to paired texts, embedded related media, a teacher guide with sample discussion questions, and (perhaps of particular interest to teachers of younger students) a parent guide with an overview of the story and table topics for conversation with their child. The site is really easy to search: by grade level, genre, thematic topic, author, text title… Here’s a sample lesson set for “The Veldt” and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to give you an idea.
Online interactive Shakespeare plays developed by Dr. Greg Watkins (asst. director of Stanford Structured Liberal Education program). Each play has interline gloss and a sidebar with options for: complete audio recordings that sync with the text, video performances of key scenes by professional actors, and my personal favorite, discussions between characters about key moments in the play (actors remain in character for the discussion). Also available online through MyShakespeare are teacher resources: lesson plans, project ideas, quiz ideas, etc. Current play offerings include: Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Romeo & Juliet. The professional actors are all from the Bay Area. They will be recording and performing Othello starting in the end of August.
This is an online video discussion tool that allows students to record and share short videos to a video discussion board of sorts. The video thumbnails are organized in a grid and students can click on others’ remarks, watch, and respond. What I saw at ISTE was really interesting, though. English teachers are using Flipgrid as a way to store students’ book talks (think Reading Rainbow), and even to collaborate with other schools to have conversations about what they are reading Beyond our own classes, this could be a really interesting tool to use if we ever wanted to collaborate with a sister school in another part of the world, as it allows for asynchronous video conversations about a given topic.
Padlet has also been around for a while, but I’ve always seen it as a replacement for a discussion board or a backchannel, where students are adding their ideas and questions as part of a class discussion. However, Padlet recently made some changes to their platform that are really transformative and make it a spectacular tool for DIY content curation. Padlet can be used as a curation tool for multimedia text sets that students can explore throughout a unit of study. Here’s an example: Padlet wall to support teaching Refugee and another text-set on the Japanese American Internment during WWII. Padlet now operates on a freemium platform, but the good news is you get ten walls free (and you can delete previous walls to make room for new ones).
This software is still in beta, and is not a curation tool, but it looks like it has a lot of potential. I talked to a few teachers using this platform and they were thrilled with it. Peer grade is a free online platform that facilitates peer-to-peer feedback on assignment based on a rubric or set of criteria that you identify for your assignment, ensuring that all students give and receive thoughtful feedback. You can click to make the feedback session anonymous or not, in groups or individually. Students can flag feedback that is inappropriate. You can see all the details (who is who) from the teacher side of the platform, but students cannot.
New York Times Curation Tools:
These resources are also not new, but are worth including in an email about great curation tools online. The first two are awesome for hooks into units or lessons. The last two are fantastic for more sustained inquiry.
I hope there’s something interesting here for you!