Are You Tech Savvy ... Or Tech Stupid?

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I'm excited to introduce my first-ever guest blogger! I met Jenifer Phillips last year when we both taught at the same charter school. She teaches computer skills to elementary-aged students and is a technology literacy guru! I can always count on her to answer my questions and give me a techie spin on my ideas! Enjoy!

The U.S. Department of Education (1996) defines technology literacy as "computer skills and the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity, and performance."  In today’s society, everything relies on or incorporates technology more and more. Doctor’s offices are starting to use electronic medical records, teachers are using online grade books, and there are even ways to use an app or website to keep track of your grocery list!

Technology is something is always around and is constantly changing. Technology is not only becoming more readily available, but it’s becoming faster, smarter, smaller, and more affordable. It’s definitely something that will not be going away anytime soon.

Thus, the importance of being technologically literate is becoming a necessity. Most employers now assume that potential employees at least have the basic knowledge of how to use a computer and the Internet. Depending on the job, even more technological skills may be required. The dependency on computers is increasing in the workplace, in order for companies or schools to keep up with and compete as part of a global society.

However, it’s not easy to keep up with technology. Some people merely don’t feel as if they are very “tech savvy,” and thus may have a harder time learning the needed skills. It’s also difficult to keep up when the technologies are constantly changing and upgrading. Then, of course there comes the issue of money. Technology is not cheap, especially if you are wanting or needing the newest and latest version each phone, computer, Internet, tablet, etc. that exists.

While having the latest technology is desirable, it is also important that a person understands all that it encompasses. Not only do you have to understand how to operate the technology, but you need to understand how to use it safely and ethically. There are, unfortunately, so many ways that technology can be misused in order to hurt others’ reputations, feelings, or welfare. Education is the key to getting technology, using it correctly, and keeping up with the changes.

When asked how they feel about the importance of being technologically literate, two teachers had their own opinions:
Teacher L: “If you’re not up to date with technology, how are you going to keep up with today’s kids?”
Teacher S: "I don’t spend money on technology like some of my students’ families do. Thus, I feel behind in regards to learning the latest technologies. I wish our school offered us more training.”
Once we can get more businesses and schools to accept this reality, then we might just get more and more people prepared better for the job market that society has to offer.

Feel free to contact Jenifer with any comments, questions, or resources by visiting:
You may also follow Jenifer on Twitter @MrsPEdTechTalk.


Death Match 2014: Fiction Vs. Non-Fiction

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I've been writing a bit about the Common Core Standards (set to take effect in 2014) and the impact they could have on how English/Language Arts is taught, especially at the secondary level. I encourage you to read my thoughts here and here.
A Facebook friend alerted me to this NY Times opinion piece on the topic. It's written by Sara Mosle, a journalist and author who also teaches 6th grade English in Newark, NJ. Her perspective is intelligent and offers ideas on how to incorporate more non-fiction into English courses. Her commentary is certainly thought-provoking. At last check, 463 people had chimed in with their two cents.
One thing I did find interesting is that Mosle seems to see this as the sole responsibility of English teachers versus an opportunity to collaborate with content-area colleagues. Sadly, teaching in isolation is so ingrained in secondary teachers that we don't even think about it.
Thanks for reading! It keeps your Mind Full of Literacy!
P.S. More Mindful Thoughts That Kept Me Awake Last Night: I've been reading Seth Godin lately. He contends that the hiring practices or an increasing number of employers are evolving to toward the hiring of  innovative problem solvers who buck the system (in a professional and respectful manner) and who aren't afraid to be human and exert some emotional labor. If this is indeed the case, then self-expression (a trait that David Colman says English classes focus too much on) remains a skill that needs to be taught and cultivated in our students. Thoughts?

Thanksgiving: The Perfect Time to Gobble Up Some Historical Literacy!

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My twins daughters started kindergarten this year, and I am enjoying watching them discover the world! They both have fabulous teachers who really challenge them to grow their brains. Over the past couple of weeks, the little ladies have been immersed in the history of Thanksgiving. I have heard over and over (and over and over) the tale of the Pilgrims sailing to the new land from England on the Mayflower so they could attend the church of their choice. My girls have regaled me with the heroics of Squanto and the Native Americans. Yesterday, I attended a celebration that had the kiddos  making dream catchers, canoes, male and female Pilgrim costumes, butter, and bread.

There's no holiday like Thanksgiving to remind us of our humble beginnings. I hope you'll take a couple of minutes to chow down on some historical literacy (along with pie, and turkey, and mashed potatoes ... oh, and don't forget the gravy. I love gravy!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading! It keeps your Mind Full of Literacy!

Can the Common Core Standards Cultivate a Renewed Sense of Kumbaya in Education?

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Right now, Education Week is offering free access to the digital edition of  Rethinking Literacy: Reading in the Common-Core Era for a limited time. The edition consists of several articles related to how the Common Core State Standards will alter how the educational system as awhole views reading and writing.

One particular article, Literacy Instruction Expected to Cross Disciplines addresses in more detail what I wrote about here. It's so exciting!

Thanks for reading ... It keeps your Mindfull of Literacy!

70/30: Is Teaching Fiction Losing the Common Core Battle?

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In an earlier post, I wrote about a study that found that only 43% of 2012 graduates who took the SAT had the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in college. That’s disturbing, considering that organizations today are looking for people who are creative and innovative thinkers and initiators. Apparently, the creators of the Common Core Standards find these and similar statistics concerning because they took action. To date, 45 states have adopted these new standards, which were designed reflect the knowledge students need to have a productive college life and/or career path.

The Kansas City Star ran an article recently about the possible effects that implementation of the Common Core Standards could have on the teaching of literature. The new standards recommend that non-fiction/informational text should make up 70% of what high school students read and write about. The school of thought is that beefing up non-fiction reading and writing will better prepare students for college.
High school literature teachers are reeling from the new standards, and rightly so. The change will require them to approach their content area in a whole new way. While some teachers view the standards as a mandate to reduce the amount of fiction students read, others view it as an opportunity to supplement the fiction with informational text. As usual, the new standards encourage educators and administrators to see the change as a school-wide responsibility.  

I have mixed feelings about this topic. I loved my English and Literature classes in high school, and I was inspired by the passion that ignited my teachers to share everything they could about authors and their stories. That inspiration and their passion led me to earn a B.A. in English. As an educator, I know how exciting it is when a struggling reader falls in love with a book. More often than not, the books they love are works of fiction. And I know that the skills needed to access informational text – analyzing, evaluating, knowledge of theme and genre to name just a few – are taught when we dig beneath the surface of works of literature.
But at the same time, I know that the transfer of knowledge isn’t there. I know that most jobs require a person to read and comprehend informational texts. In fact, my English degree led me straight into a job proofreading technical documents at an engineering firm. As an educator, I fully support teaching across the curriculum.  Encouraging English teachers to focus more on informational texts doesn’t have to mean shelving their beloved classics. In fact, it should mean just the opposite. This is the perfect opportunity for teachers to reach across the hallway and collaborate with their colleagues. If a class is reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, why not work with the history and/or economics teachers to find appropriate non-fiction texts about The Roaring 20s? Or, if a class is studying Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, team up with the Social Studies teacher to read true accounts of the Holocaust. Take this opportunity to boost students’ literacy skills culturally, historically, financially and politically. Help students make these critical connections and analyze and evaluate their importance to their world.

Transitioning from the current state standards to the Common Core won’t be easy. Secondary-level teachers typically teach in isolation. Intense collaboration is scary, and, it’s been my experience that most content-area teachers don’t see it as their job to help students improve their reading and writing skills. It won’t be easy because some people just don’t like change. But my gut tells me that the Common Core standards aren’t going to fade away, at least not anytime soon. My hope is that teachers, administrators, and schools can all find a way to introduce students to the adventures and ideas that both fiction and non-fiction texts have to offer.

Can Being Mindful of Emotions During Reading Improve Comprehension?

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 How mindful are you of your emotions when you read? According to new research, tracking and analyzing Moment-To-Moment (M2M) emotions could give insight into when reading comprehension breaks down, resumes, or flows continuously. The research, conducted by Arthur C. Graesser and Sidney D'Mello, was published in the November 2012 issue of The Reading Teacher, a publication of the International Reading Association. The name of the article is Moment-To-Moment Emotions During Reading.

According to the research, M2M emotions focus on either the "persistence or changes in emotions every few seconds" versus the long-term status of everyday emotions. M2M emotions are not static, rather they are extremely dynamic as a reader interacts with a reading task or text. In fact, for their studies, Graesser and D'Mello poll emotions every 20 seconds using a variety of people and tools to classify the emotions. Think about that. They track every 20 seconds. Incredible!

The study highlights four emotions: boredom, frustration, confusion and flow (engagement). In tracking these fluctuating emotions, the researchers attempt to pinpoint the exact moment when each one kicks in. They also track how a reader transitions from one emotion to emotion. Apparently, there are two transition cycles: Beneficial (flow > confusion > delight in having cleared the confusion) and Harmful (boredom > frustration > disengagement). The article offers well-known interventions to help readers who consistently remain in the Harmful cycle.

The ultimate goal with reading and reading instruction is to develop readers who read metacognitively and who become mindful of their changing emotions while they read. I found this article so interesting because it looks at common problem through a new lens: Why do some readers struggle while others don't? While the emotions Graesser and D'Mello set forth aren't new - teachers know that boredom, frustration, and confusion during reading are common, interconnected feelings for struggling readers - the pinpoint approach is refreshing. I can't wait to see more research from this area of study. And I imagine now that this topic is "top of mind" that I'll be more mindful of what I'm feeling as I read.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading ... it keeps your Mind Full of Literacy!

Got My Mind On My Money ... Part DUH

I just got back from meeting with a financial advisor. (See back story here.). You will never know how many times I tried to back out. I was the Queen of Excuses. But I did it, and I survived.

It went well. My retirement plan is a little more streamlined, and my funds are allocated more appropriately. Apparently, my age has bumped my risk-tolerance level from Aggressive Investor to Moderate Investor. That feels a little strange to me.

The rep I met with was very nice. And very young. I think he might have been about 15 years old. His business card shouts "Senior Investment Specialist." I couldn't help but think, "Senior in what? High school?" Ugly, I know. I was his age when I started investing with his firm. You know, the age where 40 seems old? Now, I'm 41. So, to him, I'm sure I looked like a muddled old lady trying to figure out her finances. I could tell he was uncomfortable asking age-related questions. He got especially flustered when he had to ask how long I expected to live after I retired. (Forever, baby!)  It was somewhat humorous watching him squirm and stutter. Did I mentioned he looked like a Ken doll? But, that's beside the point.

So awkward moments aside, today was a learning day for me. I discovered that my husband and I need to sit down and talk more about our retirement plans. I also learned that I am not as financially literate about the investment world as I would like to be. Lastly, I learned that a lot of our fear and lack of literacy in certain areas is due to a communication barrier. My financial advisor spoke quickly and tossed around industry jargon that reverberated in my ears like a foreign language. I felt uncomfortable and at a disadvantage. I let it keep  me from asking all of my questions and understanding all of the answers to questions I did ask. It got me thinking about how I communicate with people, especially young people. Perhaps their lack of understanding and learning has to do with how I presented information.

The bottom line is that I'm glad I went. I consider it time well spent because I stepped out of my comfort zone and grabbed an opportunity to educate myself about something important to me.

Thanks for reading ... it keeps your Mind Full of Literacy!