Unite for Literacy

I had an interesting conversation a couple of days ago about the limitation of tablets, in this case iPads, in the classroom with a teacher-librarian friend.  It wasn’t something that I’d thought about before but it went to reinforce a few things in my mind:

  • someone needs to be constantly driving the ship and pushing good ideas;
  • professional learning needs to be continuous;
  • you can’t just drop and run with technology;
  • and, importantly, don’t underestimate the power of a good teacher-librarian.

The message was essentially that there can be an “app for that” mentality with the use of the technology.  We’ve heard that a million times but, when you dig a little deeper, you see that there’s an underlying message.

  • only applications installed by the district can be used (and perhaps with a locked down device, that’s legitimate);
  • there are a finite list of things that can be done;
  • everything provided is deemed good and you’re not encouraged to try other things.

In this case, we were talking about literacy and the power of electronic books.  There’s no doubt that an electronic book has the potential for the device to do more for the book that paper can.  Of course, the fallacy here is that it ignores the fact that the greatest literacy device is the imagination of the reader.  And, if there must be an app for everything, once you’ve read the book, it’s done.  What’s next?  What can the child do at home?

There’s another important app that’s missing in all this – the web browser.  By browsing to the right site, lots of possibilities exist!

That’s where the Unite for Literacy site shines.

These days, we’re all so familiar with the concept of the bookshelf as a launch pad for digital materials and it works the same here – on every device I could lay my hands on.  (Well, a computer, a phone, and a tablet…)

The site has a wonderfully rich collection of books that can be filtered with the graphics at the top of the bookshelf.  The terms of use are incredibly friendly and easy to understand.  Kudos for that – why can’t all digital resources follow their lead?

In addition to clicking or tapping your way through the story, there’s an option to have the story narrated.  Nice.  The technology ends there.  Nothing swooshes or moves or animates.  The reader’s imagination is left to take over.

Showing the power of digital, check out the narration language menu.

I’ll bet your mind is spinning with ideas now.  It’s only the narration that changes; the text of the book remains in English.

Consider the newest classroom members who might be on their way to learning English.  All of a sudden, they could become the expert in the room as the book is read in a language they recognize.

It truly is the tip of the iceberg.

If students have access to the technology at home, they can continue with the stories – sharing their abilities or just enjoying stories with family.  Yes, there’s an app for this – just not the kind you might expect.

I know how I’m planning to use it.

Thoughts?  Ideas?  Please share them in the comments?

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

8 thoughts on “Unite for Literacy”

  1. Yet again, you are my hero. I do have new Arabic students in my classroom – really bright, engaged Arabic students, currently hamstrung by their frustration at not being able to fully take part in the learning. This will help! Love it, love it, love it! Thanks to the phantom teacher-librarian!


  2. I need a next step – this will be huge for my younger students, but I desperately need a version of this that moves on – maybe through graphic novels, maybe through simple chapter books, but something that continues this continuum of reading/listening material.


  3. I was thinking the same thing Lisa. I want to share this with our staff because we have a lot of students that speak other languages and I can see this being really beneficial. I know that some of the students though would benefit from books that are little bit older than these ones. This is still a great start.



  4. The other thing I was thinking, Aviva, is that this would be a remarkable help for some of my FSL students who need a visual/audio meaning link. These basic texts could really help with vocabulary building (and might let my Arabic students work on their French vocab building as well).


  5. Wow! What a great idea! I didn’t even think of this one. I know that some of the French teachers at my school are struggling because the students are just learning English and find it a challenge to learn French as well. I wonder if this would work for them too.



  6. It is a great site! Just wanted to add that if children don’t have access to technology at home, public libraries now have computers, laptops and tablets that they lend out on the premises. I am always delighted to see my students’ families at the library. They have so many wonderful programs to promote literacy and aid newcomers.


  7. Thanks for sharing this, Doug! I, too, love the accessible it is, and see many applications. For those who are commenting that an option with more challenging texts would be great, I think the closest option is http://www.getepic.com. It is free for educators (think “shared reading” on an interactive whiteboard or Apple TV set up). It only reads out loud in English (or maybe Spanish)…but it has awesome books and let’s up to 30 students be tracked, I believe. Check it out.


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