30 June 2013

Technology Integration Matrix

Effective technology integration is achieved when its use supports curricular goals. 
It must support four key components of learning: active engagement, 
participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, 
and connection to real-world experts.
Edutopia, 2012

What strikes me most about the video above from Edutopia, is that it posits that technology is just a tool - one of the many we have our disposal and that our responsibility as educators is to use "whatever resources [we] have to the best of [our] abilities". I am lucky enough in that I have at my disposal: 
  • experience of working in a 1:1 environment for two years
  • an ever-increasing knowledge about educational technology and how it might best integrate into the classroom stemming both from my experience but also from the learning I do to feed the burning desire to understand how best to use this growing tool
  • a supportive school that encourages us to take risks and try new ways of teaching and learning
  • a great online PLN from whom I learn something new everyday
  • an Apple geek husband who supports and helps me with technical queries and issues
  • a classroom full of eager learners - each with their own Apple MacBook Pro
and it is a combination of all the above that means that whilst educators have always had to use what they have (and I have worked in schools with NOTHING, not even my own classroom) I acknowledge that I am in a really privileged position and I have to make sure I make the most of it. It is my responsibility to use these resources wisely and effectively to enhance teaching and learning.
Edutopia: An Introduction to Technology Integration (2012)
The principals of technology integration that are most important to me are those that allow learners 'to foster creative problem solving and metacognition' (p. 50) as these are transferable skills that make life-long learners and 'to support efficient, self-paced learning' (p. 49). The Edutopia video above states that when we create our own learning, this is completely different learning to reading or memorising from a books. Most recently I experienced the power of this creativity myself. Having taught the research process for the IB Diploma extended essay for the past six years, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the research, writing and editing process. It was only once I enrolled onto my Masters in Education and began writing the first academic essay I had written in almost twenty years that I really began to 
get the whole process properly - and it meant I was in a much better position to teach research writing. My Grade 8 learners were also writing a research paper at the same time I was writing mine (read my first attempt at writing here) and they appreciated my struggles and the fact that I was going through what they were. One of them even took a draft of my paper home to read and came back the next day with questions about structure and organisation! 

Most importantly for me, technology integration is about the learning, it is about the creating and it is about the process. Technology is transforming all of this. Recently I qualified as a Flat Classroom teacher as I believe the power we have now enables us to transform what we think of as education and how we view the idea of a classroom. We have the power to provide authentic audiences, forge diverse cultural relationships and create global classrooms. "We need to meet [learners] where they are" (Edutopia, 2012), and this means we need to be lifelong learners but we also need to be someone who uses technology and tries to understand and utilise the digital world they are so comfortable in.

They are a variety of methods to assess the effectiveness or need for technology integration. One I have come across lately, is the Florida Center for Instructional Technology's Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) which identifies five levels of technology integration:
  • entry
  • adoption
  • adaptation
  • infusion 
  • transformation
At the entry level, teachers are at the point where they are "using technology to deliver curriculum content to students" and activities include "listening to or watching content delivered through technology or working on activities designed to build fluency with basic facts or skills, such as drill-and-practice exercises". At this point of integration, learners "may not have direct access to the technology...and decisions about how and when to use technology tools as well as which tools to use are made by the teacher".  At the further end of the spectrum, at the transformation level, learners "use technology tools flexibly to achieve specific learning outcomes" and have "a conceptual understanding of the tools coupled with extensive practical knowledge about their use".  Here, the "teacher serves as a guide, mentor, and model in the use of technology. At this level, technology tools are often used to facilitate higher order learning activities that would not otherwise have been possible, or would have been difficult to accomplish without the use of technology" (Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 2013).

Associated with these integration levels, are five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments:
  • active
  • constructive
  • goal directed (i.e., reflective)
  • authentic
  • collaborative (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003)
Together, these two sets of criteria create a matrix of twenty-five cells that have various subject-specific suggestions embedded into it that can be used to create meaningful lessons that purposefully integrate technology.  At least, that is what I hoped.

I looked in detail at a 'goal directed' lesson at 'entry level' for language arts (click here). It involved learners taking a reading assessment by reading on screen and using 'responders', wireless clickers, to input answers. Results were automatically graded and collated for the teacher to use. I then compared this with a 'goal directed' lesson at the 'transformational level' for language arts (click here). Considering these two are at opposing ends of the integration spectrum, I struggled to see any real difference between the two as both, to me, seemed to be 'using technology' and I couldn't see a true "relative advantage" of using the technology (Roblyer and Doering, 2013). Sure, the 'Puppy Mill' project would have been a lot more difficult without the Internet or technology but what was the value added? I guess my main problem is with the learning objectives; what 'understanding' is the technology allowing these learners to experience that the lack thereof would mean was missing? The 'Puppy Mill' project's learning objective was to "design a project, create a task list, and complete the project as planned"; the learning objective of the reading assessment was to "use computers and responders to complete a reading assessment" - and I think more than the use of technology or the designation of the level at which it is being integrated is my issue with these learning objectives. Having focused on Wiggins and McTighe's (2011) Understanding by Design model, how are these objectives about understanding anything worthwhile or transferable? I want a tool that will help me to really consider HOW to allow learners to assess and show their understanding through a transference of their understanding into new situations and contexts. This led me to explore further and this time, I looked at the matrix via the Grade Level Index page.

Focusing on Language Arts again (it is my subject and I want to learn how to effectively integrate the into the English classroom), I looked that a Middle School 'authentic learning' lesson at the 'adoption level' (next up from entry). Again, whilst the teacher's rationale that her technology choice (Moodle) allowed her to "expand the classroom beyond these four walls" is a valid one that aligns with the desire I have for my learners, I could not see HOW she was doing this other than expanding learning into their free time. She made some valid points that these forums encouraged open discussion and the learners appeared to appreciate this and she indicated that this tool "allows those who are quieter to voice their opinion", which is a positive thing. Equally, she stated that she felt it was "creating a community of readers" which was "making them read more" which again, is excellent. However, to truly expand beyond the walls, learning needs to be MORE authentic than this - it needs real audiences beyond their classroom, blogs where they share with another school or even grade level go beyond the classroom; Skype with authors are great ways of breaking down walls - global projects that connect with a class from the other side of the world... Again, I think my problem is with the learning intention, which was to "engage in online discussions about their reading" and "complete assignments online and send them to their teacher" - what is the authentic learning here? Is this more authentic than having a discussion in class or writing an essay on paper? If the goal of education is to have “direct instruction and modeling…always in the context of trying to improve (increasingly autonomous) student performance” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011, p. 104) - what is the learning goal that supports this understanding? What transferable skill are they coming to understand?

Finally, before I gave up disappointed, I found a Grade 9-12 'collaborative learning' research project lesson at the 'infusion' level of integration, which "typically occurs after teachers and students have experience with a particular technology tool". At the 'infusion' level a "range of different technology tools are integrated flexibly and seamlessly into teaching and learning" and "is available in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of all students."At this level, learners should be "able to make informed decisions about when and how to use different tools" and the "focus is on student learning and not on the technology tools themselves...the teacher guides students to make decisions about when and how to use technology". Truly, this lesson seemed beyond the level of the 'transformational' Puppy Mill project above - but I believe they are this way aligned as the learners in the Puppy Mill leson worked independently, whereas in this research project, the teacher was still there as a guide. What made a difference to the research project lesson (which was actually what the Puppy Mill project was too) was the level of detail in terms of the learning goals; still not completely aligned with what I like to see as a succinct intention, at least they were focused and more measurable:
  • Students will select and use a variety of electronic media, such as the Internet, information services, and desktop publishing software programs, to create, revise, retrieve, and verify information.
  • Students will write fluently for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes, making appropriate choices regarding style, tone, level of detail, and organization.
  • Students will use effective strategies for informal and formal discussions, including listening actively and reflecting, connecting to and building on the ideas of a previous speaker, and respecting the viewpoints of others.
and ISTE standards were also included:
  • Make informed choices among technology systems, resources, and services.
  • Use technology tools and resources for managing and communicating personal/professional information (e.g., finances, schedules, addresses, purchases, correspondence)
  • Routinely and efficiently use online information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publication, communication, and productivity.
  • Select and apply technology tools for research, information analysis, problem solving, and decision making in content learning.
  • Collaborate with peers, experts, and others to contribute to a content-related knowledge base by using technology to compile, synthesize, produce, and disseminate information, models, and other creative works.
I think this Technology Integration Matrix might help with ideas about different kinds of technology to use for different activities; the matrix would be particularly useful for teachers who are are at the entry level and wanting ideas about how to progress. The site provides lots of ideas, it easy to navigate and has plenty of options on how to find information which is useful. The Grade Level Index helps locate specific lessons for your grade level, the Digital Tools Index lists and categorises lots of different tools which is a great resource for everyone trying to find new ways of teaching and learning. The Professional Development Resources page intends to "assist teachers, schools, and districts in applying the Technology Integration Matrix as part of a comprehensive technology integration plan" and has some helpful resources such as the The Technology Integration Matrix Table of Summary Descriptors, which could be used as a checklist to help progression and professional learning. However, I am not sure how much the site can cement a true appreciation of how technology might enhance teaching and learning beyond the tools we already use. We have to be very careful that we do not use technology for the sake of it - it has to enhance existing teaching and learning pedagogies not jut be something we 'do'.

Doering, A.H. & Roblyer, M.D. (2013) Integrating education technology into teaching. USA: Pearson

Edutopia. (2012). Retrieved June 30, 2013, from An Introduction to Technology Integration: http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction-video

Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (2013). The Technology Integration Matrix. (U. o. College of Education, Producer) Retrieved June 30, 2013, from The Technology Integration Matrix: http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/index.php

29 June 2013

Assessment and me

Finding a Balance
Assessment for me has two sides: what learners need to learn based on tests or exams and the skills that are equally important though less explicit in exam-terms. Whilst these should balance, there is a dichotomy at play.

Stiggens, R. & Chappius, J. (2006) differentiate between assessment OF learning, which maps onto the first point above, and is assessment for grading, reporting and accountability purposes; and assessment FOR learning, which is more the latter point, and helps students learn and become engaged in self improvement. Both are important, though too often, stakeholders want results from external exams and this can often be at the expense of real learning.

Life-long Learning
Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement.
(American Association of Higher Education, 1999). 
Planning must be based on the requirements of what needs to be taught and examined - we cannot get away from this. Learners have to pass exams to get into college, to advance in education. We have a responsibility to be aware of syllabus requirements and assessment criteria so learners are well informed and prepared and ultimately, have the opportunity to be successful. However, as educators, we can be creative in the way we address this, "effective learning requires...a balanced focus on students' understanding and application of knowledge" (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011, p. 5). We have to start not with the content but rather with what we want them to be able to do with the content; the "textbook should serve as a resource, not the syllabus" (p. 9) because after all, a "primary goal of education is effective transfer of learning" (p. 7). We want learners to pass their exams to get into college BUT we want them to be able to use their learning to be successful in college and in the workplace, "the right answer is not the endpoint" (Edutopia, 2011). We must avoid 'fact' or 'rote' learning that does not contribute to real understanding and instead, promote knowledge and skill as "core building blocks for later meaning-making and transfer" (p. 21).

Collaborative Assessment
Assessment for learning happens in the classroom and involves students in every 
aspect of their own assessment to build their confidence and maximize their achievement.
(Stiggens & Chappius, 2006).

Assessment must be a collaborative process where teacher and learners are involved. When I was at school, I never knew what the intention was behind the learning or lesson, why I was learning what I was doing, or how I was going to be assessed. This is a situation one would hope to rarely find in today's schools. Goals must be shared and to a great an extent as possible, assessments should be co-constructed. Rubrics can be developed with and for the learners needs and choices given in how learners wish to demonstrate their learning. If our bottom-line is to enable learners to "perform effectively with understanding, knowledge and skill" (p. 49), we must allow learners to transfer their learning by sharing the assessment requirements and letting them decide how to show they have understood them. 

American Association of Higher Education, Assessment Forum. (1999). "Principles of good practice in assessing student learning" Retrieved October 12, 2009, from http://www.facet.iupui.edu/resources/AAHE%20Principles.pdf

Stiggens, R. & Chappius, J. (2006, Winter). What a difference a word makes: Assessment FOR learning rather than OF learning helps students succeed. Journal of Staff Development, 27(1).

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2011). The understanding by design guide to creating high-quality units. Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Google Alerts and Your Organization's Digital Reputation

Google Alerts and Your Organization's Digital Reputation

What you need to know about social media.

25 June 2013

Solving an Instructional Problem through Technology?

In response to the discussion about "Solving an Instructional Problem through Technology?", I chose Smith-Vance's paper: 'Improving Vocabulary Fluency and Comprehension using Student Created Interactive Dictionaries' (Stone, 2011, pp. 128-144) because the acquisition, understanding and use of new vocabulary is a perennial issue for all learners and particularly those with English as an additional language (EAL).

As an English teacher, I am constantly evaluating the merits of new technologies and applications to see if technology can offer a relative advantage over older methods (Roblyer and Doering, 2013). In the past I have used word banks, learners have created shared multilingual dictionaries, I have a word wall of laminated sheets organised by letter that learners are encouraged to add to, I have used Word Dynamo and Snappy Words and I often speak to other-language teachers to see if their methods can help. What I find is that the assimilation of new vocabulary seems to be an issue across all subjects, not just language-based ones. This paper interested me as its aim was to see how Microsoft Powerpoint, Audacity and online dictionaries could be utilised to help "English Language Learners (ELLs) build background knowledge of key vocabulary words in science while improving their oral fluency in the English Language" (p. 128). As an English teacher, literacy is of prime importance and I am constantly seeking new ways to assist in raising awareness and standards across the school - I was hoping this research might shed light onto new ways of learning vocabulary that I could share with all subject-teachers.

The learners in the study had "some beginning knowledge of the English language yet still require[d] assistance in speaking, reading and writing English" (p. 129) which resonates with the majority of ELLs in our school. The learners in the study were elementary aged learners, but as ELLs are designated by their ability to use language rather than their age, I did not see this as an issue. In fact, I felt that if the study was effective with elementary-aged learners, then others with similar language levels but who were older would be able to cope with and potentially find the method useful too. The thinking behind the use of an digital dictionary came from Meskill, Mossop and National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement's, (1997) research that found that "using multimedia sources and engaging students in multimedia projects helps to motivate the ELLs and enable them to make sense of the content and the language" (p. 132), and that "the correlation between multimedia computer software and language and vocabulary acquisition is strong" (p. 134), along with Bozkurt and Walters' (2009) research that found that the "use of vocabulary notebooks has been proven to be an effective teaching and learning tool is ESOL classrooms (p. 134). 

The technology-based solution in this study aimed to address the gaps in achievement of ELLs, including "lack of background knowledge and confidence in the classroom" (Hui-Yin, Shing-Kwei and Comac, 2008, p. 132). It was comprised of, "Microsoft Powerpoint, a multimedia software programme, and Audacity, a free web-based recording software", and required learners to collaboratively "create digital dictionaries...includ[ing] pictures, written definitions, and audio files of the words to promote fluency" (p. 131).

There are a number of things that I liked about the project. Firstly, the tools used were relatively straight-forward and well-known, simple tools meaning the focus was on the creation of the dictionary not on the learning of the technology - although direct instruction was provided for all the tools used by a technology specialist (p. 135). Secondly, I liked the multiple intelligences approach that included words, images and sounds to allow for all learners' needs to be addressed. Thirdly, to build background knowledge about the content, the learners were given the opportunity to create their dictionaries "before the rest of the class began the unit" (p. 134). Finally, I loved that the creation of the dictionary was a collaborative effort and resulted in a tool that could be used by their peers. The paper suggests that the project was successful in that each learner involved "gained a level in both background knowledge of the world and oral fluency and pronunciation of the word" (p. 137). The project required learners to read, write, create and problem solve (Bonwell and Eison, 1991, p. 138) all of which are essential literacy skills. The collaborative and interactive nature of the project with real-world and authentic outcomes helps engage and motivate even the most reluctant learners (often the ELL learners). The paper concludes that "the use of multimedia software helped motivate ESOL students to learn and apply knowledge about content related vocabulary" (p. 139). The reason why technology is important in helping all learners is summed up by Cole, Simkins and Penuel's (2002) who state that "multi-media projects in the classroom help students use high-level thinking skills such as creating and analyzing, which are best practises in teaching" (p. 140).

Smith-Vance, L.M. (2011). Improving vocabulary fluency and comprehension using student created interactive dictionaries. In Stone, T. E. (Ed.), Models of applied research in educational technology (pp. 128-144). Adelphi, MD: UMUC.

24 June 2013

Future of Fiction

English Language Arts teachers are constantly fighting the battle to instil habits of reading and writing into learners who have so many other options of how to spend their leisure time. Exacerbated by the influx and availability of technology incessantly at the fingertips of many of today’s learners, it is becoming even harder to lure them towards print. When much of today’s youth inhabit an interactive multimedia-rich environment, its no wonder the printed page appears somewhat cold, lifeless and unappealing in comparison. Weil (1997) suggests that learners are “natives in a place that most adults are immigrants” and to foster a culture of reading and writing for these “digital natives” (Prensky, 2006), we need to move our thinking about reading, writing, literacy and books beyond the traditions of the printed page to engage and motivate our learners to read in a way that looks recognisable to them. Educators need to explore the future of fiction. This paper explores the educational value of the software applications iBooks Author (Apple Inc., 2013) and inklewriter (inkle Ltd, n.d.) for Grades 6-8 in the English Language Arts classroom. Specifically focusing on a developmental approach to teaching narrative writing, this paper evaluates how these two software applications can aid the process of the creation of effective fiction, with reference to both subject-specific and technological-skills based curricula and standards. It assesses how they may assist student learning and literacy in order to determine to what extent they should be recommended to other educators as a tool to effectively teach and advance narrative writing.

The Software

Apple Inc.’s iBooks Author (2013) is a free app available for download from the Mac App Store. Apple suggest that it is “as easy as using a word processor, but powerful enough to take your page beyond the written word” (2013). It allows users to create interactive books that seamlessly integrate multi-media images, sounds and videos with words and graphics, allowing users to bring to books a whole new experience that goes beyond what is offered by the printed page. inklewriter (inkle Ltd, n.d.) is a free web-based application founded by Joseph Humfrey and Jon Ingold, both highly experienced in the video-game industry with knowledge of every major platform for digital media and gaming. It allows users to create non-linear interactive stories that are “easy to play and beautiful to read on modern tablet devices” (inkle Ltd, n.d.).

iBooks Author requires a Macintosh computer running OSX 10.7.4 or later. An Internet connection is required to download the programme, but once installed, work can be completed offline. In order to preview the interactive product created, an iPad with iBooks 3.0 installed on it is also required (Pugh, 2012). inklewriter, can be accessed with a variety of machines including tablets and smart phones though “specifically, it's designed to be used on "real" computers - laptops and desktops: because it's a system for writing, you get a much better experience when using a keyboard” (J. Ingold, personal communication, June 4, 2013). As a web-based application, it does require an Internet connection in order to be able to create, though “when stories are shared, they can be read comfortably across all devices, however - again, using the internet browser [sic]” (J. Ingold, personal communication, June 4, 2013). These particular software titles have been chosen for evaluation as my current school plans to operate as an Apple 1:1 establishment across Grades 6-12, therefore all learners will have access to iBooks Author. We also have class sets of iPads available for booking out, which will allow learners to preview the iBooks interactivity during creation. As inklewriter is a free web-based programme and the school has Wi-Fi throughout, all learners will have ready access to this software too.

The two software applications will be evaluated for their contribution to the effective teaching and learning of literacy according to a variety of both subject-specific and skill-based standard and criteria. Assessed through educational standards, the evaluation will draw from the English Curriculum for key stage 3 [Years 7-9, Grades 6-8] (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2007), the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE, 2012) National Educational Technology Standards for Students [NETS*S], and Partnership 21’s framework for 21st Century Skills for students (P21.org, 2002).

21st Century Educational Tools and Functions

Roblyer and Doering (2013) divide instructional software into a variety of functions for 21st century teaching: drill-and-practice, tutorial, simulation, instructional and problem solving (pp. 74-109); they categorise technological tools into materials generators, data collection and analysis, graphics, planning and organising, research and reference, and content-area tools (pp. 138-169). Close inspection of these categorisations fails to see either iBooks Author or sit squarely within them – meaning these classifications may need to be revisited with the ever-shifting landscape of instructional technology, as both applications have educational and instructional value in that they both aid in the writing process and create end products alternative to the traditional, written form. Both software applications could be considered as simulation tools, as they simulate the writing process and lead to a simulation or virtual version of a print book. Equally, they address the function of problem-solving, as the way to tell a story needs constant revision, particularly when it comes to integrating graphics and interactivity or telling the narrative in a non-linear way. Again, both iBooks Author and inklewriter generate material – a book - and whilst it does not explicitly organise and plan, a great deal of critical thought into this area is required for successful narratives to be produced. Both applications can be considered ones of “productivity” designed to “help teachers and students plan, develop materials [and] communicate” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 12), and I do believe, despite the fact that my choices cannot be evaluated in quantitative terms against Roblyer and Doering’s criteria, they are part of a process that WILL advance literacy, as both address educational curriculum standards against which teaching is moulded. They also sit within process theories of both developmental approaches to writing as well as why writing with technology matters.

Educational Standards

Literacy is no longer simply about understanding words on a page or about being able to write words on a page; we must, as Smolin and Lawless (2003) suggest, deliver a “technologically infused curriculum [that] can develop multiple essential literacies: technological literacy, visual literacy, informational literacy, and intertextuality” (Bedard & Fuhrken, 2013, p. 8). English teaching needs to be hung upon certain sets of standards that address multiple literacies; content and subject specific or core skills come from state standards such as the English National Curriculum (2007); technology skills are addressed through the National Educational Standards for Students [NETS*S] (ISTE, 2012), and 21st century skills through reference to Partnership 21’s skills framework (P21.org, 2002). Collaboration is an essential skill and identified in all three frameworks as key - yet works in conjunction with the need to foster, assess and develop individual writing skills. The best approach is one that offers both. - Collaborative planning and drafting happens with teachers and learners involved in modelling and thinking, often on paper, whilst finished product are completed individually, but with opportunities for discussion and peer-reviews in order to show each learner’s personal progress. Using standards from across these three sets of criteria means that a variety of skill sets are addressed and learned, allowing for different leaning styles and outcomes.

The English National Curriculum (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2007) requires students of English to be “successful learners who enjoy learning” and this is only going to happen if we, as educators, adapt our teaching to meet the growing needs of our multi-dimensional society. Individuals unable to keep up with or develop strategies to deal with informational technologies will quickly be left behind (Bedard & Fuhrken, 2013, p. 8). Divided into categories of “competence”, “creativity”, “cultural understanding”, and “critical understanding”, the English National Curriculum requires learners to develop reading and writing skills in “drafting, editing, proofreading [both] on paper and on screen” (p. 67) and “understand[ing] how meaning is created through the combination of words, images and sounds in multimodal texts” (p. 65). It states that learners should be allowed the opportunity to use “language imaginatively to create new meanings and effects” (p. 70), be given opportunities to “try such writing for themselves” to “move beyond their current situation” and “experiment with new texts” (p. 75). Both iBooks Author and inklewriter offer such opportunities. iBooks Author opens and operates like well-known and widely used word processing applications such as Word and Pages; essentially, to create a book, all you have to do is create a file (Pugh, 2012). Templates, already set up by Apple, allow all learners the chance to create something professional looking--even if design skills are not their strong point--and allows the focus to be on the writing (though plenty of choices regarding fonts and layouts are also there for the taking). There are also the choices to create books in landscape or portrait, insert videos, shapes, widgets or 3D objects – in other words, plenty of occasions for learners to “move beyond their current situation” (p. 75) by taking what they know from writing narratives using word processing applications, and “experiment with new texts” or rather ways of reimagining texts (p. 70). inklewriter helps writers to “tell interactive tales with the minimum of fuss” and is “perfect for writers who want to try out interactivity, but also for teachers and students looking to mix computer skills and creative writing” (inkle Ltd, n.d.). Designed by game-makers, inklewriter allows writing to become a fluid process open for re-visioning and experimentation, allowing writers to use “language imaginatively to create new meanings and effects” (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2007, p. 75) by writing through “play, branching the story with choices, and then linking those stories back together again” (inkle Ltd, n.d.). Play is a well-documented mode of learning and by keeping track of “which paths you’ve finished, and which still need to be written”, inklewriter allows learners to develop essential “drafting, editing [and] proofreading” (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2007, p. 67) skills that can be utilised in any kind of writing.

The National Education Standards for Students [NETS*S], are considered to be the basic skills that learners should meet. Established by the professional technology organisation ISTE, the framework lists “Creativity and Innovation”, “Communication and Collaboration”, “Research and Information Fluency”, “Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making”, “Digital Citizenship” and “Technology Operations and Concepts” as its key areas (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. inside cover). As mentioned earlier, iBooks Author builds on knowledge of word processing applications and takes it a step further, addressing directly the NETS*S “Creativity and Innovation” standard to “develop innovative products and processes using technology” by applying “existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes” and “create original works” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. inside cover). The non-linear capabilities of inklewriter also allows learners to develop “Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making” skills as they need to be able to “plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. inside cover). Through the choices offered by iBooks Author’s multi-media options, learners have to be able to “use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions” to decide how to tell their story yet remain cohesive, just as they do to ensure their non-linear inklewriter story remains unified (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. inside cover). Both applications address the ISTE standard to be able to “transfer current knowledge to the learning of new technologies” listed under “Technology and Concepts” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. inside cover) as both ask learners to take their knowledge of story writing, learned way back in Primary school, but shape it to demonstrate their ability as an accomplished writer who can adapt to new literacies and meet the needs of the 21st century.

The 21st Century Skills (P21.org, 2002) framework lists specific “knowledge, skills, and expertise” that learners need to “succeed in work and life in the 21st century”. Partnership 21 was founded to “create a successful model of learning for this millennium that incorporates 21st century skills into our education”, and includes Apple Computer, Inc. among its partners (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 21). To help educators “integrate skills into the teaching of core academic subjects, the Partnership has developed a unified, collective vision for learning known as the Framework for 21st Century Learning” (P21.org, 2002). The framework consists of three overarching categories; a rainbow listing, “Life and Career Skills; Learning and Innovation Skills; and Information, Media, and Technology Skills” that inform skill maps for each of their identified essential core subjects to meet each of the P21 competencies (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 22). Blending “content knowledge, specific skills, expertise and literacies”, English Language Arts is identified as an essential core subject (P21.org, 2002). iBooks Author addresses the framework’s “Media Literacy” standards that require learners to “understand and effectively utilize the most appropriate expressions and interpretations in diverse, multi-cultural environments” (P21.org, 2002). Equally, the ‘Copyright’ page of iBooks means that, as with any writing going public on the web--an essential literacy brought about by the abundant information at learner’s fingertip—learners must think carefully about what they are publishing. Being able not only to create a product, as outlined in the other curriculum frameworks, but being able to also “apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of media”, means learners are thinking beyond the confines of the classroom and acknowledge their digital footprint on the world (P21.org, 2002). The skills required to create multi-media and non-linear texts directly addresses P21’s belief that such innovative skills are those that separate learners – the digital divide is not longer one due to simple socio-economic terms, but one that widens due to the opportunities and advantages provided within the classroom. Learners could just as easily be asked to sit and write a story in their notebooks and sure, there would still be focus on planning, organising and mechanics. But if learners are then asked to take this and mould it into something new, to embed media, to play with conventions of structure, presentation, order and ways of thinking about and creating writing and reading, emphasis is also placed upon ‘creativity’--the highest of Bloom’s Taxonomy of thinking skills (Anderson, et al., 2001)--which pushes boundaries beyond the ‘traditional’. iBooks Author and inklewriter both provide such opportunities to “develop creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration” (P21.org, 2002)--themes that ring across all three sets of curriculums and standards, skill-sets that take and develop what learners know but keep on going; pushing the boundaries and helping prepare learners for the future, for roles and careers that don’t yet even exist.

Developmental Approaches to Teaching Writing
To understand how to teach writing in a differentiated classroom, Graham et al. (2007) suggest that it is important for teachers to have a developmental framework on which to pin the skills. Educations must possess an understanding of the “roadmap [that] lays out the route that children typically follow in their writing development” meaning they are informed about possible goals needed for each learner depending upon their place in the process. Early developing narrative features are identified as: sequentiality, knowing “events occur in a sequence”; particularity, knowing that stories “are about something in particular” and that non-related events should not be included; intentional states, understanding that “characters actions are motivated by their intentions”; and canonicity and breach, knowing the “expected order of things” and recognising when this is “breached or violated” (Graham et al., 2007, p.53). Preschool learners “hear and tell many stories” but “rarely write” them (Graham et al., 2007 p.52). Nelson (2003) says that this stage is crucial in “construct[ing] an understanding of the nature of stories” (Haden & Fivish, 2003) in order to allow learners to be able to identify the common features (Bruner, 1991). Evidence suggests that at this age, learners do not yet comprehend the features of intentionality or canonicity and breach (Graham et al., 2007 p.54) but move towards an understanding of these missing features by the age of six, as they “mature and gain more experience, their stories spontaneously begin to include references to internal mental states and intentions of characters” (p.54). Developmentally, by the age of eight, learners have begun to “construct increasingly complex portrayals of characters mental and physical worlds” (p.55), and by twelve, the average learner will “create characters with mental states and traits that are long-term, enduring across time and situations” (McKeogh & Genereux, 2003). An instructional narrative writing programme should be based on an understanding of these developmental stages and should adhere to the following theoretical principals.

· Stories have two landscapes – the outer physical world and the inner emotional world of the characters (Bruner, 1990) (Case & McKeogh, 1990) (McKeogh, Case, Berieter, Anderson, Adams, & Hirshberg, 1995)

· Developmentally, plot construction progress from action-orientated to ones that include action and mental states, such as intentions, feelings and thoughts (Case & McKeogh, 1990) (McKeogh, 1992) (McKeough & Sanderson, 1996)

· Cohesion in narratives increases with understanding and application of conjunctions (Fox, 1993) (Halliday & Hasan, 1989) (McKeogh et al., 2005)

· Teaching of stories in multiple forms, including image and text, can help children compose more expert-like stories (Gambrell & Jawitz, 1993) (Gordon, Sheridan, & Paul, 1998) (Shafrir, 1999)

These principals can be addressed through traditional non-technology-based methods but to reach and engage today’s learners, a blended learning approach that interweaves paper-based and technology-based approaches to learning can bring out the best in learners who, in Grades 6-8, have an understanding of the features of an effective story but may lack the necessary skills to produce one and adheres to the theory that teaching using multiple forms aids composition (Gambrell & Jawitz, 1993) (Gordon, Sheridan, & Paul, 1998). Understanding the stages of development, as well as the principals that are required to address effective learning of the writing process, means educators are in a position to choose the best tools for the job of addressing literacy. Today, that may well be writing software such as iBooks Author or inklewriter and a writing process is outlined later in the paper that takes developmental theories into account but remediates pedagogical methods to include technology as a way to address 21st century emerging multiple literacies.

Why Writing with Technology Matters

To become fully literate in today’s world, students must become proficient in the new literacies of 21st-century technologies. Therefore, literacy educators have a responsibility to integrate these technologies effectively into the literacy curriculum in order to prepare students for the literacy future they deserve.” (Bedard & Fuhrken, 2013, p. 264).

Considering a future of fiction, means moving beyond skeumorphic restatements of books in digital form such as e-readers like Kindle and Nook. Skeumorphism addressed the need to bridge the gap between emerging technology and tradition and resulted in the design of tools (e-book readers) in a new medium (digital e-ink) that incorporated some of the features of its antecedents (print books), such as pages that virtually flip or unfurl when we ‘turn’ them across a digital screen (Chatfield, 2013). Initially this was understandable and, as Chatfield (2013) states, this “realism was a way to link the future with the past, and make people feel at ease with their new device” however, they no longer perform any necessary function and are becoming redundant. The way e-books still operate signifies how digital immigrants are clinging to the past with a reluctance to embrace true alternatives, which may serve to prevent any forward movement. To really understand digital literacies we must let go of this link to the past and reconsider what books might be in the future. Consider The Yellow Submarine iBook (2011) which promised to take readers on a:

kaleidoscopic, music-filled journey with The Beatles to an underwater dreamland featuring animated illustrations and text from the 2004 book, 14 full-color video clips from the original 1968 film, audio clips of classic Beatles hits and Sir George Martin's original score, original dialogue from the film, "read aloud" functionality to follow along as actor Dean Lennox Kelly narrates, as well as interactive features that let you tap the story's wild array of butterflies, starfish and sea monsters to make them come alive. (Slivka, 2011).

This media-rich experience is more akin with the way today’s learners interact with the world than virtual pages that ‘flip’ across a digital screen. It is our job to ensure learners’ understanding of this form and the creation of it is addressed and that they know how to be successful in this yet unknown future of multiple literacies and interactivity. Bedard and Fuhrken (2013) state that writing and technology are essential to addressing the emerging literacies of today’s world and identify some main reasons why writing with technology matters. Firstly, they state that it is the process that matters. What the learners create at the end, whether through iBooks Author or inklewriter, whilst important and engaging, is only a small part of the learning (p. 5). The final product is only “made possible as a result of authentic stages of a complex process” (p. 5), and this is where the future of English and technology lies particularly if we reference the developmental approach. We must teach the skills: the editing, the thinking, the planning, the reworking, the sentence construction, the punctuation and the processes that matter for all literacies. Authentic end-products that engage and inspire are the catalyst and impetus that motivate reluctant and non-reluctant writers alike, leading to their second reason that engagement matters. Writing can, and has for many years, be successfully taught without technology. This is not at question. But using applications such as iBooks Author and inklewriter may help create sustained focus and attention in today’s digital world to allow “meaningful, enduring leaning” to take place. Revision becomes “enmeshed” as “critical and purposeful” where technology generates a “natural and fluid revision process”. Echoing P21 (2002), collaboration also matters because it “pushes thinking and encourages sustained effort” (p. 8) and in turn, when learners are engaged and “given the space to make important decisions on their own” about how to present and organise their writing, there are plenty of opportunities to move beyond the traditional writing practises where learners must take on the roles of decision makers. As outlined earlier in the ‘Educational Standards’ evaluation, both software applications allow this to happen and, as stated by P21 (2002), critical thinking matters for those who want to forge ahead in this world. Developing multimedia publications that will be shared with the world means also that audience matters (p. 8) and requires plenty of decisions to be made about how learners want the world to see them as writers. “Supportive writing communities” where work can be shared and discussed is crucial for success. Publishing work online allows this audience to go beyond the walls of the classroom and lends weight to the writing as a ‘real’ audience is often more motivating that just a teacher or class-peer (Graham, MacArthur, & Fitzgerald, 2007). These decisions about the different ways of presenting and the different media that can be incorporated into an iBooks Author file, means that the ability to research is paramount. No longer an isolated skill, Bedard and Fuhrken (2013) suggest that research matters because it “allows students to access a large amount of information almost instantaneously (Smolin and Lawless 2003) [therefore becoming] embedded in all phases of the writing process” (p. 7).

The Writing Process

Data shows that mobilising personal digital literacy practices into classroom-based literacy events allows learners to successfully make the link between their own everyday digital literacy practices and the requirements of their course. (Bhatt, 2012).

To effectively teach writing, educators must use “developmentally appropriate scaffolding” (Graham, MacArthur, & Fitzgerald, 2007, p. 71) to be able to support learner’s progression towards “composing better-structured, more coherent stories” (2007, p. 61) and a blended learning approach helps address different learning styles. The outline (see Figure 1) identifies the stages in line with the various levels standards and theories outlined in this paper as well as of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson, et al., 2001) and acts as a sequence of teaching narrative writing that could, through differentiation, be used across many grade levels, but is written particularly with Grades 6-8 in mind.

Reading. The best writers are the best readers. “Reading literature gets students thinking about genre, structure, story elements…all of the things that make a good story” (Bedard & Fuhrken, 2013) and the abundance of excellent Young Adult fiction available means there is a huge variety of great starting points available. Teachers may wish give free-reign over choice or narrow down the selection depending on the class and their needs. The reading may be done in supported groups, independently or in literature circles, again, depending on the need of the learners. It is important that they are plenty of opportunities for collaboration and discussion about the reading to ensure a dialogue is kept open to make certain the reading is taking place, being understood and thoughts and feelings are examined. The method can be chosen to address particular needs in order to remember and understand what makes an effective story, and this process should align to cater for the needs of the learners--in class groups, literature circles, book clubs or blogs.

Pre-writing. Again, plenty of choice means that individualised learning can happen so long as there is collaborative discourse about stories which allows learners to apply the process of remembering and understanding. Picture books are often a great place to start and are engaging accessible by all and not just visual or EAL learners. The various elements of plot, character and setting can be identified as well as sequentiality, particularity, intentionality, and canon and breach, though discussion or drawing and labelling. Teachers need to ensure that modelling of great stories and their features and elements happens, but this is determined by the needs of the learners in the room.

Writing. The writing process can start with drawing, which I built upon on the skills developed in the pre-writing. Using the texts explored in the reading and pre-writing stages, learners have sound starting points, the aim is to keep learners engaged in “a dynamic, recursive state of thinking about texts, talking about texts, writing about texts, and revising and refining their ideas” (Bedard & Fuhrken, 2013). An effective way to progress is to create storyboards or comic strips, a sequence of boxes containing pictures and text to help visualize a story as a whole (Essley & Rocci, 2008). This is a tool for organising critical thinking therefore, this should take place on paper. There are many technological tools that could be used to create a storyboard but the point if this is not the product and some limitations can occur such as the need to make it look polished or the time if takes to find images that reflect what they are thinking. The purpose here is to think critically, to revise, to analyse and evaluate, not create a finished product. Stages can be built into this part of the process as required for the needs of individual learners and allows opportunities to use emoticons, thought bubbles and conjunctions between the storyboard boxes to develop sequentiality, particularity, intentionality, and canon and breach.

Creating. Once storyboards are completed they are effectively detailed plans. Introducing technology at this point as a tool to create the final product, engages the learners in the digital world that is so familiar to them, but also allows a further opportunity for critical thinking and revision. As Bedard and Fuhrken (2013) state, revision is “ongoing and integral to the process” and technology tools often allow for this process to be “natural and fluid”. iBooks Author is easy to use. Learners simply need to have the programme downloaded for free. They open a new project just as they open any file on a word processing document and name and save it in the same way. Apple offer a variety of readymade templates that can be customised so that those learners who are less inclined to play with such features can open and go, whilst those spend time on format can create something personalised to their story. iBooks Author allows learners to “Drag and drop a Pages or Microsoft Word document to the Book pane to add it as a new section” and when images are dropped in, “text automatically flows around them” meaning learners do not have to spend wasted time formatting and trying to get things to ‘work’ on the page (Apple Inc., 2013). Fonts and colours can be chosen to match their stories and learners can add “text, shapes, charts, tables and Multi-Touch widgets anywhere on the page with a single click” they can even “add video or audio elements to liven up the read” as well as Apple’s VoiceOver technology which means books can be made accessible for visual impaired or younger readers (Apple Inc., 2013). The organisational framework of chapters and sections means learners have to put careful thought into the structure of the plot and how they wish to deliver the sequence of their story. In addressing the need to engage learners both in their writing and for their audience, iBooks include:

widgets [that] add Multi-Touch magic to books with swipe-friendly photo galleries, animations that burst off the page, scrolling sidebars to linger over, Pop-Over widgets for an element of surprise and engrossing 3D objects you can’t help interacting with. With iBooks Author, it’s easy to create a book that’s as fun to explore as it is to read. (Apple Inc., 2013).

The ability to make these decisions as well as to incorporate their story and learning of narrative writing, much revision and critical thinking has to take place. Problem solving and decision making happens synchronously with writing, meaning multiple skills are being developed simultaneously. To view their progress to allow for more revision, leaners must connect an iPad with iBooks 3.0 installed on it, to their MacBook (Pugh, 2012). The higher-order thinking skills of Blooms’ Taxonomy are revisited and refined as each decision is made to address the needs of their story, which needs to be understood to be read.

As Bedard and Fuhrken (2013) stated, audience matters. What is great about iBooks is that there are a variety of options for sharing and publishing. Pugh (2012) suggests that learners can export their books as a PDF meaning they can choose how and where to share it. However, this means that interactive content is lost and negates the point of creating an iBook. A better option is to export it in iBooks format which retains all the interactive elements – this can be shared among iPads with friends. Finally, Pugh (2012) suggests that it can also be published through the iBookstore, which is similar to releasing a song on the iTunes Store or publishing an app on the App Store. Authors get 70% of any sales and Apple gets 30%, though one important thing to note is that this option means you renege the right to sell your book anywhere else. If you choose one of the first two options, you can simply export your book in the format of your choice and then distribute it however you like. inklewriter is similarly easy to use but tells interactive stories in a less linear, more of a choose-your-own-adventure kind of way. This means this tool could be used either instead of iBooks Author, or as a next level following from iBooks Author, to extend the learning further. Where leaners have become competent in linear stories, non-linear narratives can be a challenging way to allow young writers think critically and problem solve how plots can part and weave throughout one narrative. Co-founder Jon Ingold stated that their “first goal was to create a site that let writers - of any age - create and share interactive stories with each other, with an eye to developing interesting and understanding of interactive storytelling” (J. Ingold, personal communication, June 4, 2013). Later on however, “the education angle came out somewhat by chance: talking to teachers we found a lot of them were excited by the possibility of mixing writing with simple computer logic and a playful approach, to offer a new and unusual way to get kids involving in being creative” (J. Ingold, personal communication, June 4, 2013). The benefits of inklewriter are that it is free to use, it doesn’t require emails to create accounts and is relatively straightforward though it requires more skill as it is less standard and not as recognisable as iBook Author and, once written, learners can share stories with whomever they like across multiple devices as long as they have an Internet connection. The company also offer a paid option of having the book converted for use on a Kindle, though interactivity would be lost this way. What is very interesting about inklewriter and the future of fiction, is how it is taking storytelling to where the learners are at in terms of gaming and they are already developing these ideas with Stoic Studio’s The Banner Sagaand (inkle Ltd, n.d.). inklewriter’s desire is to “bring non-linear storytelling to the mainstream” and they suggest that:

inklewriter is a perfect tool for drafting, testing, and authoring interactive content. The tool creates story-data in a straight-forward, easy-to-use fashion which can be read directly by your game engine. (inkle Ltd, n.d.).


As an educator who recognises that, for the digital generation, writing and technology serve each other well (Bedard & Fuhrken, 2013), I am very interested in where technology is taking reading and writing. In 2012, I successfully implemented a Project-Based Learning unit with Grades 7 and 8 that asked, ‘What is a 21st Century Classroom?’ (Fairbrother, 2012) and I want to continue by exploring something new for education or learning each year. For the next project, I was thinking about a unit exploring ‘The Future of Fiction’, as I believe interactive books and web-based authoring may play a part in engaging learners in future literacies. If “digital ubiquity alters the nature of literacy as well as educational practice, beyond the visible observables of a classroom” (Bhatt, 2012), software application programmes, such as the two explored in this paper, will encourage and motivate learners in writing entertaining and innovative narratives and inspire them to become 21st century readers and writers. iBooks Author can address the new literacies that today’s learners need, as well as address their desire to interact with their virtual environments. The re-visions required to create successful iBooks and inklewriter stories are ones that are not enforced but which happen naturally and organically; learners automatically rework and rethink in the desire to make their work look right on the page and flow cohesively. inklewriter also offers the opportunity to push the boundaries, to go beyond the ‘book’ and into the game. Games are a great way of teaching critical thinking and narrative and learners don’t often realise that sandbox games provide so many possibilities that they have to keep track of, and this knowledge can be developed to help them navigate and organise a non-linear or multi-media story. iBooks Author is accessible to those with the socio-economic status to own Internet connections and Apple machines, which are not the cheapest option by far. The fact that audio can be added means that those who are sight impaired can also access the book. inklewriter seems more biased towards boys due to the gaming element though in terms of literacy, this audience is a viable target, as many fall behind the standards of girls at peer level.

Overall, to engage and advance literacy as part of a well-developed writing programme, I would rate both iBooks Author and inklewriter as 4/5. iBooks Author and inklewriter both have sound grounding in addressing many educational standards and have to potential to promote literacy in the English Language Arts classroom for Grades 6-8 as part of a sound writing programme through creating a desire to write and read more through platforms that learners recognise. Both pieces of software are easy to access, free and available to those with the right equipment and will engage students and motivate them to learn because they get a product at the end that can be published, shared and even sold! Some limitations are that neither allow collaborative creation and the digital divide means access may be restricted and costs are incurred particularly with iBooks Author which requires both a MacBook to create and an iPad to review. However, the benefits far outweigh these limitations that maybe perhaps moot, as software applications such as this would not be chosen by schools who did not have some machinery was not already available. There is no doubt that writing can be taught without either of these pieces of software, but if educators wish to tackle the changing needs of learners and multiple literacies required in today’s world, then we must recognise that a blended learning environment that embraces technological pedagogical tools is essential in addressing emerging literacy needs and implement “a multistep process [that] allows for ongoing formative assessment”. In short, we must “be open to seeing…students’ skills and talents in a different light than might be afforded with traditional literacy practices” (Bedard & Fuhrken, 2013).


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Software Publication Information

A. Title of Main Software: iBooks Author

Version: 2.0 Medium (e.g., compact disk, DVD, Internet): App
Publisher: Apple iTunes Year: 2013
Cost: Free

URL for Publisher or Website link to software: http://www.apple.com/sg/ibooks-author/

Target Grade(s) /Age(s): Universal. For this paper, Grades 6-8

Subject(s): English Language Arts

System Requirements:

PC: Not compatible Mac: OSX 10.7.4 or later

B. Title of Comparative Software: inklewriter

Version: Medium (e.g., compact disk, DVD, Internet): Internet
Publisher: Year: 2013
Cost: Free

URL for Publisher or Website link to software: http://www.inklestudios.com/inklewriter

Target Grade(s) /Age(s): Grade 4+. For this paper, Grades 6-8

Subject(s): English Language Arts

System Requirements:

PC: Internet enabled Mac: Internet enabled