This semester in READ 6310, students were asked to contribute one post to our blog.

by I. Martinez

 Magazines remind me of picture books, because like picture books, magazines arouse my curiosity and creativity with their bold, unabashed display of colors and images. And well, magazines are that seemingly noncommittal form of literature that only require that I sit back, relax and soak in the view. It’s sort of like window shopping; I get to survey all of my points of interest before zeroing in on a topic that I want to read about, and maybe later I’ll pursue it at greater depth. Magazines are those beautiful works of art that you find strewn across coffee tables at doctor’s offices that quickly become worn and torn from so much reading and from having some of their pages donated.  And by “donated”, I mean that some of its pages were torn out by a patron who just couldn’t do without a recipe, or a “how-to” solution. Aw, c’mon, ‘fess-up! Haven’t you ever looked guiltily from side to side before quietly tearing out a magazine page and quickly tucking it away in your purse? Yep, most of us have because we can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to that page(s). Well, good news, you can now create your own magazines and keep them too! And you can even share them without losing pages!

Flipboard, which is an iPad app, and an Android app on Google Play, is my latest rave, and I think it will be yours too, especially if you work with high school students. With this wonderful app, hesitant high school readers can see a whole other side to reading by actively creating their own magazine which they can then share with their classmates through email, or share with the world at large by permitting public viewing, and by the way, if the student becomes a master of magazine production, then other account holders may wish to “subscribe” to his published creations on Flipboard.

Flipboard is a free “build-a-magazine” app with free membership that contains free social media news for its readers. Once you are given an account, you can pick out a few topics that are of interest to you and then simply select articles from within those topics and add them to your magazine, and voila!, you have your own tailored magazine.

Let’s say for example that I decided to create a magazine about books. Well, I could entitle my magazine “A Book Worm’s Corner” then go to the topic “Books” and begin adding individual stand alone articles to my own magazine, or I could also subscribe to one of the magazines listed within “Books”, and pick articles from within those magazines to “cut out” and also add to my own magazine. In my case, I subscribe to “book writers & coffee tea corner” by Danielle Szynkarski, and from it, I can pull out articles, poems, graphics and arrange them into my own magazine. Then I can proceed to search the rest of the literature included within the “Books” topic and add in some reviews of current adult books, and perhaps add in a section about movies based on books, like the LIFE of PI. After that, I can move on to my next interest and create another magazine. I also have the freedom to decide if I want to share my magazines or keep them private.

Currently, the available topics within Flipboard are: News, Business, Tech & Science, Sports, Photos & Design, Arts & Culture, Living, Food & Dining, Travel, Style, Music, Books, and City Guides, plus of course all the created magazines by account members. Of course, teachers should preview all of these topic sections for appropriateness, and may want to exclude one or more sections of the available topics. But, overall, this app is very reader friendly and I think teenagers will spend hours reading the articles as they leaf through and pick out items to include in their tailor-made magazines.

In the classroom, this magazine creation activity could function as an ice breaker at the beginning of the school year, because each magazine would be an original that would reveal the interests of it’s creator. Or, it could also be an assignment of the teacher’s choosing to focus on differing topics, like science or sports, or it could be an ongoing class project whereby the class produces a magazine for the entire school to view each week. That would definitely bring out the “journalist” in many of students, because they would undoubtedly take pride in their contributions to the school’s website. The wonderful thing about Flipboard is that its news and contributions are always new, as are the cover stories.

I also believe that elementary and middle school teachers could make use of this app by creating a monthly magazine for parents and children. It would just take a few quick clicks to create it and send it out by email or by posting it on the teacher’s (school’s) website for easy viewing. Many parents won’t be able to resist leafing through the magazines and discussing the subject matter with their children. Unfortunately, at present, Flipboard does not offer any news or magazines in Spanish, although the company says that they are considering this possibility. If enough people request it, it just might happen. You may also wish to visit their website at:

Technology Moves Literacy

By Alvarez

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

After spending some quality time with one of my cousins, I have come to a conclusion that the modern day teen, or adults, have now morphed into the modern day technology. My cousin wishes to remain anonymous; we shall call her Mary to respect her privacy. Mary spends most of her time on her cell phone, like most of us nowadays do. There I found that she spends time on text-messaging with family and friends, social networking, gaming, homework on the computer, or even just watching her favorite television shows. She used technology to share her opinions, read literary pieces, and watch literary-inspired film. I grew up with less technology and seeing all this makes me realize that time changes. Even if they are not outside getting their knees scraped, jumping puddles, or climbing trees, they have a bigger advantage by using literacy found by using technology. I saw Mary text with her friends and she could hold up to five conversations at a time. She read an average of one sentence and at time she received forward messages that were very lengthy. She read all of them and answered back with proper grammar; I cannot say the same about her friends because they would cut words or used some sort of slang to text. In her text messages, she also received messages from Facebook, so she would continually sign in to Facebook and check her messages or comments.

When Mary sat down to watch TV, we saw a lot of literacy too. Commercials take advantage of viewers to promote their products, many advertised by calling others by mailing, but both required some sort of reading. Mary is surrounded by technology and has to adapt to the new technology that is coming out. Mary’s little brother plays video games and we took a peek at one of his games, Call of Duty Black Ops. He was playing online so he communicated with people all over the world. His game had literacy too, because he had to follow what the screen said and focus on missions.

We can say that technology has reached everyone and now it is up to us to receive it with arms wide open so that we can become literate by using technology and not just reading newspapers or articles. We now have a choice on what we read, all thanks to technology. Having technology around is not a bad thing; people nowadays are hooked on the new era and rely on it. Technology has now come into our lives and is here to stay. We should learn how to adapt to it because it promotes a lot of literacy for everyone, even if it comes from a text message or even a TV commercial, it has the power to make us literate just as an English teacher would.

Literacy Through Entertainment

By Joel

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Literacy through entertainment is a new phenomenon that is having a major positive impact in today’s adolescent society.  With today’s fast growing technology, literacy is being seen, heard, and read across all different types of media.  These different types of media include the internet, television, radio, and social magazines. 

Today’s teachers have to incorporate a new way of teaching to today’s adolescents with the help of technology that is influencing our adolescents.  Social websites such as facebook, and twitter keep all of society up to date with what a individual is thinking and doing at that exact moment of the day.  This technological advancement can be used to help students stay on track with what assignments are due and who has the next chapter in the group work that is due tomorrow.  Social clubs such as the science, math, art, etc., can also keep track of important dates and rely information to other members that might not be there in person. 

The technological advancement of computers probably has had the most impact in helping today’s adolescent practice better literacy skills.  Spell checker which is on almost every single computer and lab top has helped countless amounts of people spell the correct word they are trying to type.  Some might see this as a step back on helping people practice better literacy skills, but I see it as a positive step forward in helping students see the errors that they make and then showing them the correct way to spell it.  This not only helps prevent spelling errors in the future, but also gives students a broader landscape of how they are improving their literacy skills. 

Since adolescents are strongly influenced by the entertainment culture that surrounds them it is a good idea to incorporate several out of school materials that discuss the content subject you are teaching.  Doing this will further spark interest in your students and give them a initiative of working on out of school research.  This will also keep them from getting bored to death of the same school work they have to endure throughout all their academic years.  Entertainment certainly does have it’s value in today’s school agenda.  Since I am going to be a music teacher, I am looking forward to incorporate and practice literacy through entertainment.  I will make sure all of my students are fully aware of how music can influence society and spark change for the better.

Facilitating Literacy in the 21st Century: Social Networking

 By readingintheborderlands

This is the fourth post in a series about 21st Century tools in the literacy classroom.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are hugely popular, with millions of daily users. While probably best known as a way for people to keep in superficial contact through short, often-trivial postings, social networking sites can be powerful educational tools. 

The obvious use for these sites is for the teacher to set up an account for the class. Students and parents can ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ and the teacher can use the site to announce homework, share student work, and answer quick questions. The teacher, students, and parents can also use the site to share class-related content; for example, if PBS is showing a Masterpiece Theater series that relates to work the class is doing, the announcement on the PBS Facebook page can be shared with the class Facebook page.

 How can social networking tools be used in the literacy classroom?

  • The teacher can pose thought-provoking questions about whatever the class is reading on the Facebook or Twitter page and ask for responses. 
  • When students are confused about a reading assigned as homework they can ask a question on the page for the other students or the teacher to respond to.
  • A group could develop a fictional Facebook page for a book character. Who would be the character’s friends? What would their status updates be? What photos and videos would they post? The same goes for Twitter: how could you retell a story through a Twitter account (check out this example [hotlink “this example”–]. Preview before you show to students–there’s occasional questionable language.)

Given the age limits most sites have, the use of social networking is best kept to middle school, high school and college age students. Also, if you choose to use social networking sites  make sure you have an account specifically for educational purposes. Do not allow students on your personal account.

A related series of blog posts can be found at WOW Currents throughout the month of November.

Facilitating Literacy in the 21st Century: Wikis

By readingintheborderlands

This is the third post in a series about 21st Century tools in the literacy classroom.

Web 2.0 and 21st century literacies are inherently social. A wiki is one way that users can come together to create and use content. Many people are familiar with wikis because of the enormous user generated Wikipedia.

 A wiki is based on software that allows for multiple authors of a webpage.  Members of the webpage can all add, delete, and revise content. There are several sites where teachers can set up a class wiki, including Wikispaces. Generally, a basic wiki is free; bells and whistles often require some level of paid membership.

The whole point of a wiki is collaboration. How can literacy teachers use this technology to promote collaboration?

  • Set up a class wiki. Each literature circle group can create their own page on the wiki. As they are reading the book they can add content about the book, following whatever guidelines you come up with.
  • Connect with other literacy teachers in your school or around the world. Use a wiki to provide space where students from different classrooms can explore literature together.

This site and this site have more information on using wikis in the classroom.

 A related series of blog posts can be found at WOW Currents throughout the month of November.

Facilitating Literacy in the 21st Century: Word Clouds

By Readingintheborderlands

This is the second post in a series about technological tools that can be used in literacy classrooms.

Many educators will be familiar with traditional response strategies such as the graffiti board, written reflections, sketch to stretch, and save the last word for me.  These engagements support children as they think about literature, deepen initial responses and prepare for literature discussions.

Wordle: Wordle
Several years ago I began experimenting with Wordle. This free website lets you to create word clouds out of any text you enter. Words that are repeated in the text appear in larger font in the wordle; the more repetitions, the larger the font. Once your wordle is created, you can choose different layouts and color schemes. You can also edit the cloud by removing certain words.

How can this be used in literacy classrooms? Here are a few ideas. Add your own in the comments!

  • Type in text (or cut and paste from a digital source) from the book the class is reading. The wordle that you create usually highlights major themes of the book.
  • Enter news articles about the same topic taken from different sources. How does the wordle change? What does that show about how each source approached the topic?
  • Ask children to enter a response in answer to some question about the book. The wordle created from their responses will spark discussion about the question.  Questions can range from “List the five traits you most admire about the main character” to “Write about a personal connection you made to the story.”
  • When students are revising their writing have them create a wordle out of their work. This is fun…but it also helps students see their writing in new ways. Sometimes students see that what they thought they were writing about is not actually what they wrote!

 This tool is also great for social studies classrooms: enter the Declaration of Independence and see what the wordle shows. Or compare the inaugural addresses from different presidents.

 Another word cloud tool is Tagul. This is very similar to Wordle, but also allows you to create the word cloud in whatever shape you choose.

 A related series of blog posts can be found at WOW Currents throughout the month of November.

Facilitating Literacy in the 21st Century

by readingintheborderlands

 The introduction of new technology has changed the world drastically, but if you look into many of today’s K-12 classrooms you will see lessons, activities and room arrangements that look almost identical to what you would have seen 50 and even 100 years ago. This is a problem.

In a world of instant communication and ever-increasing ways to create and disseminate information, schools need to take a critical look at their practices. Are we preparing children for today’s reality? What about the reality of the future? New technologies aren’t eliminating the basic literacy that we’ve taught for generations, but adding to it. “Basic” literacy is now greatly expanded from what it was 100 years ago.

 The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has created a framework for 21st century learning. In this series of blog posts, I will be sharing resources and websites that might be used to implement this learning framework. Each post will be a fairly brief introduction to a different technological tool that literacy teachers can experiment with. I encourage readers to use the comments section to add their own ideas. I know there are teachers using these resources in incredible ways!